By Sivanath Sastri
We believe that this universe has sprung from, is sustained and governed by the will of Supreme and Self-existent Being, infinite in power, wisdom, love, justice and holiness. His providence is ever active, special as well as universal. By reason of His infinitude and uniqueness, He is beyond our knowledge and faith. We cannot conceive or comprehend Him except partially through His manifestations in nature and in man; but by means of our reason and instincts, our faith and intuition we can, sufficiently know Him to believe in Him and to worship Him.
We believe that man is the son of God; and as such is fit to know Him and love Him, which is man’s highest destiny; and to serve him which is His highest privilege.
We believe that worship, or conscious moral and spiritual intercourse with the Father, consisting of an attitude of love, gratitude, trust and reverence is a most sacred and solemn duty on man’s part and the way to salvation.
By salvation we mean that state of perfect union of the son with the Father, where there is no extinction or annihilation of His separate entity as a child, not absorption into the Supreme Being, but perfect harmony between his will and the will of the Father through love and self-surrender. It is both negative and positive. Negatively it means liberation from sin and misery, and positively a state of felicity and consequent upon a conscious life in God.
We believe that the way to this salvation is through love, which teaches the soul to seek the will of the Father as the highest good. It does not snatch the soul away from temptations, nor violently uproots the desires, but places it above them and beyond them by making them matters of indifference to its purpose or aim.
We believe that man is destined for eternal existence; of which life on earth is but a preparatory stage; that he is morally accountable for his conduct ; and there is no escape in the future from the consequences of his acts in the present. The punishment of sin is sure and inevitable, and forgiveness of God means permission to attain spiritual restoration.
We do not believe in any material heaven or hell. There may be worlds and spheres, where human souls find themselves placed during the several stages of their progress and development after death; heaven and hell with us are not places but states. By heaven we mean the joy, consequent upon knowing and loving the Father, and upon being allowed to hold unclouded intercourse with Him – this being the highest reward of virtue; and by hell we mean that miserable state where the soul is made unworthy of intercourse with God, and finds delight in unrighteousness – which also is the worst punishment of the sin.
We believe that not only outward morality, but also the purity of the inward nature, producing singleness of mind and holiness of intention, is one of the first conditions of spiritual intercourse with God, and that the attainment of this holiness should be a matter of earnest prayer.
By sin we understand the conscious and wilful commission or indulgence of a deed, thought or desire which leads the soul away from the divine will, and also the conscious and wilful omission of any deed, thought or desire which leads us towards the divine will.
By divine will we understand that universal, eternal and constant action of the Divine Spirit, which is manifested in different ways and proportions through our reason, conscience, affections and will. When it breathes through the reason it is wisdom, enabling us to perceive the true; when flowing through conscience it is virtue, giving us a sense and knowledge of the right; when operating through the affections it is love, leading us to seek the good of others; and when influencing the will it is courage, giving us firmness to stand upon duty. The conditions of this divine will are love and self-surrender. Man’s highest excellence can only be attained through submission to this ever-active law of righteousness; and departure from it is his degradation and misery.
We believe that sincere repentance and earnest prayer are the means of reconciliation with the Father. Repentance is the awakening of love, faith is the maturity thereof and regeneration is the result. By regeneration we mean the ultimate establishment of harmony of man’s will with the law of righteousness in his nature and the suppression of his sinful will.
By prayer we understand that loving, trustful and expectant attitude which the soul naturally assumes towards God, when it feels itself weak and fainting in its struggles after spiritual progress.
We do not look upon the world as a delusion nor as a place of bondage nor as the heritage of fallen humanity and consequently an abode of sin and suffering; but we believe that the world is a nursery for the soul, beautifully adapted for its growth and development, and for the exercise and culture of its moral and spiritual powers during the early stage of its existence; and that all the spiritual and moralities that the bind man to his family and to his kind, are sacred and divinely ordained.
We believe that true piety does not consist in outward ceremonies and asceticism; but in the strict purity of inward conduct, in the sanctification of the relations of life, and in the combination and harmony of faith and work, of communion and prayer, and of love and philanthropy.
We believe that religion is progressive; that all the religions of the world represent more or less imperfect attempts to spell out the common religious instincts and spiritual aspirations of mankind; that they have not been made but have grown out of the spiritual life of man, assuming different forms owing to differences of intellectual, moral, social and political condition. So there are truths in all and we cheerfully accept them. We regard the whole human race as a family, of which God is the Father, the world the abode, the great men the elder brothers, the scriptures of all nations, the depositories of spiritual treasure and the triumph of truth, love and justice the ultimate goal.