We have just concluded the Navratri “celebrations”. I am convinced that people believe that gods must be deaf or sleeping and they need to be woken up with cacophonic music, ear splitting noise of conches and other religious instruments and blaring loudspeakers. It is as if when we did not have technology of woofers and mixers we had no means to reach God.
Earlier we had the Ayodhaya verdict. I sometimes keep comparing our times with times many centuries ago. As compared to then, we have better technical means available now to debate issues. However, I keep wondering whether the quality and impact of debates are any better than, say, during Peloponnesian wars. Is it the destiny of human race to periodically indulge in extreme foolishness and lunacy that do nothing for general upliftment of people? If we believe in God, all land, assets, and people belong to Him. Can some judges actually adjudicate now whether a miniscule portion of that land also belongs to Him or not? God, we are your children but many a times we act as if we are more powerful than even you. I’d rather join the ranks of pagans and atheists than to associate with such religions as divide God’s people.
Let us take the simplistic version of origin of Religion; no, not any particular religion; but just Religion. Many centuries ago, Man realised that there was great deal to be gained by staying together: mutual support, defence against animals and vagaries of Nature, and optimal utilisation of resources, to name a few. However, community living brought with it a set of problems if all the members were to follow their own rules, ethics, and standards. Thus, Religion was born: a set of principles for good community living. There were, however, many problems, dangers, disasters etc that Man was not able to protect himself against even when living in a community and hence the concept of God or gods originated. The philosophy was that anything beyond Man, both individually and collectively, was in the realm of an omnipotent and omnipresent God and all that we had to do was to have faith in Him and He would be our saviour. Indeed, the ancient images of gods included Snake, Sun, Tiger, Lion and all the things Man was afraid of. Thus, when faced with situations beyond his control, Man turned to God for succour. This pleading for succour could be done in many ways. But, Man realised that the best was to do it together in community. Therefore, somewhere along the line Religion got associated with the concept of praying to God. It is not clear whether Religion, being a set of principles for community living, came first or formal praying to God in community came first. However, principles like ‘Thou shalt not steal’ or ‘Thou shalt not covet your neighbour’s wife’ together with Prayers or Petitions to God became essential parts of most religions.
The concepts of Religion and God were refined over the ages and in keeping with the times. However, despite the refinements, because different people interpreted these differently, problems arose. One basic reason why these were interpreted differently was (and is) that logic and reason are more suited for individuals (eg, Lord Krishna reasoning it out with Arjuna before the battle of Mahabharta). More often than not, in collections of people called crowds, mob mentality takes over. So, whereas people individually are adequately reasonable, in crowds they behave at the level of common minimum reasoning laced with jingoism and parochialism. The reason for this is not difficult to fathom; it is an unquestioned faith in tenets of community honed over ages. Armies are built around such philosophies of convenience; ‘Good’ lies with us and ‘Evil’ is what they are. The concepts of jus ad bellum (right to wage war) and jus in bello (just war) also have their origin in this.
Oliver Cromwell, on 5th Aug 1650 wrote thus to the synod of church of England: “I beseech you in the bowels of Christ, think it possible that you may be mistaken”. But, like Rundi K Bakshi, played by Peter Sellers in the movie ‘The Party’, said, “In India we don’t think; we are sure”; there is no question of Indians, belonging to any community, thinking it possible that they may be mistaken. Gods, they feel, have bestowed upon them the burden of being ‘firm in faith’. Translated it means that there is religious merit in locking up good sense and following jus ad bellum unquestionably.
Whenever our collective understanding of tenets that should be followed in a community, that is Religion, became much haywire, we had leaders emerging who brought us back to good sense. These leaders reminded us primarily not to try to prove with mass reasoning that we knew to be intrinsically wrong. These reformists either started a new Religion or their teachings became new Religion. In some cases, like in the case of Hinduism, the religion remained the same but reforms made it better and more suited to emerging times.
As I said earlier, in our collective wisdom, the teachings of these leaders too became subject to interpretations. So when Mohammed said and practised that a Muslim should marry many women, he was talking about succour that such marriages provided to those women who had lost their protectors in war in early seventh century. But, over time, this was interpreted as a right of a Muslim to have many wives. In other religions too such interpretations to suit philosophy of the day became rampant. Our faith demanded that we did not think of these leaders as mere mortals; so we regarded them as gods or the God or prophets of God. Since Religion was close to armies in organisation, blind or unquestioned faith in tenets of the religion and gods was considered a virtue. Hence, people fighting in the name of God or Religion was sanctified in almost all religions. This included even Buddhism.
I think a time has come when we do not require organised Religion at all. We have come way off from the ancient times when Religion provided us with collective defence against Evil and fearful enemies including animals and demons. During those times and many centuries later Religion united us against such forces. But now, Religion has become the biggest divider of people. We should now move from community religion to individual religion. Indeed, Guru Nanak Dev, the founder of Sikhism, and many other reformers, during the major reformative movement of Hindu religion, described Kalyug as a positive era; in that whilst earlier we were praying to God in community, we could, in Kalyug, do it individually. In other words we can be one to one with God. We can evoke the Good within us and kill the Evil within us rather than seeking to destroy or look down upon the enemies or perceived enemies of our Religion. Guru Nanak borrowed a phrase from the Vedas to delineate the entire essence of what should be our Religion: “Man Jeete Jag Jeet” (Conquer your own Mind to conquer the Universe).
God is within us and all around us. We neither have to go to mountains, nor churches, mosques and temples to worship Him or Her. Collective worshipping of God or gods helps no one except to divide communities (who are also the same God’s creations and hence related to us) and only helps the politicians or so called custodians of faith who thrive from such polarisation.
I was very small when I went with my parents to see Hindi (we had not bastardised by calling it Bollywood) movie ‘Dhool Ka Phool’ (A Flower in Dust). But, still the words ring in my mind:
‘Tu Hindu banega na musalmaan banega,
Insaan ki aulad hai insaan banega.’
(My child, you will neither grow up to be a Hindu nor a Muslim; you are a human child and you will grow to become human)
I, for one, shall pray in a Mandir or fight for the right to pray in a Mandir if…..well, if a court can prove to me Ram is to be found or can be prayed to only in a Mandir. Similarly, I shall pray for Allah in a mosque if He can’t be found elsewhere.
When they objected to Guru Nanak for sleeping with his feet towards the mosque because it was the abode of God, he simply asked them to move his feet in a direction where there was no God.
Whose God is it anyway?
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