*Chapter III* *THE STRAIGHT PATH*
1. It is Only One
We do not propose to deal here with the authority of the Vedas and the necessary condition of faith which alone can help us to utilise the vast information which is conveyed by them or to attempt any analysis of the Vedas or to detail the various injunctions, positive and negative, which they lay down for our guidance. It is sufficient to mention now that the sole and entire aim of the Vedas is to help us to realise in actual experience the three-fold purpose of life mentioned in the first chapter. A straight line, representing as it does their shortest distance between two points, can always be only one; there cannot be two straight lines connecting two points. Similarly, starting from a desire to realise the purpose of life, there cannot be two straight paths which can take us to the goal. If there appear to be two or more, only one of them can be the straight path; the others cannot but be zigzag ones or deviations from the right path. The right path can always therefore be one and one only. But it will be readily seen that practically it is impossible to go on straight unswerving from the central line of a road event in walking and that we sometimes go slantingly, sometimes at this side of the road, sometimes at that side, sometimes walking leisurely, sometimes with quick paces, sometimes stopping at places to gaze at the scenery around, sometimes running to avoid unpleasant sights and so on. If, owing to darkness or any defect in our own vision, we are unable to see the road properly, we are very likely to stray away from the road itself and stand in need of a helping hand to put us again on the road. It is impossible to avoid these variations in the path itself and the deviations from it as long as the body, the walking mechanism, is imperfect and is guided by the senses which are likely to be attracted by the things on the way and is led by the mind which is not perfect in the knowledge of the road. In the last chapter we saw that in the nature of things it is impossible to have a perfect body, perfect senses or a perfect mind. It follows therefore that it is impossible for us to stick to the straight path. But this incapacity inherent in us cannot make the zigzag path that we take the right one. In spite of our incapacity, the straight path continue to be the only right path; with that ideal before us, we must ever try to overcome as much as possible our incapacity and approximate to that path. There is no use of complaining that the absolutely straight path is an impossible or impracticable ideal. Truth can never adjust itself to our weakness. If it did, it would cease to be Truth. It is for us to try our best to conform to it. Truth is Truth only so long as it is unchanged and unchangeable. Such is the Sanatana Dharma Marga, the path of the Eternal Law. Its immutability is a sore grievance with the modern "civilised Hindu, for he wants the definition of Right to be what he does and he dislikes the idea of regulating his doings to an uncompromising standard of Right. If he wants to marry a widow, he would make a law sanctioning it, so that he may call it right to marry a widow; he does not like to curb his desires or inclinations in conformity with an inviolable and unchangeable rule as to what is right. But he forgets or wantonly ignores the incontrovertible fact that a man who insists upon treading a round about path or strays away from the straight path can never, by any act or intention of his, make the path that he is treading straight. He has undoubtedly the option and the capacity to make many more, nay innumerable, deviations from the straight path; but it is not left to his option nor is it within his capacity to enunciate a second straight path
for, as already stated, there can never be two straight paths. There can be only one straight path and that has to be eternal and immutable! and true for all time, in short, Sanatana.
Om. Sri Jnanananda Bharathi Swamigal.