Rituals: “Objective Dramatisation of the Subjective Art of Self-perfection” ~ Swami Chinmayananda

[Excerpts from letters and articles by Swami Chinmayananda]

Ritualism is a Demonstration. Vedantic Sadhana demonstrated in actual practice is — RITUAL.

Rituals are an objective dramatisation of the Subjective Art of Self-perfection. They are means to a greater end; but a majority of us have come to confuse the means to be the fulfilment in themselves. Rituals have an elementary purpose, without which nothing higher is possible; but to continue wasting the entire life in mere ritualism, would be a terrible wastage. Rituals are conceived and prescribed to help bring into expression the correct attitude (bhavana) of the mind — which is the goal of all spiritual practices. However great the ritual, and however strictly it has been performed, the performer can only hope a comparative success and can reach, at best, only a mid-station in his voyage to Truth!

A seeker should, in his initial stages of sadhana, follow the rituals diligently — it is not merely a faithful and blind performance, but a regular practice which is continuous, intelligent, fresh and cheerful. Rituals followed as a routine lose all their potency. A routine in itself cannot constructively re-create a developed human personality. It is only a deliberate intelligent training of the head and heart of an individual, gained through diligent “abhyas” that can bring about the desired effect. A dull habit, or an inert routine pursued under the blind force of a dead faith is ineffectual and quite undesirable as a measure in the spiritual revival of an individual. 

Rituals have a place in the spiritual sadhana. Rituals in themselves cannot and will not lead a seeker to his goal. An act, however noble, cannot in its result procure the Eternal, the act being itself a finite one. Rituals when performed with devotion and without any desires for their fruits have a unique capacity of integrating the personality of the seeker. When a seeker has practised for long the ritualistic worship, he develops, by his life of self-control, concentration and purity, more and more in his capacities of the mind and intellect. These are to be brought into full play in the study of the Jnana-kanda — the Upanishads. 

In ritualism, when the divine acts are pursued with an intention to gain the fruits thereof, the individual, in proportion to his diligence and acquired mental strength, comes to enjoy the fruits, but the same ritualism, when pursued without a demand for the fruits thereof, result in an efficient integration of the upasaka’s inner personality. All ritualism is only to prepare the seeker for higher and higher meditations.

Ritualism has deep significance and suggestiveness. One who does not know the exact implication will only be following the routine process of chanting and doing the prescribed action without benefiting himself and feeling any sense of inspiration. Upanishad is very insistent and the Vedas with equal emphasis, roar that without a correct knowledge of, not only the rules of the karma but also the full significance of it, ritualism has no effect at all. Therefore, it is the “intellectual faculty” that is the true performer of all Rituals.


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