What is religion? What is our expectation from it? Do we follow religion to extend our life either through heaven or hell? Is our morality an action based on our afterlife?
Once a well learned man made it heaven. For his surprise, he saw his neighbor who led a sinful life right there with him. He rushed to God and questioned how his neighbor could earn a place in heaven on par with someone who led a perfect life just to reach heaven. God asked him what he wants Him to do. For that the learned man replied that He should either send his neighbor to hell or send him back to earth so that he could taste those sinful pleasures.
What is religion? Why do you need religion? If you are a proponent of Abraham’s version then your life on earth is a test, if you pass you go to Heaven, if you fail you end up in Hell. To help you pass, there are some predefined rules. These rules are given to you through Bible or Quran. You pass if you follow these rules, if not you fail. It’s as simple as that. For people who are on the verge of failing there are modes available to make a last minute hurl to get you on the good side.
On the other hand if you are a proponent of Dharmic religion, then there is no test. Life on this world is for you to figure out there are no rules, only guidance. There is no Hell or Heaven only reincarnation. How rules differ from guidance? Let’s say you have kid, and you want to teach him how fire could hurt him. You can either issue a decree (say no one touches fire) or you sit with him and teach him the negative aspect of fire. Once your role as a teacher ends, how your kid reacts is with him. May be you have done a good job and your kid never plays with fire or may be you have missed your point and your kid learns it by touching fire. Your job here is to assist your kid to make the right decision and that you don’t force your will on him.
If you are intuitive, you might say what’s the big deal? After all if you follow Eastern or Western philosophy the underlying principle is to make people moral. Good enough, I have no argument over there but the question here his, do we follow religion for morality? Or do we follow religion for enlightenment? Or do we follow religion to extend our life beyond our death? This friends, is the key. There is a reason why Gandhi named his book “My experiments with truth”. Truth comes through experiments; No one is born with infinite knowledge and enlightenment is attained through first hand experience. Truth doesn’t come through by following books; doesn’t come through by performing Pujas or by following myths. Truth my friends come through knowledge and knowledge alone. So the question is how can you get enlightenment if you follow a scared book such as Bible, Quran or Gita without questioning or understanding it?
Buddha once said, “Do not believe in anything, no matter where you heard it, or who said it, even if it has been handed down over the generations, or has come from your own imagination, unless after careful consideration it agrees with your own sense of reason, and is good for the welfare of all beings, only then should you believe it and follow it.”
Religion my friends is a carrier, it should you aid in getting a clear understanding of life and it’s surrounding. When people ask me, why there are so many Gods in India, I quote them the words from Prof. Jeaneane Fowler from University of Wales College, Newport:
“The relationship between the many manifest deities and the un-manifest Brahman is rather like that between the sun and its rays. We cannot experience the sun itself but we can experience its rays and the qualities, which those rays have. And, although the sun’s rays are many, ultimately, there is only one source, one sun. So the Gods and Goddesses of Hinduism amount to thousands, all representing the many aspects of Brahman”
I don’t think anyone can explain this any better. Human beings are not mass produced in a God made factory, everyone is unique. Even though your sons or daughter might resemble you, they have their unique self. Given that, it is rudimentary to assume that what you or your forefathers thought was logical or spiritual might or should hold good for your sons and daughters. It’s not that one’s belief is wrong, it’s more that ones decision about spirituality or existence shouldn’t be forced upon by their forefathers or environment. It should be based on one’s understanding. That’s exactly what Hinduism provides us. Freedom, freedom to choose what’s good for you and what you feel is the right way to attain Moksha. It is true that religions such as Buddhism, Jainism, and Sikhism all arrived with an aim to negate Hinduism. The preachers of those religions saw or felt that what’s put forth in front of them through Hinduism is wrong and proposed a new way of living. If it were not India or if it was not Hinduism these new ideas along with their leaders would have been crushed to earth. But not here, in here we respect individuals and their ideas, and thank heavens for that. This religious tolerance of our forefathers has brought in (in my view) the best preaching of all “Buddhism”.
In conclusion, be happy that we belong to a society which preaches this tolerance. Be happy that you practice a religion which lets you question God. Do you think all these senseless killings in the name of religion will get you somewhere? When a religion forces women not to get educated, forces its followers not to read or understand what others are preaching, promises heaven through actions which in no way reflect God’s action; you must understand that there might be underlying insecurity. These religions want humans to waste a privilege which has been given to them, Human mind. Never get confined to what you know or what you think is right. It takes a great will to question your belief. But that’s the only way to attain salvation. Religion is not here to save you from death. Religion is not here to promote you to Heaven where you could have 7 Virgins. Religion is not here to aid you a moral life. Religion is here to aid you understand life; Religion is here to aid you understand that power of love; Religion is here to let you live your life in harmony with others.