This one is a spillover from my previous post about God. It was initially a part of that post but then it got huge enough to merit a post of it’s own! So, here goes.. I hope you enjoy it.
“Man is a messenger who forgot the message” – Abraham Joshua Heschel
During one of our many sessions, me and my friends began discussing religion. I was shocked to know one of my friends believed that the stories in religious texts were LITERALLY true. My views differ greatly.
I believe following a religion can be a very good thing for a person, as it is full of wise lessons to be learnt that, if understood and followed, would make our lives and the lives of those around us so much better. The stories used to teach us those lessons are interspersed with supernatural happenings that should not be taken literally! All of them have a moral and that’s all we ought to take out of it. The all important inference. Just because it says so in the religious text and you are a religious person doesn’t mean you have to believe all those stories actually took place. I feel that that’s quite ridiculous. To believe that Krishna actually grew 100 feet tall or that Adam and Eve actually existed is preposterous to say the least. Instead, what the author would have wanted us to take out of it is that Krishna had a tall personality and would want us to grasp his ideals and aspire to be perfect people ourselves. It all has a symbolic significance and a subtly concealed meaning. They teach us ideals that can be applied to make our lives more enriched, and make the Earth a better place for all. To take us a step closer to feeling enlightened. Enlightenment isn’t a concrete, well defined accomplishment; it is a frame of mind where you feel you have attained it all, spiritually. When you are one with the universe. Total peace in the true sense.
If it were all to be literally true, then how to decide who is right and who is wrong? Hinduism, Christianity, Zoroastrianism and almost every religion has its own explanation for a myriad of things. How is one to decide which is the correct version? Logic dictates not all of them can be correct at the same time! If you decide that one of them is correct, you are automatically saying that all the others are wrong. How can it be wrong when the others are so convinced it’s correct? This is what leads to religious conflicts. One group convinced they are right, trying to impose it on others, who are equally convinced they are right. What a mess it has led to. In the midst of all this chaos, Richard Dawkins gives us an interesting insight which is true in a sense and I quote, “We are all atheists about most of the gods that humanity has ever believed in. Some of us just go one god further.” Food for thought.
On the other hand, if we take a look at the lessons and morals implicit in every religion, it would dawn upon us that all religions teach us essentially the same thing. To live in peace and love everything around us. That is the message in each and every religion, just the way it’s put across differs slightly. This shows that the stories are not accounts of real happenings, but tales meant to teach us the same invaluable lessons in life.
Idol worship is another practice I fail to comprehend. Worshiping an idol, as though there is a God inside it makes little sense. Praying is good in a way, as it helps our mind focus on things, but how does an idol help?! If we pray at a temple/church or at home, what difference does it make? Whether we pray to an idol, or a picture or just a blank wall, does it really matter? Why do people rush to certain specific temples thinking they are holier than the others? Will God be paying more attention towards the prayers coming from the bigger temples? Do the chances of your prayers getting ‘answered’ vary from temple to temple? If anything, the most sought after temples have more chaos all around them and within, thereby hindering the peace of mind meant to be attained during prayer. It just defeats the purpose. Raja Ram Mohan Roy said the same thing two centuries ago, people listened, tried to understand, and unfortunately, forgot all about it.
Prayer isn’t about begging your God to help you out through some sort of divine intervention. That’s exactly what your opponent would be praying for as well, for himself. How can God be expected to choose one’s prayer over the other? Prayer, I feel is all about focusing your mind towards something, thereby helping you in the process of attaining it through better concentration of your faculties. You learn how to help yourself in the process. That’s the whole point.
Mantras were meant to be understood and applied in life. They were made at a time when everybody understood Sanskrit and could take home a message out of the mantra. That’s how different mantras were assigned for different rituals and different rituals were assigned for different purposes. To learn something out of the mantra and use the knowledge to solve the problems intended to be solved by the ritual. Rituals are not magical procedures and they were intended to be. They were not meant to be meaningless rants of words that are not understood by anyone, more often than not these days, even the priest(pujari) chanting them. That’s just not the intention of the people who made them in the first place. Everything has a point behind it. But that is exactly what is missed by most people, rendering it all pointless. Mantras are mindlessly chanted for the sake of chanting, rituals are performed for various ‘purposes’ and it’s all being carried forward in the name of tradition, without an iota of comprehension.
Ancient scriptures were written and temples were built for a purpose. Not for people to mindlessly follow it for the sake of following their religion. Unfortunately, we have lost sight of this higher perspective and brought ourselves down to the level of believing the scriptures to be literally true stories and flocking to temples to worship a particular idol of a particular God. We have brought ourselves down intellectually and there seems to be no end in sight to this mindless submission to illogical beliefs. If anything, this trend is only growing and free thinking dissenters are shunned by society.
In the midst of all this intellectual mediocrity, people are being taken advantage of due to their religion. Disharmony is created for vested interests and peace is foregone in the name of God. Wars are waged between the followers of ‘different Gods’. Billions have lost their lives over centuries and millenia. It keeps the masses under control and the rulers in power. How utterly sinful. What a tragic sham. Which religion ever intended to preach violence? The answer is none. Yet, we see people being killed due to religious differences. Or even worse, due to differences between castes/sects within the same religion. Governments are coming to power or getting decimated due to religion. Wars are being fought in the name of religion. Marriages are being performed or opposed due to religion. Everything is being held ransom to a crazed notion of a remarkable and lovely idea. Religion is being used for everything but its intended purpose: to bring peace and harmony on earth for all.
P.S.- On a lighter note, I think you should check out this Oatmeal strip for a sarcastic and hilarious take on religion as we see it today. I nearly died laughing! After reading my serious post, this sure would give you some of that much needed comic relief, while reinforcing the same message. The end is epic. Go ahead, check it out!-How to Suck at Your Religion – The Oatmeal 😀
- ‘Let blind custom be buried’ (The Hindu)
- Why is it wrong to compare Hinduism with other great religions (politicallyethical.wordpress.com)
- Religion (thekatbrooks.wordpress.com)
- Religion (pseudosciencer.wordpress.com)
- He was not against God but fought exploitation, Sorry doctor, we didn’t deserve you and Faithful to a cause (The Hindu)