Called to be Holy: A Path to Self-Realisation


Enabling self-realisation is the purpose of every religion, and for this purpose religion makes use of its scripture or a spiritual teacher to provide suitable means to enable the seeker to achieve spiritual development and self-perfection. To this purpose Judaism took recourse to the Old Testament and the Hebrew traditions; Christians look up to Christ and his teachings, Islam consults the Quran and the teachings of Prophet Mohammad; and Hinduism the mystical religion has a vast scriptural treasure house. Eastern religions like Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism also have similar resources to fall back upon. Keeping the aim of religions and spirituality in view, this paper intends to explore to a certain extent the relationship between morality and spirituality in the perspective of Bhagavad-Gita and its necessity for a life of perfection.

Seeing morality and spirituality as part of one’s life cannot be confined to any particular religion or spirituality. Indian spirituality in itself is too vast to be reduced to this type of a paper because it contains many traditions like Brahmanical, Sramanic, and the Tantric all of which belong to Hinduism.[1] The vastness of the Hindu scriptures makes it necessary to limit the area of discussion to a particular branch, and I limit my study to the ‘Bhagavad-Gita’, its vision of man and the means it offers for a life of perfection. The Gita proposes a life of integration for self-realisation. Such a pattern of thought can be seen in the following remark: “Unlike the rigid ritualistic and sacrificial norms considered as the essentials for liberation by the ancient Indian’s religious tenets, the Bhagavad-Gita presents the view of Krishna who declares righteous conduct more conducive to liberation (moksha) than sacrificial rituals.”[2]

It is not a detailed study of the Bhagavad Gita, i.e., all of its contents, authenticity and historicity. Salesian literature named after Francis de Sales (1567-1622), advocated a holy life in the daily events of the individual.  Universal call to holiness was a major theme in the writing and guidance of Francis de Sales; but it was widely accepted and became popular only after the Second Vatican Council, especially in the Catholic tradition. The message preached by Francis de Sales in the seventeenth century took almost three centuries to penetrate popular thinking and to reach everyone. The de-Christianisation of Europe coupled with people’s search for the meaning drew them to the eastern religions and their spiritualities. Besides, the call of Pope John Paul II to ‘breath out of two lungs’,[3] i.e., western and eastern Christian traditions, the numerous ecumenical endeavours and the growing acceptance of and relations among world religions inspired me to explore the Hindu tradition to find areas of similarity and complementarity. The aim is also to show the enriching philosophy in the Bhagavad-Gita that can facilitate the self-realisation of all even though its origin dates back to several centuries before Christ. The similarities of concepts in both literature provide us with openness and broadness to understand and appreciate the vision of man; one after four centuries of existence, and the other believed to go back around four thousand years[4] before Christ; one Catholic, the other Hindu; one from the west, and the other from the east, expresses the dynamic and fascinating nature of this comparison. I believe that a harmonious blending of ideas from two religions, one monotheistic, the other polytheistic, can shed a ray of hope in a world riven by divisions in the name of religion, colour and caste.

[1] Cf. Mookenthottam: Introduction to Indian spirituality, Vol.1, xiii.

[2] Kolencherry: ‘Human person in the Bhagavad-Gita’, In: Kolencherry (Ed.): Human person in St. Francis de Sales, 130.

[3] Cf. Bacik: Catholic Spirituality. Its History and Challenge, 12. The author refers to be inspired by the eastern as well as western traditions of spirituality. For more clarification see first chapter Introduction of this study.

[4] Hinduism is considered as the oldest among the living religions of the world, and has a history of more than 4000 years. The existence of Bhagavad-Gita is attributed between 500 B.C. and 200 B. C. Cf. Acharuparambil: Hindu Spirituality Christian Insights, 1-39.

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