I have been thinking about this subject for quite some time.
Many of us Indians follow certain rigorous processes when it comes to dealing with God and Religion. We have elaborate rituals trying to seek out God, and we visit Temples to find and talk to God. We use religious intermediaries whose claim to fame is that they communicate to God better than normal human beings, and also execute rituals as per religious scriptures. They apparently carry forward the traditions from yesteryears, without letting those important activities die off in a spate of modernism.
Of course, most other religions (other than Hinduism) also have idol worships, religious intermediaries, regimented access to God’s place of worship, rituals, etc., etc., These traditions have continued from times immemorial, and will probably continue for ever, given the “softness” inherent in most of us when it comes to matters religious. We tend to become a different person, or we become overtly obedient when religious or Godly matters come up for discussion. We try to “conform” or we try to “follow” religious practices, irrespective of whether we understand the import of these practices or not. Not only do we follow procedures and processes, we also ensure that our children pay attention to these things, and try to develop a faith-based followership of our temple Gods in a pre-ordained manner. If our children do not wish to play ball, or if they have their own ideas of faith, then that behaviour would be viewed negatively as we are afraid that God or priests would not bless them, in the same way they blessed us. There is an element of fear and caution, apart from conformance in what we do with our religions.
What man does not realize (irrespective of the Religious Faith that he follows), is that God has allowed mankind to flourish over the past several thousand years on the premise that we inhabit this small earth and work together in a spirit of humanity – this means we help each other, we feed each other, we save each other. This does not mean that God has mandated people of different faiths to fight with each other and kill each other. God has not mandated that we pull out the gun and shoot people we don’t like, or who we think are criminals, or who we think should not exist in this world of ours. The very next day of such heinous crimes witnesses the violent killers operating as though nothing happened. How can this be the status of humankind ? Also, people like us who are actually harmless, go about our daily lives as though nothing happened – how can this be the case, and how can we go to temples and pray for ourselves in such a case ? In fact, I would say the people of the latter variety (who don’t do anything) are worse off than the killers themselves who do not have any conscience anyway. What about us ? We do have conscience, right ?
All this is hogwash. If as a human being we do not commiserate for the two-year old Syrian immigrant toddler who perished on a beach (face lying down), the picture of which moved an entire country (France) and most of the European Continent, what kind of people are we ? I am not saying stop going to the temple, but at least we must collect money and render some kind of assistance to the Syrian refugees, again never mind what kind of religion they represent. I did not see evidence that the great United Nations was doing anything of substance apart from berating the countries which imposed some limits on the refugees and issuing statements. I did not see massive Red Cross operations in countries far away, or a drive towards contributing towards alleviation of the refugees’ problems.
If we do not feel bad about the situation in this world, and wish to only celebrate our festivals and make merry all the time, then we do not live in this world of reality. If we do not contribute to lessen the difficulties of orphans and poor folks (even in this prosperous country of Singapore), either with our own time or money or contributions-in-kind, then we become a rather unique bunch of people who are rarely touched by disasters and who believe that our own world is what exists, and the bad stuff we see on TV is fantasy of the worst kind.
So, my point here is that we can only accomplish “self-realization” if we are actively and personally engaged in social and philanthropic activities every week of the rest of our lives. Temples and Religions and Rituals are fine, but God is NOT looking for such things – God wants each one of us to help the poor and the downtrodden. God is watching each one of us and is not giving credits to us for visiting Temples and praying to Him asking for benefits to be given to us. Or, for following rituals in the hope that guilt would go away and we would be blessed with pots of abundance. He does not simply care. What He wants you and me to do is to influence the life of an orphan positively, give our time to help orphans and the poor, make food to deliver to them, counsel people who are trying to commit suicide to escape from the penury of their current existence in this world, and in general, be an actively helpful person to reduce poverty in this world. That’s what He is looking for. Not the festival tamasha that we indulge in every now and then. I had stopped buying dresses or sweets for the Diwali festival long time ago. I have not burst a cracker for more than two decades. There are many children who cannot celebrate Diwali because they simply cannot. Our society is steeped in poverty back in India. But we insist on spending lots of money on useless things which do not benefit anyone.
Think about it. Don’t worry that non-performance of religious stuff would kill you. Always replace meaningless stuff with charity – conduct a feast for couple of hundred orphans wherever you live. You may or may not agree, that’s your call ultimately. I can only explain my rationale for establishing a pathway to “self-realization”. We have to discover our “Self”, and that is possible when we serve without any motive. Imagine a world when a trillion dollar of defence spending goes to poor children to give them food, clothes, shelter and education. What kind of world will that be ? What kind of world is it now ?
THINK and DECIDE. But, do not stay quiet, EXECUTE YOUR PLAN. Do something today to help others – the poor and the downtrodden.
This was over 1,000 words. Thanks for reading it. I am writing at a very fast speed straight from my heart.
29th November 2015