9th March 2021
My mother recently wrote this thoughtful piece for a local newsletter – I thought I’d share it since I agree with its key argument (my annotations in red and blue).
For most Indians, religion is very important in their lives. Religion is a system of faith and worship that defines who we are and what we do. Religion can be classified as a set of beliefs and practices shared by a community or a group of people. Religion helps in creating an ethical frame work of values to be practised in our day to day life. [Sanjeev: I don’t agree with this claim – but my mother has address this issue in the article, below.] Religion provides a sense of community and identity as well as a way for rituals and traditions to be passed down from generation to generation. It inculcates social virtues in society. Every human being in one way or the other belongs to a particular religion.
In fact, we do not choose our religion. we are born with our religion. A child born to Hindu parents, is a Hindu by birth and a child born to Muslim parents is a Muslim by birth itself. Same is the case with all other religions. From the very beginning, children are brought up differently according to the rituals and traditions of their specific religion. All the religions have different places of worship and different ways of worship. Every religion, as its own gods and goddesses whom they worship. religious books of each religion are different and the followers of that religion believe in the tenets of their own holy books. Children are encouraged to read their own religious books and worship according to the rules of their religion. Thus, he foundation of disparity is laid down in the mind of a child right from his childhood. Every religion promotes its own philosophy and emphasis is always on the welfare of the people. But because of all these external differences, t leads to a division in the society. [Sanjeev: here is the crux of the problem: the divisions caused by religion.]
Originally, there was a time when there was only one religion. That was called “Sanatan Dharma’. That consisted laws of God as recommended in our religious books. Gradually, with time the principles of Dharma went on changing and many new religions came in the world. ow the whole world is divided in many different religions and small sects. Even in our country, there is a population of Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Jews, Parsis and many other sects. Because of this multitude of religions, the whole society is fragmented. Religion that was supposed to bring solidarity in the society, has brought division among human beings. It is turning people against each other. Followers of one religion consider themselves superior to the followers of other religions. This has brought disparity in the society and has created many social and law and order problems.
In this context, we can say that religion promotes intolerance, wars and blood shed. Religion slows down the pace of human progress because it promotes faith over science and logic. Religion encourages many superstitions and wasteful rituals that are being performed in many temples. Religion discourages reasoning and questioning. Religion encourages many outdated and harmful customs which are contrary to human progress and needs of the present times.
As such, we have seen that in a formal religion the focus is on external things, like going to the places of worship, doing worship in a particular way, chanting some holy mantras or performing other rituals as prescribed in a particular religion. But on the other hand, spirituality is an inward journey that involves a shift in awareness of your soul rather than any external activity or worship. Attention is paid on your soul, higher self and divinity within. Spirituality is a practical way of life. There are no set rules, no dogmas, no rituals, no special books, no religious barriers and no external regulations. Spirituality is about seeking a meaning full life that can result in positive emotions, such as patience, perseverance, humility, gratitude, courage, compassion and a sense of responsibility. Spirituality is a process of self empowerment. it gives a sense of peace, wholeness and balance among the physical, emotional social and spiritual aspects of our life.
Spirituality unites humanity. It is a unifying force. No one is left out. Spirituality is a process of self transformation and self empowerment. It is continuous process. Religion fulfils our external and physical needs, but spirituality enlightens our inner self. A spiritual person is full of positive thinking. There is no place of negativity in his life. His life is guided by a set of values and principles. He is slow to grudges and quick to forgive. He is stable minded. He believes in living life in a sacred manner. He cares about people and the planet.
In the present scenario in the world, when there is hatred and violence amongst the people of different religions, spirituality can bring a soothing touch. One can retain one’s religion and can become a spiritual man. Spirituality and religion can go together as the aim of both of them is the welfare of humanity. As we have seen that spirituality is a practical way of life, we can make it a guiding force in every sphere of our life. It will certainly lead to a healthier and happier life.