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Which path to follow

Is a spiritual seeker free to choose the path he wishes to follow in pursuance of his goal or must he abide by a method or regimen prescribed by a particular scripture, sect or prophet? The question becomes pertinent for a follower of a religion like Hindustan which has multiple approaches towards the path of salvation - moksha. With axioms like "shrutayasch smritayasch bhinnah, naikormunih yasya vachah prmanam" ("the Vedas differ, the smrities differ and there is not a single sage whose words are the final authority") abounding in the Hindu scriptures, is it not confusing for a person who endeavours to progress in the path of God or attain the spiritual heights? Who is the final authority in the realm of spiritual matters? Man, scripture or God?

The Bhagavad Gita provides the answer in its own way. In Chapter IV, shloka XVI it says "ye yatha maan prapdyarnte, tanstathaiva bhajamyaham/mam vartmanauvartante mnaushyah parth sarvashah" ("I respond to people in the same way as they approach me, men everywhere are following in my path"). The Gita thus excludes no path of worship or spiritual approach from the path of God or spirituality.

Again, what will happen to those who are in the pursuit of material things? "Bhutani yanti bhutejya" ("to material attainments go those who worship the matter") says Krishna. But the shloka quoted earlier indicates that they also will ultimately attain spiritual heights when their consciousness turns towards the spirit.

That can be the only rational interpretation of the words "everywhere all men follow in my path." That all efforts made in the way of the divine, irrespective of the method or mental approach towards Him lead to the same goal is a common sentiment expressed in various Sanskrit texts belonging to different sects. "Akashat patitam toyam sagaram prati gacchati, sarva deva namaskaram Keshavam prati gacchati" ("all the water fallen from the sky goes to the sea, salutations to all the gods reaches to the one Lord Vishnu") and "Ruchinam vaichitryad rijukutil nana path jusham; nrinam ekogamyastvamasi pyasamarnavmiti" ("Due to the differences in individual dispositions, people follow different paths, but you are the only destination of all of them, just as the sea is the destination of all the waters").

Among the Hindus, people of various predilections worship gods, avatars and even their gurus and saints, besides those who pursue the yogic meditation or the esoteric tantras. One common sentiment which all the sects share is that one should completely surrender to the deity or the guru one reposes one's faith on. Lord Krishna also says in the Gita, "mamekam sharanam vraj". But in the last chapter of the same scripture he declares "The Lord of all the beings resides in the core of the human consciousness. Arjun take refuge in him with all your heart. Through his pleasure you shall attain the unpreturbable, permanent and eternal peace" ("Ishwarah sarva bhutanam Hariddesherjun tishthati, bhramayan sarva bhutani yantrarudhai mayaya/tameva sharanam gacch sarva bhavena Bharat ; tat prasadat shantim sthiram achalam prapsyasi shashwatim").

Thus the eternal peace or moksha is to be sought within one's own inner being which is the abode of the Supreme Being. says Ms. Bhargavi.

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