This is an edited version of the speech that HH SwamiGuru presented during The Classics Challengers’ Merdeka Event 2019 (‘Literature and Us’) at Coppers Restaurant, Brickfields, 7 September 2019. The video of SwamiGuru delivering his speech has been uploaded to YouTube and here’s the link:
This article was first published in CLARITY (15 September 2019 edition).]
I will talk about the similarity between literature and spirituality.
People misunderstand what spirituality is about because it’s intertwined with religion. Actually, spirituality has nothing to do with religion, but everything to do with being human. Spirituality simply means that you are a spiritual being living and having a human experience. Humanity is something that gives you that experience of being excellent. Spirituality expands your horizons not only in your knowledge but also perspective. Just like what the book does. That’s where the similarity is.
However, with a book, your viewpoint is that of the writer. Literature is actually written text. You read to gain knowledge, get different perspectives and formulate your own viewpoints. And that’s amazing. In spirituality, when your viewpoint comes, it’s your viewpoint, not from any writer. It’s about you.
So, when we teach, we teach you to become you first. We teach you about what is right for you because if you don’t know who you are, how do you know what is right for you? We help you understand who you are. Knowing who you are is knowing the self, not the shell. The shell is what you’re called. The self is you and at this level, we are all equal and the same. Once you come to that level, there is nothing to fight about.
How does this happen? Let me give you an example. When you walk into a library, there are a lot of books and it’s an abode of knowledge. When you sit there, you pick what you want to read and walk out. What have you become? You become knowledgeable. If you read all the books in the library, you still have become just knowledgeable. You are no different from the library.
In spirituality, it goes beyond this knowledge. It changes the level of boundary and the limits that you have in terms of how you understand spirituality. It takes out the perspectives that have been embedded into your mind. These perspectives are from your upbringing.
When does it start? When you sit up. That’s when your mind starts to programme. You will listen and you will listen and listen and listen. You’ll accept everything and there are things you’ll reject. Are you rejecting based on your truth? Or are you rejecting based on your perceived truth. More often than not, you’re rejecting something based on your perceived truth. Let me make it simple.
If I tell you fire will hurt you, everybody knows that that’s the truth. If you tell a child, the child does not know the meaning of the intensity of hurt from fire. It knows fire will hurt it. It’s a statement. When the child has touched it or experienced the fire, it becomes his truth. Until then, it’s just information. Similarly, you are knowledgeable – you are walking libraries.
When you take that that knowledge and you put it into practice, that’s when you become wise. Knowledge put into practice becomes wisdom. And learning from your practice is what becomes your truth. And believing, behaving or being the teaching of your own truth is what makes you, you. It creates who you are and who you are meant to be.
The problem is that we don’t evaluate our truth. We don’t understand what we say consciously or unconsciously. We sometimes don’t even know what principles we uphold. We can, however, evaluate somebody else’s principles based on the doctrine of what has been written to say how to evaluate that. True, we need definitions in life. The sad part is that you’ve sometimes onboarded the wrong definitions and truths in your mind and that’s why you’re trapped.
Now if I ask you what is it to be successful? One perspective will be to make as much money as possible. That’s successful. Would you be happy then? The answer cannot be, ‘Most probably.’ It has to be yes or no. Because you want an endorsement that you’re right, it has to be benchmarked to something that can be validated. Aren’t you unconsciously trapped? Living in society’s norms?
Here, what’s worse about this trap. Not only do you following it blindly, you justify it with a belief system. That’s worse. So, this is what we are doing. We are finding success as defined by society which we have accepted to be the truth. The society defined the norm of success. You choose which is right for you. When you choose what is right for you, you have to tell people that this is what you’ve chosen.
The way forward is to accept that if you see something that is right, it’s right. If you see something that is wrong, it’s wrong. The right and wrong has to be based on what you define as right and wrong. Not what society asks you to believe.
For example, if you hug your son in public, there are bound to be people who will say that you should do this at home and not in public. But, it’s an expression of love; it’s what you feel that’s right. Would you stop doing it because society says it’s wrong? No. That’s because that’s what you want to feel and connect to the people you want to love. At that moment, the whole environment and society doesn’t exist. There’s no public. That’s your truth. So, when you do something and you believe in it, don’t validate it. And definitely not validate it with society’s norms.
In literature as well, you can be knowledgeable. But moulding who you become, should be yours. That is the commonality about between these themes of literature and spirituality. Both are teaching you and moulding you to become you. It’s about you.
Remember you’re human beings and humanity is something you must aspire to. You can be the identity for what society can become. And these are the champions that you see in the world. We’re all great human beings. But when you become who are meant to be and your self, that is when you become great souls. And great souls are known as maha atmas.
I wish for all of you to become great souls through literature, or spirituality, or a combination of both. Thank you.
HH SwamiGuru is the Founder of 7C Life RealiZation Centre where the teachings include guiding people on how to achieve clarity by practising mindfulness. He also has extensive experience in managing business operations, human resources and information technology. He also advises various agencies on AI and Industry 4.0.