(The following article was posted in the "Meditations" column of the Hindustan Times, one of India's largest english language daily newspapers, on 17 March 2003.)
Spirit lies at the core of humanity
A HUNGER in the loins arrives at puberty. By that time we'd also developed the functions of eating and sleeping, laughing, crying, breathing, and the instinct to flee from death. Certain things are inextricably part of us.
Some characteristics of the human race seem to spring from deep within and are shared by all peoples. Individual traits seem to be part of our genetic material.
Of the first variety, the things that we have in common, there are basics. We grow, exist, dwindle and die and many have offspring. All are reborn as something or other, if you accept that the soul is eternal and the principle of transmigration. Nonetheless, each of us has unique propensities. As we grow, we manifest desires and attributes that make up our distinct personalities.
Analysing ourselves, our bodies seem to come from ancestors ? hereditary things like facial features, mannerisms, expressions, and hair colour. More subtle characteristics like behaviour, our thought patterns and biases may also be inherited.
But we're all human, despite our differences, be they hereditary or environmental. And, as a species, we seem to be something more than merely the political animals Aristotle said we were and more than just a bundle of molecules or herd of independent minds.
Searching for commonality, there is a widespread concept that humans are also built for God-belief. Poet Krishnadasa Kaviraja wrote in the 16th century that love for God resides eternally in the hearts of living beings. He also said that the Names of God, when resounded, awaken and purify the heart. So is hearing a Hallelujah chorus by Handel or Brahmins reciting the Rig-Veda before a blazing pit more than just captivating?
The inner meaning of any name of God ? be it Allah, Rama, Jehovah, or Our Father, is synonymous with the Godhead Himself - or so the Vedic, Christian, Islamic and Hebraic scriptures would have it. The Vedas assert that in the present age, the activities of hearing and reciting God's names have powers that soar over other ages. (Bhagavata 12.3.52)
If such a simple procedure can awaken a fundamental nature dormant within each of us, then essential truths of scripture are proved. And if we believe Kaviraja, that we are hard-wired for God, then attaining a spiritual existence is easier than we thought. Our higher nature, fine-tuned for meditation, may be only a breath or two away.
(The writer is emeritus member of the ISKCON governing body commission)