In college, I majored in philosophy. On the very first day of the very first course that I took in philosophy, the professor wrote the word philosophy on the chalkboard, then broke it down to show its etymological origin. The word comes from two Greek words, which is appropriate, for the Greeks are usually seen as the founding fathers of Western philosophy. The prefix philo comes from the Greek word phileō, which means “to love.” The root comes from the Greek word sophia, which means “wisdom.” So, the simple meaning of
the term philosophy is “love of wisdom.”
When I came to understand this meaning, I assumed that by studying philosophy I would learn about wisdom in a practical sense. However, I soon discovered that Greek philosophy stressed abstract questions of metaphysics (the study of ultimate being or of ultimate reality) and epistemology (the study of the process by which human beings learn). It’s true that one of the subdivisions of philosophy is ethics, particularly the science of normative ethics — the principles of how we ought to live. That was certainly a concern of the ancient Greeks, particularly Socrates. But even Socrates was convinced that proper conduct, or right living, is intimately connected with right knowledge.
There is a section of the Old Testament known as the Wisdom Literature — the books of Job, Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Solomon. Here, we see a completely different philosophical emphasis, one that is based on the initial assumption of the Bible. Many people regard the assertion that there is one god over all creation as a late development in Greek philosophy. In a sense, it was the conclusion of their thought. But for the Jews, the assertion of God’s sovereignty was primary. The first line of the Old Testament says, “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the ear th” (Gen. 1:1). Monotheism is not at the end of the trail; it is at the very beginning.
Genesis offers no argument or proof for the existence of God. One of the reasons for this is that the Jews were convinced that God had already done the job Himself: the heavens declared the glory of God (Ps. 19:1). The Jews were not concerned about whether there is a God but about what He is like: What is His name? What are His attributes? What is His character? The whole Old Testament focuses on God’s self-disclosure to His covenant people.
The Wisdom Literature makes a startling affirmation: “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Ps. 111:10; Prov. 9:10). For the Jews, wisdom meant a practical understanding of how to live a life that is pleasing to God. The pursuit of godliness was a central concern of the writers of the Wisdom Literature. They affirmed that the necessary condition for anyone to have true wisdom is a fear of the Lord.
Such fear is not terror or horror. As Martin Luther said, it is a filial fear, the fear of a child who is in awe of his father and doesn’t want to do anything that would violate his father and disrupt their loving relationship. In a word, this concept has to do with reverence, awe, and respect. When the writers of the Wisdom Literature say that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, they are saying that the absolute, essential starting point if you want to acquire true wisdom is reverence and adoration for God.
Showing a contrast, the psalmist tells us, “The fool says in his heart, ‘There is no God’” (Ps. 14:1a). Wisdom is contrasted with foolishness. However, in the Hebrew literature, the term fool does not describe a person who lacks intelligence. To be foolish to the Jew is to be irreligious and godless. The fool is the person who has no reverence for God, and when you have no reverence for God, inevitably your life will show it.
The Wisdom Literature also makes a sharp distinction between wisdom and knowledge. A person can have unbounded knowledge and not have wisdom. But the reverse is not the case; no one can have wisdom if he does not have knowledge. The antiintellectual spirit of our times declares: “I don’t need to study. I don’t need to know the Bible. All I need is to have a personal relationship with Jesus.” That viewpoint is on a collision course with what the Wisdom Literature teaches. The purpose for learning the things of God is the acquisition of wisdom, and we cannot have wisdom without knowledge. Ignorance breeds foolishness, but true knowledge — the knowledge of God — leads to the wisdom that is more precious than rubies and pearls.
We want to be rich, successful, and comfortable, but we do not long for wisdom. Thus, we do not read the Scriptures, the supreme textbook of wisdom. This is foolishness. Let us pursue the knowledge of God through the Word of God, for in that way we will find wisdom to live lives that please Him.

By R.C. Sproul

We all ask at some point during our physical existence, "Why are we here?" And of course, we all have opinions on why we are, and here is mine.
Life in the physical world does many things. It teaches us lessons that are necessary for our pursuit towards soul perfection. Through repeated trials and tribulations it teaches us compassion, tolerance and most important of all, love.
I do not believe in mistakes. I think mistakes are only opportunities for us to see growth in the form of lessons. Often, we manifest situations over and over until we learn the lesson. People may pick the wrong mate over and over, get fired repeatedly for the same behavioral problems, manifest sickness due to inner issues, but these are all opportunities for soul growth. Ịn my own life, I noticed that a situation repeated itself until I learned the lesson that was hidden behind it; then magically, it disappeared, never to return again.
