About two things we have been very decided. One is the place of ritual in spiritual life.1 Long ago the Hindus came to the conclusion that rituals have value but won’t take you to the highest. In advanced spiritual life it is not ritual but knowledge or devotion that is important. Devotion is also a kind of knowledge; it is state of mind; it is not dancing or singing or repeating something. Such activities may bring about a favourable inner condition, but in the direct perception of spiritual truth action can have no place; it belongs to the lower phase of our being our body and our superficial mind. About this the Hindus are very sure.
They are also very sure that spiritual truth has to be experienced here. Faith or belief or the assurance that we may realize it after death none of these things have any place in the Hindu’s mind. You realize truth here, then you have it. If you don’t realize it, you don’t have it. Of course the Hindus believe that if you
See Ritualism: Its Place in Spiritual Life’ in this volume have not realized spiritual truth in this life you will come back; you will be given any number of opportunities. You will be born a thousand and one times if you want. But think of the trouble of coming here again and again, again and again in order to learn something! We want to finish soon and get rid of the necessity of being born.
So those teachers who have the power of making us experience spiritual truths have been highly regarded in India, and we have high regard also for those who have embodied these truths in their lives. We recognize that even a great philosophy might become just a dry shell devoid of substance if great souls were not born to keep it alive. Religions die that way, philosophical systems die that way. You have in the West wonderful idealistic systems, by following which one could become a great saint. For instance, I believe if anyone followed Kant’s system, he would become a very great mystic. But you see, nobody ever thinks about following it. They think about reading it, arguing about it, interpreting it, or finding fault with it. All of which is nothing but a labour of the intellect. Intellect is not the Spirit; intellect is part of the mind, which is very different from the Spirit.