By Periyava
Translation from Tamil to English: V. Krishnaraj

மத போதகரின் யோக்கியதாம்சங்கள் : தெய்வத்தின் குரல் (முதல் பகுதி)
Proselytizer’s decorums & Qualifications: Deivathin Kural (Part One)

The philosophers and spiritual masters all over the world unanimously agree that Advaitam or monism is the most supreme philosophy. You call me Advaita Guru. You expect me to say the reason for a multitude of supporters of Advaitic tradition is the greatness of its doctrine.
I am in a reflective mood. Do all people practice the Monistic Doctrine? In this world, there are people embracing many doctrines and religions. Countrymen convert from one religion to another. During Buddha’s time, the Vedic religionists converted to Buddhism. In later years many Hindus converted to Islam and Christianity. Jains converted to Vaishnavism and took the name of ‘Puṣti Mārgīs.’ During Ramanuja’s time, many became Viśiṣtādvaitīs. During Srī Madhva’s time, many accepted Madhva Doctrine. During Srī Saṅkara’s time, Avaidic (not Vedic) religions like Buddhism, Jainism… underwent ruination. Those who followed the Karma Mārga part of Vedic religion returned to pure Vedism: Advaitam. Why did the lofty, high-flying, and flag-hoisting religions become the dusty friable husk (ruin)? Do people adopt a religious doctrine and embrace it after a thorough elucidation of its doctrine? The intellectuals weigh the pros and cons of a doctrine and then join. Can we ascribe same amount of diligence to the laity? I won’t characterize it like that.
If the laity embrace a religion based on its doctrine, and if they are asked to state the doctrinal highlights, they must know and enunciate them. They must know the reason for the greatness of one doctrine over the other. In truth and practice, the laity in any religion are not familiar with the minute and subtle points to engage in a debate. Our Hindu brethren do not understand basic Hinduism.
My opinion is no religion prospers because of its doctrine. The laity do not worry about the doctrine. Upon the advent of a Mahan with good Guṇas, good conduct, compassion, tranquillity…the people develop a trust towards him. Whatever doctrine he spells out, the laity with abiding trust embrace his religion. Though a religion’s theoretical and doctrinal points are explained ad nauseum and if the religionists descend into misconduct, their religion immediately begins a downward spiral to ruination. Why do people embrace religions with polar-opposite doctrines? I am unable to provide a direct answer as to the cause. The initial enthusiasm attesting to its greatness, celebrating, and praising it to the sky followed by its decline provide the clue and the cause for its loss of luster. We also get the answer on how the laity was attracted to it initially. Upon seeing the religion on its path to ruination, we understand how it lives, grows (and attenuates).
A study of decline of a religion in any country reveals that the decline coincides with the decline of virtuous conduct of the principals of that religion.
The Buddha dawned upon this earth. Listening to his life story and looking at his glorious statues inculcate a sense of tranquillity, compassion, joy, and respect for him. It must have been the experience of the people too. From the humorous play ‘Matthavilāsa Prahasaṉam’ written by Mahendra Pallavan, we learn of the debaucheries in the latter-day Buddhist Vihāras. The loss of luster afflicted Buddhism. The conduct of religious principals, precipitated the decline of the religion (in India).
Ādhisaṅkara came as the best among men and they embraced him. Later, Ramanuja, Madhvar… came as exemplars in their personal lives. The laity developed a liking for them and their doctrines spread widely. Recently, Gandhi with tranquillity, selflessness and self-dedication came into our midst. Millions of people characterized his sayings as a religion, ‘Gandhiam’ and embraced it. If the philosophical greatness is the cause of the growth of a doctrine, that Gandhiam should be on the ascent. But in practice, you know now its position.
There is no dearth of examples, when force and or monetary inducement drew people into foreign religions. Doing social service, according personal help and immediate conversion with baptism are the practice of a religion (Christianity). The uninformed poor people are ensnared by it. It is common knowledge that Christianity had a vigorous growth during famines. Under the duress of a physical force, Islam spread widely among people without spontaneity and joyousness in conversion. The doctrines of these religions were not a factor in conversion. We should pay attention to another factor. Importantly, the proselytizers (Christian) came forward to convert the depressed classes. ‘Your religion kept you low (yes, it was and it is true.). If you come to us, we will elevate you.’ (The long-lost honor will be restored.) That was their modus operandi with the backing of the British Raj. Not all segregated people joined the religion. Most of them, though depressed in the native religion, knowingly stayed in their religion, and rejected the privileges accorded by a foreign religion. Let us agree on (and praise) their good conduct. The reason for their continued stay in their native religion is appearance of Mahans in every generation and their desire to stay within the fold of religion of Mahans. That is why the people of the Cheri stuck together.
We should not excoriate the converters. We should not hate them. The proselytizers believe in the supremacy of truth in their religion and engage in coercion, promise of betterment in their lives… Let us assume that they have good intentions: There is liberation only in their religion. Nothing is wrong for the good of the nonbelievers to subject them to force, promise them a magical future…
Religion grows and prospers only when there is no coercion, force, monetary inducement… and their Gurus, preachers, touts… adhere to virtue. A mere external guise of virtue for a representative of a religion is not enough. Whatever doctrine he embraces, he should never have even a faint thought of selfishness. He should have a virtuous conduct. He should be genuinely austere, compassionate… A person of such nature, when approached by a seeker, will dispel the seeker’s shortcomings.
This is the path for growth and prosperity of our religion and to create men of personal virtue. We do not need counter arguments. We need outstanding representatives who live and breathe virtuous Hindu religious doctrines. Our religion has lived over Yugas (eons) because of them. Hinduism will earn its living helped by these people.
I cannot go to war against a warring converter. I do not have the means to build a hospital, a school …as others do for proselytization. Let us assume I have the means. The changes brought about by this is not genuine and permanent. If another group with strength and extraordinary wealth come in the horizon, that group will destroy and gain victory over us by destroying what we built with our strength, blood, sweat and money (Blood, toil, tears and sweat). We should not depend on the external Sakthis. We should rest our belief in our Ātma Sakthi (Power of the self) and elevate ourselves. That is what we should be doing. Then, no self-promotion, fight, magical enchantment… are necessary for our religion to live, grow and prosper. It is possible the greatness of the doctrine of Advaitam (Monism) is the reason the intellectuals of other nations in droves celebrate Advaitam. They researched on Vedāntams, Ātma Vichāram (self enquiry) and Advaitam and recognized their greatness. But it is not a matter for the laity. A great Jīvaṉ should take birth so to teach for them to embrace and follow the Advaitic principles.
I do so many Upaṉyāsams so a person of this caliber endowed with full measures of tranquility, compassion, Jñāṉam, Tyāgam makes an appearance. If someone of the said caliber rises from amongst you, there is no better fruit than that.