Not only will lessons repeat themselves, but just when you think you have it licked, it will morph into something else of which you won't recognize. This morphing will continue until it is thoroughly worked out on a soul level.

A good way to know if your lesson is complete, is if you are able to rise above it in your dreams. We are able to consciously control much of our issues, but when we are faced with them in dreams (fear for example) we may find that we indeed are not over it.
I remember having a conversation with a woman once about her "shallow playboy male friend." He had little feelings for others, broke women's hearts, and basically was "flaky". Then he suffered a great loss when his beloved sister died. She told me that she wouldn't wish this horrible thing on anyone, but afterwards he was since a changed man for the better. I asked her, "would you remove the lesson he learned?" His sister only died in the physical sense, but it was at a time that provided the most growth opportunity for the brother. What is viewed as "bad" is not bad, it is something beyond what most of us can comprehend. Our narrow views generally cannot perceive the global picture of what is intended.
We can also be here for a reason outside of learning. I've said before that there are "roles" for some of us. Guides, or healers for example. Some people come here with little karmic debt and are here for some other purpose. A physical guide may be needed in order to help steer someone back on track. Perhaps even helping someone on the verge of suicide or someone who has lost hope and is going backwards in their spiritual growth.
Life is the perfect learning ground.

 Many of you might have attended similar conferences, and you must be all be having some idea as to what a conference should be. This is a Divine Life conference, and naturally ideas of such conferences get associated with living a religious life, the pursuit of the way of the spirit, the art of divine living, and so forth.
Conferences come and go, and we go on in the same way as we were due to peculiar difficulties and problems which speak from within us in a language different from conference discourses, and different from any known human tongue. There is an agonising welling up of a controlling organisation from within us which is a language by itself, and each one of you may try to find a little time to think over this mysterious aspect of your life.
The personal language in which we speak to ourselves and express our sorrows is not English, Sanskrit or Hindi, or any known human language. Therefore, if any enterprise or project along the line of divine living is to be vitally connected with the redress of human sorrow, it has to be expressed in a language which is acceptable to the human sentiment. Thus it is that we find that we have not been able to strike a rapprochement between our own personal lives and the congregational life that we live in the world.
This conference, in my opinion, has a special significance of its own. It has a distinctiveness from ordinary satsangas or prayer meetings and worships in which we pour forth our feelings to God the Almighty as our Maker and the Maker of all things. This conference has the specific purpose of evoking the dormant powers in responsible representatives of divine living who are gathered here in the cause of a noble and exalted purpose which includes the good of the individual as well as the good of society.
We have a double purpose in holding these conferences: to do good in the way in which it has to be done for the well-being of mankind, and to prepare ourselves for this arduous task. The spreading of the gospel of divine life is possible only from a source which leads a divine life. We all may be under the impression that we are Divine Lifers because we belong to Divine Life Society branches, we do japa and prayer, we read scriptures, and we believe that God exists. We also believe that God is a great power. The belief in God with which we associate ourselves somehow or the other may make us feel that we are thoroughly religious people and spiritual stalwarts, but the world today requires a new weapon to launch forth the energy of divine living.
Unless we are fully equipped with the power of counterforces in this world, our efforts would not be of much avail. Your imagination that you are a student of the Bhagavadgita or that you are a devotee of God may be worth its while and genuine, no doubt, but your knowledge of the circumstances of the world may be very poor, due to which the strength that you have in yourself may not be up to the mark.
If you read the Ramayana of Valmiki or Tulsidas, or read the Mahabharata or epics of this type, you will find that the counterforces to divine aims were terrific. The epics such as the Ramayana and the Mahabharata are great examples before us to demonstrate that these opposing forces were not of a meagre nature. They were strong enough.
The strength of counterforces arises due to a conviction which goes deep into the soul of the person or the group of people concerned, and the force becomes inseparable from the soul of the person. The strength of the enemy or the strength of anything that is invincible lies in the conviction of that person, or the organisation of persons, that they remain inseparable from their source. The more your conviction becomes a part of your soul, the more is your strength to implement it, and that strength does not lie in the practice of any religion in an official sense. Your energies, your powers, your capacities are not in the length of time which you have spent in the study of the Gita or the rolling of the beads, but your strength depends upon the extent to which your concept or notion of divinity has been driven into the bottom of your soul.
