Scriptural Knowledge and Abominable Scoundrels


Question 1: I have known people who can volubly quote chunks of verses from the scriptures but they seem to have serious moral turpitude. How do we reconcile their vast knowledge with their character defect?

Answer 1: “Quoting scriptures is….not a sign to indicate the spiritual development of a person. A man may recite the whole of the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Brahma Sutras; and yet he may be the greatest and the most abominable scoundrel.” (pg. 24, Satsanga and Svadhyaya by Swami Sivananda)

[“Scoundrel” refers to a dishonest or unscrupulous (=having or showing NO moral principles) person: Oxford Dictionary]

Question 2: I have known people who give impressive lectures; yet, they have every trait that qualifies them to be un-spiritual. Oftentimes, some of them are even bad and hypocritical. How do we reconcile their impressive knowledge with their lack of spirituality?

Answer 2: “One may deliver a lecture on Adwaita Philosophy for several hours. One may interpret a verse in hundred and one ways. One may give a discourse on one verse of the Gita for a week and yet these people may not possess an iota of devotion or practical realisation of Vedantic oneness. It is all dry intellectual exercise. Nothing more than that.” (pg. 240, Sadhana by Swami Sivananda)

Answer 2: Swami Sivananda: “It is practice that counts. You know the Gita by heart. But are you living in the spirit of the Gita—that is what matters.” (Swamiji’s speech on 25.9.1950: pg. 150, Sivananda’s Lectures: All-India and Ceylon Tour).

Answer 2Mata Amritanandamayi: “Memorising something is NOT that difficult; putting what YOU have LEARNT into practice IS difficult.” (pg. 43, Lead Us to the Light)

Question 3: How is it that their knowledge of the scriptures does not help to eradicate their bad and evil tendencies?

Answer 3: “It is easy to become a lecturer on Vedanta. If you sit in a library for some years and enrich your vocabulary and phraseology and commit to memory some passages, you can deliver good lectures, in two or three years, but it is not so easy to eradicate an evil quality. Only a real aspirant who is doing Sadhana will realise his difficulty.” (pg. 240, Sadhana by Swami Sivananda)

Question 4: Some of these people who are so-called well-versed in the scriptures often say that there should be a balance between pleasure of living in this world, enjoying the sense satisfaction and leading a spiritual life. Can one make substantial progress in attaining God-Realisation in this way?

Answer 4: “Spiritual life starts with your recognition that as long as you keep going headlong in the pursuit of sense satisfaction and pleasure, you are NOT going to move one step. So all will be academic and theoretical. Our aspiration, our wanting spiritual life will only be in theory—a fancy and a feeling. You have not started. So, the beginning stage itself of the spiritual life is a turning away from sense experience and sense indulgence and starting to move in the opposite direction,” (pg. 19, The Role Celibacy in Spiritual Life by Swami Chidananda)

Question 5: So, what are the uses of spiritual or scriptural knowledge?

Answer 5: “It is not enough…merely to read the scriptures. We must hold their teachings up to the watchful presence within us…,” (pg. 203, The Promise of Immortality by Swami Kriyananda) [Swami Kriyananda is a direct disciple of Paramahansa Yogananda, the author of “Autobiography of a Yogi”].

Answer 5: “Even if we memorise the most complicated… texts, without an innocent love for God, it will be difficult to make any real spiritual progress,” Swami Ramakrishnananda (pg. 246, The Blessed Life)

Answer 5: Mata Amritanandamayi: “Knowledge is good, but ONLY when expressed in life is its benefit experienced both by ourselves and by society….(Scriptural study) must be practised in DAILY life… ONLY when we live BY its principles can we progress without flagging, no matter what the circumstance.” (pgs. 4-5, Matruvani, March 2013, Vol.24, No.7)

Answer 5: “All too often the intellect becomes satisfied with just theory about God. Great and glorious is the story of God’s presence, but greater and more glorious is the actual perception of the Infinite….If you practice one millionth of the things that I tell you…you will reach God. Success doesn’t lie in listening to my sermons, but in practising what I have told you.” (pg. 94, The Divine Romance by Paramahansa Yogananda)

Answer 5: “It is true that our ancient teachers were great, their wisdom was profound, their morals were high, and their spiritual insight transcended the limitations of time and place. HOWEVER, we have NOT been able to take advantage of the great treasure that could have made life better and brighter.” (pg. 51, Spirituality by Swami Rama)

Answer 5: “It is not enough to read the scriptures as a form of duty. One should think deeply about the meaning they contain and try to get a firm conviction about the possibility of realising the Truth.” (pg. 514, Meditation and Spiritual Life by Swami Yatiswarananda)

