The Message and Ministrations of Dewan Bahadur R. Venkata Ratnam, volume 2/Chapter 12
HUNGER AND THIRST.
Religious men have in all times and climes compared the eager yearnings of the soul for righteousness to hunger and thirst. The remarkable difference between the truly religious and the utterly worldly in spirit is the restless and passionate way in which the former are ever engaged in quest of something which to them is of paramount importance; while the latter are content, and even happy, as they absorb themselves in the pursuit of the trivial interests of a busy life. The insatiable thirst of the religious man as against the undisturbed indifference of the man of the world, in matters of religion, is a phenomenon strange but true. While we, too, are painfully conscious of the latter frame of mind, shall we not for a few moments endeavour to realise what the former really signifies ? To compare a deep longing for righteousness to hunger and thirst is, to our mind, a proof of the keen intelligence and the rare spiritual insight of the great souls of the world. To us, notwithstanding our weak sight and feeble faith, this noble precept interprets itself thus: —
First, religion is not a fashion or a pastime but is a matter of supreme importance, of vital value, to our existence. Some there be who accept religion as a characteristic becoming a well-read man ; to some others, of a more emotional nature, religion denotes exciting rites and engaging ceremonies; and to some others, again, of a politic turn of mind, religion is a desirable provision for social order. To all these patrons of religion the truly pious read a profound lesson in this instructive precept—namely, to the sincerely pious religion is imperative and essential, even as hunger and thirst. Religion — sound, regenerating, uplifting faith in God— is no fashion, is not a point of good manners, does not consist in rites and ceremonies, is something incalculably superior to a utilitarian provision for general welfare. Without an intense sense of God and of His holiness, a fall life is unattainable; without the light and the grace of religion, the mind is really unillumined and the heart is truly unhallowed ; and the claim of man to be considered 'the glory of the world' is based upon his being essentially a spirit whose food and drink is righteousness. This true religion makes all the difference between real life and virtual death ; this true religion distinguishes the angel from the animal. And before we learn implicitly to believe that there is, there can be, no rest, no peace, no satisfaction, no happiness unless and until religion enters into every thought and every feeling, unless and until every moment spent without the consciousness of religion is a waste and a sham, unless and until the absence of an abiding sense of religion becomes a pain and a torture more anguishing than hell — it cannot be said of us that we are truly righteous, that we are lining souls. Righteousness is ever lo b§ hankered after ; it is the very sustenance of the soul ; it is the first and foremost, indeed the all-absorbing, concern of life. Life without piety is a shell without the kernel, a rind without the cove, a skeleton without the heart. Religion is the water of life ; it is the true elixir of existence ; it is the heavenly nectar of immortality.
The second truth suggested by this precept is that religion should be accorded undivided sovereignty over our lives. It is worse than useless to attempt to serve two masters* Bound to 'double business', life neglects and fails in both. The soul's eye should be single, if light is to enter it The soul should be conscious of no other beauty, if piety is to be its delight. Religion can be r&generating, only when it i« accepted as the predominating factor of life. All that we think, say and do should have the sanction and the benediction of righteousness. Nothing is worth seeking, nothing is worth possessing, nothing is worth enjoying, unless it subserves, and contributes to, the growth of piety in man. To the one lofty aim of true faith and deep piety must be subordinated all the other aims, objects and endeavours of life. Only when the whole heart is possessed with, and the whole soul is absorbed in, the concerns of truth and righteousness, the supreme God blesses us and speeds us in our life-pursuits.
The third lesson conveyed to us by this noble precept is that real religion means eternal endeavour and unlimited progress. In the advancement of our spiritual interests, a halt at any time is fatal. In this holy fight with the powers of the flesh and the world, there can be no truce. The soul's one object is peace, not rest. Eternal progress is man's birth-right. To a really pious soul no degree of progress is sufficient, no stage of growth is final; man's pilgrimage is over a path that is endless ; the sacred temple of his worship has countless shrines, one within another of increasing sanctity. Progress — growth and expansion — 'through the increasing ages' is what the soul is capable of and hankers after ; and to stop short of the everlasting is virtually to renounce the eternal God. Here the precept of the wise and the holy, the outcome of profound spiritual experience, corroborates the hopes and the longings of our own souls. Utterly imperfect as is our treatment of this great subject, may the gentle reader supplement and improve it with the revelations of the Spirit in his own life !