Today the counterforce can be called materialism. It is not anything else but this. The strong opponent of a divine power is called the material power. That which goads you to hold Divine Life conferences and sets your mind to thinking along these lines of conferences of religion and spirituality is stipulated by the presence of material powers. If it does not exist, these conferences would not be necessary.
Now, we may all be under the impression that we are religious people or spiritual seekers, and are not materialists, of course. But to come to a conclusion whether we are materialists or not is difficult because you have to know, first of all, what materialism means in order to come to a decision as to whether you are that, or you are something else.
We have been experiencing a perpetual harassment in our lives in spite of our religion and so-called spirituality. This harassment comes from material forces, as has been mentioned already. Now, this trouble in us, in our personal lives and in our society, should be identified somehow or other with a kind of secret affiliation of ourselves with material powers. We are not wholly nonmaterial. Materialism does not mean the doctrine of Lucretius or Charvaka. We may not be paying tribute to Charvaka or the materialist philosophers of ancient Greece, etc., but we may be materialists in a different and more important sense.
Materialism is a belief that life is impossible without depending on something outside us; and if we have such a belief, we are certainly materialists. Who among us can have the guts to feel from the bottom of oneself that one can live totally independently without hanging on external powers, which are certainly material? You cannot hang on material powers as your support unless you believe in the reality of those powers, and the one who believes it is a materialist. Therefore, you can judge for yourself whether we are all materialists or something else.
Now, this peculiar subtle entry of an unbecoming circumstance into our personal lives has been the woe and the sorrow of every one of us. You must be able to diagnose the inner structure of your own psychological life in a very honest and sincere manner, believing that you are doing this analysis in the face of God, in the presence of the Almighty, in the court of the Universal Judge of the cosmos, not having a subtle diffidence caused by a simultaneous unfortunate feeling that God may not be seen.
I am sure that we have a subtle feeling of that type also in us. Who is certain that we cannot hide certain aspects of our life from the omniscience of the divine eye? We are not fully convinced about the existence of God, and Divine Life conferences merely of a social type will not cut ice before the problems of human nature unless you, dear friends seated here, though very small in number compared to the large population of humanity, are able to gird up your loins in the cause of God, and not have a subtle affiliation as a fifth columnist with materialist powers also, which I have mentioned.
Friends, I tell you once again, it is not easy to be lovers of God, and we should not have any kind of foolhardy notion that we are already that. If we had been that, we would not be shedding tears. The problem is that we have not been able to convince ourselves as to the supremacy of God’s existence, what to speak of our learning, our philosophies and our religions. The religion of God has not been our way of living. We have a social and political religion, to put it properly, which we have been following in our outward life, but we have a secret materialist living in our own hearts because it is not true that we are always working through our souls. We work through the body and through the senses. We have a great affection for the friends of the senses and the body, and though it is true that the soul can take care of us if we entirely depend on it, we are not in a position to lay full trust in it.
The trust in God or the trust in soul cannot arise so easily because of the suspicion that our wishes may not be fulfilled by such a kind of total surrender to the Self, or what we call God. We have immediate requirements, and these immediate requirements are of such a pressing nature that we have a suspicion whether that wish, that requirement, can be fulfilled by a remote so-called Creator. This is the truth of things, and you will see if you touch your own hearts that this is a fact which you cannot deny.
Considering the whole situation in this light, I appeal to you all as followers of the great path laid before you by Worshipful Gurudev Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj that you are not going to be merely members of conferences, but you are going to be representatives of divine power. Your very existence is a divine living, and it is a Divine Life Society. The Divine Life Society is not any kind of social organisation. It is not a show of buildings. It is an ardent fervour that you feel within you. I have heard with my own ears Sri Gurudev Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj telling us in a small satsanga that every devotee of God is a branch of The Divine Life Society. It is not in Orissa, it is not in Lucknow, it is not in New York. It is in the heart of every searcher or seeker of the Truth of truths.
A person who really leads a truly religious life is a branch of The Divine Life Society, which does not mean Hinduism or any kind of religion or the commonly accepted character of denomination. It was the imperative emphasis of the founder of The Divine Life Society that divine life is not Hinduism, and in a sense it is not religion at all if you are associating religion with a cult or a creed or a faith, or anything that has to abrogate something other than itself. It is an all-embracing, absorbing, oceanic parent which is ready to redeem anything that requires succour and which establishes an inward friendship with creation as a whole.
