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Salient. Victoria University Students' Paper. Vol. 26, No. 7. Tuesday, June 18, 1963

A Swami's Philosophy

A Swami's Philosophy

Swami Premananda, distinguished Indian writer and philosopher, recently delivered a brief series of lectures in Wellington.

His ideas, though clearly based on Hinduism, appeared to embrace all major religions; a synthetic approach typical of Indian philosophy. At the lecture I attended, he began by explaining the idea of Atman, or the Self.

Almost all Hindus believe in the existence of God in two aspects, Brahman and Atman. Brahman is the changing universal unity, and Atman is the portion of Brahman present in every individual.

The Swami illustrated this by comparing Brahman to an ocean. The drops of water which are splashed on the shore are like Atman, that is, though not actually part of the ocean, their composition is exactly the same as the ocean's, and through evaporation, rain and rivers they eventually return to their original source.

He continued: "Thus each person has a part of God within him. Christian scripture expresses a similar idea when it says 'God created man in his own image.'

"You need only realise fully your unity with God and you will be freed from internal conflict and doubt.

"If you act completely naturally, without any affectation at all, the divine presence will show itself unhampered in all your actions."

The Swami saw five basic desires which are common to all men of whatever race or state of civilisation; the desire to live, to be happy, to be free, to know, and to be respected.

These are fundamental because they follow naturally from our association with God. We desire to live because God's expression of himself is in life (Atman).

We desire to be happy because happiness is the natural expression of the divine. (The Swami thought that people are incapable of desiring misery.)

We desire to be free because God is competely free, unrestricted by space, time or anything else. We desire to know because the knowedge of God gives knowledge of perfection.

We desire to be respected because the source from which we came is the highest one and most worthy of respect.

"Desires are meant for you, not you for them." the Swami said.

"Those who become enslaved by their desires are caged, and this in turn conflicts with the wish for freedom. Wherever desires are present, conflict ensues. Those who desire something from God will receive nothing, those who seek God alone will recognise him."

The Swami claimed that civilisation is in continual conflict because men are not satisfied with one another.

"How can they be satisfied with their fellow men when their internal doubts mean they are not satisfied with themselves?" he asked.

The Swami continued by attacking the affectation of modem civilised life.

"People think the art of living is to seem, not to be. They paint their faces so thickly that soon the true face disappears leaving only the paint.

"The real way to live is to free yourself from inhibitive desires so that your personal divinity can manifest itself through good actions."

The Swami's address was free of the wearisome solemnity which characterises many Christian sermons. He laughed, joked and conveyed throughout a vivid impression of his own contentment.