Humanism is a philosophical and ethical standpoint that emphasises the value and moral of human beings, individually and collectively. It is a progressive philosophy of life that affirms one’s ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfilment that aspire to the greater good. Humanism is a rational philosophy informed by science, inspired by art, and motivated by compassion.
Humanism also appeals to man as man. It seeks to liberate the universal qualities of human nature from the narrow limitations of blood and soil and class and aims to create a common language and a common culture in which men can realise their common humanity. Submersed humanism within man is a system of views based on respect for the dignity of man, concern for his welfare, his all-round development and for creation of favourable conditions for social life.
The humanism that we have seen in thoughts of contemporary Indian philosophers is different from the western concept. Western humanism is mostly intellectual, economic and political in nature. But Indian humanism is primarily spiritual. Indian humanism does not take man to be a material being but as one with spirit, mind, life and body. It aims at the fulfilment of the aspirations which are physical, vital, mental and spiritual in nature. According to Roy T. Bennett, “Most of us must learn to love people and use things rather than loving things and using people.”
All religions have one focal point and that is humanity. Religion is a fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed upon by a group of people and these set of beliefs concern the cause, nurture the purpose of the Universe and involve devotional and ritual observances. They also often contain a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.
From the ancient time of the Vedas and Upanishads, India has proclaimed the eternal supremacy of a primordial cosmic-transcendent. The Absolute real Existence is itself. The Bhagavad-Gita, Patanjali’s Yogasutras, the Bhagavat Purana Mahavira, Gautama Buddha and Ramakrishna proclaimed the sanctity of moral values.
According to Swami Vivekananda, “Religion is realisation – not talk or doctrines or theories, however beautiful they may be. It is being and becoming – not hearing or acknowledging. It is the whole soul’s becoming changed into what it believes.” In fact doctrines, dogmas, theologies, and philosophies are secondary details. Vivekananda offers an infinite variety of ideals and paths to choose from in order to reach the same ultimate goal – Self-knowledge or God-consciousness. Lacking this freedom of spiritual democracy, religion becomes authoritarian and oppressive, insisting upon blind obedience to rigid doctrines and dogmas and unquestioning belief in ceremonials and creeds. Actually, religion evolves a person into a human and helps him to explore the positive virtues already within. Humanism is the light of life and the fire in soul. It is an approach to life based on reason and our common humanity, recognizing that moral values are properly founded on human nature and experience alone.
“Each soul is a star,” wrote Swami Vivekananda, “and all stars are set in the infinite azure, the eternal sky – the Lord. Religion began with a search after some of the stars which had passed beyond our horizon, and ended in finding them all in God, with ourselves in the same place.” God is not only absolute reality but also the sum total of all souls. When this ultimate reality is ignored or forgotten by us, we confront it in our everyday life in the form of sorrow and suffering. When it is recognized, realized, and adored by us, we overcome all laws of material relative existence.
Maintaining spirituality and humanism are the keys to success. It’s a balance. The religion of Humanism as Vivekananda promoted to spiritual humanism which is not simply doing good to others but rendering loving service to the Divine and seeing its presence in all beings. Spiritual humanism embraces the whole of humanity, regardless of race, culture, country, religion, or social affiliation. According to Vivekananda, “The God in you is the God in all.”
Unless we begin to see God within, we will never see God without. Again, unless we see God in the hearts of all beings, we will never see God inside ourselves. To serve the less fortunate and think of their well-being is a sacred duty of all human beings. This is the basis of all ethics and morality and Religion of Humanism.
“If everyone opened their eyes
They’d see that loving feeling is waiting within us,
And if everyone opened their hearts
They’d see that every human is holy to someone.”
Humanism is a progressive philosophy of life that, without superstition, affirms our ability and responsibility to lead ethical lives of personal fulfilment that aspire to the greater good of humanity.
We cannot despair of humanity, since we ourselves are human beings.
Moral courage is the highest expression of humanity.
Love life and life will love you back.
Albert Einstein said, “All I have is a sense of duty toward all people and an attachment to those with whom I have become intimate.” Humanism of Religion as the Dalai Lama said, “Be a good human being, a warm hearted, affectionate person. That is my fundamental belief. No one is interested in religion, what really is important is behaviour in front of peers, family-work-community.”
Buddha’s teachings are worth mentioning. He had stated, “It is impossible to build one’s own happiness on the unhappiness of others.”
All religions promote humanity -- be it Christianity, Hinduism, Sikhism, Islam, Jainism, Buddhism Zoroastrianism and Judaism. Until we learn the essence of the teachings of all religions, find a common ground, and live according to these principles, harmony and unity will be a far cry.
Ramakrishna practiced several religions, including Islam and Christianity, and taught that in spite of the differences, all religions are valid and true and they lead to the same ultimate goal—God. When the divine vision is attained, all appear equal; and there remains no distinction of good and bad, or of high and low. Shri Ramakrishna taught, ‘All religions are true. God can be reached by different religions. Many rivers flow by many ways but they fall into the sea. They all are one.’ Humanism as religion is the path to reach Divinity through consciousness that each soul is divine and therefore live for others.