The life of Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj himself was an ostensible commentary on the gospel of divine life. Again I have to reiterate that you are not expected to merely look at your watch and wait for the time when you have to get up for your lunch and then for another session of the conference, etc., as if it is a business and a kind of transaction, something that you have to do and then forget about. Not so is religion; not so is divine life. Divine life is not something that you have to do and then forget it. As a matter of fact, it is not something that you have to do at all; it is something that has to be yourself. Divine living is living – underline the word living – and it is not merely an external expression or a social demonstration for the purpose of receiving encomiums or certificates from people.
To be conscious that you are in the presence of God perpetually would be a true divine living, and you can know very well what would be your feelings and attitudes if you are always to be conscious of your proximity to the great Creator of the universe. There is no need to expatiate on this theme. If you are to be in the presence of the Creator and then think and feel and act, what would be the type of your thinking and feeling and acting? If you think and feel and act in your public life or private life in a manner which would be different from the way in which you would be conducting yourself in the presence of God, you cannot regard yourself as a religious person or a spiritual seeker, and that would not be divine life.
The very conviction of your being a true Divine Lifer in the light in which I have tried to explain would create a wealth of satisfaction from inside you. You would be an unbounded source of happiness even if you are absolutely alone in a corner of this earth, and you would not be seeking a friend to speak to or an audience to address yourself to. You would be immensely feeling a flood of joy within you on account of an indescribable immanence and proximity of an invisible something.
I am trying to voice the feelings of Sri Gurudev. Again, I try to hammer this idea into your minds that you are to be Godmen and divine souls, and not merely business people or people interested only in transactions or give and take. If your idea is rooted in mere human and social relationships minus that integrating and inundating power of God, that would not be a proper respect paid to the great founder of The Divine Life Society.
To be true disciples of this great miracle of the modern age, Revered Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj, would be to live as he lived and to think as he thought. Very few of us are in a position to think as he thought. Very few of us can have that large-heartedness which is uncanny and unveiled in a personality of this type. We are born businesspeople, which means to say, we always like to take things and go on calculating how much has come. This kind of economic and calculating striking of a balance sheet from one side only and not from the other side, considering only the income and not the duty that you owe to creation, would not be the characteristic of a true disciple of Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj.
We have been a few blessed souls here who had the occasion to live with him physically for a considerable number of years, and we really feel like shedding tears if we even think of him, not because he gave us bread and butter and jam to eat, or gave us anything comfortable in the material sense of the term, but because he demonstrated before us a possibility of living in the presence of God by the example which he himself set, an art which human beings are not visually acquainted with.
God is the greatest giver, and He takes the least. Perhaps He takes nothing. And in my humble opinion, Sri Swami Sivanandaji Maharaj was a replica of this oceanic flood of giving.
Again, each one of you seated here is to think for yourself from within yourself, to dive into yourself and go into your feelings, your souls, and see to what extent you have been able to appreciate and to live by the great gospel and practical living of Sri Gurudev. If your soul turns a deaf ear to this inward spiritual gospel of the great founder, you would not be a disciple or even a devotee of God.
We have to first of all remember that we do not live by bread alone, and the greed for money, physical comfort and social approbation have to be shed as an accretion that has unfortunately grown upon our souls as cancer grows on our body, and it has to be shed immediately. This is not easy unless you train yourself.
We have started the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy only to bring into our own memories and minds this divine message of Sri Gurudev. The intention is not to teach something technical, historical, academic or philosophical. The idea is very simple, very humble, and very insignificant, if you would like to call it that, and its insignificance lies in the fact that it does not seek any kind of propaganda in the eyes of the social public, but it seeks recognition in the great eye of God Almighty. If we can succeed in rousing up even one individual to the status of God-consciousness, The Divine Life Society would have done a great service, and the Yoga Vedanta Forest Academy would have served its purpose.
It is not quantity that we seek, but quality. You may not be thousands in number; you may be very few, even 200, but it does not matter. We do not require 200; even one is enough if that one has enough strength of soul force to declare that he can stand on his own legs and draw sustenance from the five elements, from the sun and the moon and the stars, and requires no help from anybody. The world, the creation that is before us is itself our support, and God is our support. God is never dead. He is never away from us, and if our connection with Him is spiritual, which means to say, indivisible, then the help that comes from Him is perpetual, and so it comes without asking. If this gospel can be planted in our hearts, even in the heart of a single person here, God will be immensely satisfied and the blessings of Sri Gurudev will be abundant.
I have spoken very much, and I beg your pardon for having spoken so strongly, but I have spoken with an intense feeling for the grand aim which Gurudev lived and the purpose for which, I believe, God has created this world itself.

By Swami Krishnananda

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