As posted by Swami Sadasivananda on his blog http://www.ramanateaching.org/
There is one mystical understanding of life that runs through the very core of all major religions. This is the belief, and to many the cherished experience, that our sojourn on earth is not true life. These most ancient scriptures and Masters teach that everything appearing to us here is a mere appearance, behind which we should penetrate, or that it is only a forecourt of the true world, a forecourt which we should cross without paying much attention to.
Hidden within these very scriptures, though obscured through individual bias or misinterpretation, is a profound truth that utterly refutes this belief. The Vedas, and their essential distillation given in the Bhagavad Gita, the Holy Bible, the Torah, and the Koran definitively proclaim that what a man does here and now with holy intent is no less important, no less true – being a terrestrial indeed, but non the less a factual, link with Divine Being – than the life in the world to come.
Unfortunately, there is a universal acceptance that the highest gift of grace bestowed upon mankind is a “One way ticket to heaven”. Some call it “salvation”, some say “realization”, some “awakening”. In our modern era this ticket is on sale – being reduced to just a fleeting thought of “oneness” while ferociously consuming whatever is in reach with the righteous indignation permitted within “the present moment”.
One hallmark of a real spiritual aspirant is an acute awareness of active evolution. Yes, “religion” does mean moving into purity and union through change and improvement. Although a higher world is perceived, it is erroneous to conclude that we are separated and severed from it. When the day of even partial attainment dawns, we begin to experience that the two worlds are essentially one and shall in fact become one.
In their true essence, the two worlds are one. They only have, as it were, moved apart. But they shall again become one, as they are in their true essence. Man was created for the purpose of unifying the two worlds. He contributes towards this unity by holy living, in relationship to the world in which he has been set, at the place on which he stands.
How is it then true that when we suffer in our attempts to live a holy life we are told that such is a gift of grace? Sri Ramana Maharshi declared, with seeming sternness, to Paramahansa Yogananda (in Talks #107), that: “Suffering is the way to Self-Realization.” The Masters of all religions, upon seeing the great misery among the needy, raise their heads and cry out to us and say: “Let us draw God into the world, and all need will be quenched!”
But is this possible, to draw God into this world? Is this not an arrogant, presumptuous idea?
The advent of God, His actual gracious Presence, abides within the law that He Himself created and abides by. This law consists precisely in this, that God wants to let Himself be “won” by man, that He places Himself, so to speak, into man’s hands. God wants to come into this world factually, never being satisfied to remain a theory or at best an illusive and flighty “friend in need”. God wants to come to this world, but he wants to come to it through man. This is the mystery of our existence, the superhuman chance of mankind!
The Masters and their scriptures entice us with the perplexing question: “ Where then is the dwelling of God?” The human mind really does not waiver with the passing of centuries. Therefore the answer to this question from ancient to modern man is: “What a thing to ask! Is not the whole world full of the glory of God? We are then perplexed when the these very saints reply:
“God dwells wherever man lets Him in!”
This is the ultimate purpose; to let God in. But we can let Him in only where we really stand, where we live, where we live a true life. If we maintain holy intercourse with the little world entrusted to us, if we help the holy spiritual substance to accomplish itself in that section of Creation in which we are living, then we are establishing, in this our place, a dwelling for the Divine Presence.
Some of the ideas expressed in this article are paraphrased excerpts from the writings of Martin Buber.