Today to be religious has become a Taboo. It is immediately seen as “be careful of this fellow”. Why is this so? This is probably because people who seem to practice religion today are seen as either people of superstition or blind faith or people of fanatic narrow mindedness.
Today, religion is seen as the pillar on which sanctions on society are prescribed and followed or as some belief on something super-natural God which cannot be questioned. Is this what religion is truly meant to reflect or be? Is that what religion has to offer to the modern society?
On the other hand, many of us would recall the days when we, as children, would see our very grandparents being blissful in their religious practices. Many of us have fond memories of getting enthralled by the stories of ancient mythology and symbolism which they would tell us. That beautiful image of religion set in love and wisdom seems to have taken an ugly and fear-born ‘avataar’.
To follow something ignorantly is as wrong as it is to criticize it or hold a bias about it without proper inquiry into it. Hence, the core of all ancient religions was only through demonstration and dialogue, which is seen in Hinduism in the Upanishads and the Bhagavad Geeta.
However, today’s religion neither encourages dialogue nor does it seem to have a demonstration of its effectiveness which is acceptable to modern man, hence religion today is suffering a bad image. But does this make religion useless? And how is religion supposed to serve its society? Let’s inquire… Every system must have a purpose, so what is the purpose of religion (also translated in Sanskrit as Dharma)?
But first, I would like to share two essential points of what has drawn me to my religion?
- Religion to me, teaches us about how to have a healthy relationship with our environment through developing respect and values born out of understanding; and not just mere sanctions; (Dharma – the art of right contact)
- It guides us in our journey in life by guiding us to the very purpose for which we have borrowed this time on earth. (Moksha – Evolving into free beings sans bondage)
This idea is reinforced in our Vedas as the very purpose of Dharma. The Purpose of (Sanatana) Dharma is defined as “Yatho Abhyudaya Nishreyasa Praptih” ~ that by which one gains all round prosperity and the ultimate goal in life or moksha. Out of the two, Abhyudhaya (collective prosperity) is desirable to all but Nishreyasa (ultimate goal of Liberation - complete freedom from bondage) is relatively harder and very rare few actually achieve it, but whosoever sincerely attempts it, are guaranteed to be better off.
Also, when seen from a modern perspective, the word religion (re-ligare. Latin) means to join back, But to join back to what? The Rishis and great thinkers of the past inquired and found that while living, it is to re-connect us to a true sense of happiness and fulfillment without any regrets. This is the purpose of Dharma. And in a deeper sense, religion means to re-connect us to the source from which we have separated (the Absolute Self).
Religion, is thus, divided into its various practices called ‘Rituals’ and its ‘Philosophy’. The former is to develop healthy habits and remove the foul ones and the latter is to develop clarity in our evolutionary thinking. Both of these are essential. In our further discussions we will see aspects of both the rituals and the philosophy.
In conclusion, religion is meant for one who wants to find happiness without regrets and also for one who wishes to become free from all suffering and bondage. And who lives in this world not desires these two?
Bramhachari Adarsh Chaitanya serves as the Resident Acharya of Chinmaya Mission Auckland and conducts weekly spiritual classes for children, youth and adults. For more information about the Chinmaya Mission and Bramhachari Adarsh Chaitanya please follow this link: www.chinmaya.org.nz or contact him at 2756954