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Walk Your Talk


Swami Sivananda: “Live in the spirit of the teachings of the Gita. Mere talk and lecture will not help you in any way. You may know the whole of the Gita by heart and may deliver lectures for several hours. But they are of NO avail without wisdom. What is wanted is SOLID Sadhana with mental non-attachment and REGULAR practice of the teachings of the Gita,” (pg. 169, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

Swami Sivananda: “Spiritual life is not a mere idle talk. it is not mere sensation. It is actual living in Atman. It is a transcendental experience of unalloyed bliss. Tread the path of truth and righteousness. Stick tenaciously to the twenty instructions. Be regular in your meditation.

“Be patient. Practise introspection. Do selfless service. Develop Vairagya. You will attain immortality,” (pg. 132, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

Swami Sivananda: “Mere hearing of eloquent, valuable lectures will not do in the spiritual path. You will have to act according to them. You will have to give your whole heart, mind and soul to the practice. Then only will you have progress in the path. Follow the instructions of your Master and the teachings of the scriptures to the very letter. Give no leniency to the mind. Exact, implicit, strict obedience to the instructions is expected of you.” (pg. 44, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Swami Sivananda: “Men who read much and work little are like bells, which sound to call others and they themselves never enter into a church.” (pg. 118, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Swami Sivananda: “Instead of trying to become a Pundit with vanity and pedantry and thirst for applause, try to develop a clean unblemished virtuous life.”  (pg. 119, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Swami Sivananda: “High education, vast study of scriptures, wealth, rich offerings are not necessary for attaining God-realisation. What is wanted is purity of heart and sincere devotion.”  (pg. 120, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Swami Sivananda: “… attending or conducting Ramayana or Bhagavata may, no doubt, aid one’s spiritual aptitude. But, if you do not fulfill the fundamentals of ethics and morality, all the above observances would no way ensure Self-realisation. Therefore, first and foremost, please look to the rudiments of ethics and morality.” (pg. 135-136, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Swami Sivananda: “One may deliver a lecture on Advaita philosophy for several hours. One may interpret a verse in a hundred and one ways. One may give a discourse on one Sloka of Gita for a week and yet those people may not possess an iota of devotion or practical realisation of vedantic oneness. It is all dry intellectual exercises. Nothing more than that. Vedanta is a living experience. A Vedantin need not advertise that he is an Advaitin. The sweet divine aroma of Vedanta oneness will be ever emanating from him. Everybody will feel this. (pg. 76, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda).

Ethics and Morality by Swami Sivananda


Ethics are the basis of spiritual life. Without ethics, philosophy is wishful thinking and religion menanigless. Life without ethics is a living death. A character without ethics is like salt-less dish. Morality coexists with ethics or spirituality. Unintelligent seekers blunder in attempting to reach Samadhi through meditation as soon as they take to the spiritual path, without caring a bit for ethical virtues. Tolerance, absesnece of angre, greed and lust, unprovocable patience imply morality

Having sacred baths daily and worshipping at the shrine regularly, attending or conducting Ramayana or Bhagavatha may, no doubt, aid one’s spiritual aptitude. Bit, if you do not fulfil the fundamentals of ethics and morality, all the above observances would no way ensure Self-realisation. Therefore, first and foremost, please look to the rudiments of ethics and morality.

(pgs. 135-136, Sermonettes of Swami Sivananda)

“…morality is the basis of spiritual life…Practice of morality leads to purity of hearty, and attainment of Self-realisation. Without morality, you will become a spiritual bankrupt.

“Without ethical perfection, there is no spiritual progress. Without spiritual progress, there is no emancipation. Ethical perfection comes through the practice of Yama and Niyama. Asanas and Pranayama form the second stage. Concentration and meditation form the third stage. Samadhi is the summum bonum. Thus, the human soul aspiring after perfection goes from stage to stage and finally merges itself in the blissful glory of the highest union. Aim, therefore, at moral perfection. Spiritual success is half achieved through strong moral foundation.

“Always bear in mind that the primary condition of success in the spiritual life is an earnest longing for purity. So, be sincere and very earnest in your Sadhana and strive for purification and sound ethical culture.” (pg. 116, Ethical Perfection)

“Right from the very beginning of your spiritual life, you must understand clearly that in true humility, sincere desire to root out  gradually pride, egoism and jealousy earnest and unceasing introspection to find out one’s own defects and improve oneself, lies your hope of progress. Witout this, all sorts of Sadhana become a delusion and a waste.” (pg. 98, Ethical Perfection)