My SCRAPBOOK (సేకరణలు): A COLLECTION of articles in English and Telugu(తెలుగు), from various sources, on varied subjects. I do not claim credit for any of the contents of these postings as my own.A student's declaration made at the end of his answer paper, holds good to the articles here too:"I hereby declare that the answers written above are true to the best of my friend's knowledge and I claim no responsibility whatsoever of the correctness of the answers."

Sunday, October 28, 2007

The religion we need

"NOT RELIGION, but religious dogma" leads to conflict, "Religion should graduate into spirituality." These two epigrammatic statements of President Adbul Kalam are worth pondering over. It has been said that more blood has been shed over the cause of religion than any other cause. This is confirmed by what is happening today. It is a paradox that religion is at once a cohesive and divisive force. If religion with its potential for good has turned into a destructive force, it is but a perversion of religion.

Religion in its deepest sense has laid the foundation of moral order. It has extended the bounds of human sympathy and underscored the values of humanity, charity in the sense of love and tolerance, faith in a transcendental divine order, respect for the sanctity of all forms of life and observance of the decencies of life. The inherent divinity of the human being, universal brotherhood, unity of all faiths, and collective progress and peace — these are basic to all religions and form their core.

Erosion of values

All values advocated by religion are threatened by greed, violence, exploitation, competitive religion, consumerism, commercialisation and such forces. It looks as if religion has become its own enemy. Every sphere of human activity from the individual and domestic to the international level is torn with chaos and conflict. "Parents have very little love for each other and in the home begins the disruption of the world" (Mother Teresa).

The spirit of scepticism generated by science has resulted in an erosion of values. The world is broken into narrow domestic walls. Communities tend to be imprisoned in their watertight compartments bearing the respective labels — religion, caste, race, nation, ideology, etc. The phenomenal growth in knowledge is not matched by a commensurate growth in wisdom which lies in the cultivation of humanising impulses. "We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. The world has achieved brilliance without wisdom and power without conscience. We know more about war than about peace, more about killing than about living" (General Omar S. Bradley).

We boast about our civilisation. There is nothing particularly civilised in travelling by plane or living in air-conditioned comfort. Speed, quantity, sophisticated lifestyle and bank balance do not make for civilisation. Human beings have been described as the elder brothers of the animals and the younger brothers of the gods. Civilisation fulfils itself when they are elevated from animality to spirituality. Religion and spirituality have their role in this transforming and regenerating process. Their role should be redefined and reformulated in the modern context.

Religion is awareness: it is wisdom and enlightenment. Bigotry, hatred, dogma, fanatical fury, intolerance and such negative elements are alien to it. "I was born not to share men's hatred but their love" (Antigone: Sophocles). True religion is free from the trappings of superstition, dogma, ritual, quackery, magic and witchcraft. It is sensitive to social needs. Holiness, purity, charity, human equality, service to human beings, etc., are religious universals and not the prerogative of any one faith.

Religion and spirituality should not be equated with otherworldliness or ascetic seclusion and escape from life's realities. They are related to life here and now and provide the guidelines for the art of living. One is most religious and spiritual when one is most human. A Russian peasant remarked at the conclusion of a lecture by Maxim Gorky on the marvels of science. "We are taught to fly in the air like birds and swim in water like fish, but how to live on earth, we do not know."

Fellowship of faiths

Religions are many, but religion is one. There is no relative superiority of one religion over another. One should go beyond denominational religion to understand religion. What the world needs is a fellowship of faiths on a common march towards a common goal. "Man must evolve for all human conflicts a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love." These words of Martin Luther King sum up the essence of religion. The present cancerous growth of hatred and violence can be averted by the inculcation and assimilation of the spirit of religion — religion understood to mean "refinement," "sweetness and light," "the culture of the soul," and "the culture of tolerance." The question is not, "why religion?" but "what kind of religion?"


(The Hindu, 01:02:2005)



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