Sunday, June 14, 2015

My Religion and I

Let us start with the part that says 'I'. Because that is how God intended for us to be. I have been here forever. Religion came much much later.

I have my intellect. This intellect takes decisions based on how it has been trained. And these decisions form my personality. This personality becomes 'Me', and everything that is 'Mine' is formed through it.

While the original I is the same for each of us, there are manifestations of it which we live our lives through. Sadguru Sivananda Murthy garu says "I pick up a bit of Prakruthi with me each morning when I step into this world, so that I can function here". He is a master, so he can choose to pick up and drop the many impositions this world creates on us. Ordinary folks like us live lives viewing ourselves and the world through these images that we believe to be the truth, and die thus.

This post isn't about Vedanta; though one may call anything that takes us closer to the truth to be Vedanta. It is about the I and its interaction with religion (or atleast religion as we know it today).

I'm no Psychologist. But anyone who observes human nature can break up the different people we see into personality silos. There are those of us who are teachers. Not teachers as a profession, but those who love to take a thought, dissect it, contemplate on it, and explain it in easier terms. That is what a teacher does. There are the followers. Followers don't analyze. They put all their belief in who they consider as a leader, and then onwards, the leaders' words become their guide. There are the doers. The karma yogis. For them, the purpose of coming onto Earth is to act. They are perennially in action, and it is through these people that the work of the world gets done. There are the radicals. Radicals who question everything irrespective of whether it is required of them or not, and they seldom believe in anything. New philosophies are expounded by the radicals, and it keeps adding to the thought stream of the world. There are the witnesses. Folks who are quite comfortable with their place in the world, and have no desire to disturb the harmony the world possesses in its natural state. They live their lives in peace. 

We come into this world possessing seeds of these personality types. There certainly must be more types, but for the purposes of this blogpost, the ones mentioned above should suffice. Depending on the circumstances and the society we're born into, the seed germinates and manifests into an image that we consider as our personality. This is the answer to 'Tell me about yourself', and our work (or lack of it) gets done through that personality. 

In early times, people were categorized as Hunter-Gatherers, Foragers, Soldiers, and Lazy Bums. Wherever they were born in the world, thanks to their genetic disposition, they became the same thing. A Hunter in Africa and a Hunter in Australia had the same characteristics, and that is how they spread across the world in their nomadic lives, taking their personas along with them and doing the same job in different locations. Just because they were born in different environs, they hunted either Bison or Kangaroos.

As civilization happened, we grew comfortable in our environment, and with it, we created for ourselves a sense of security. This sense of security gave birth to intellectuals, who decided to improve the civilization by creating a system that could be followed by the upcoming generations, and they laid rules for living. This set of rules is what became religion, and has become the bane of our world. Different civilizations wrote down their own rules for living, and different religions were born, based on the location where it was created. Religions spread with people travelling all over, and took on various forms as they mixed with the religions of that particular place, thus forming new sub-sets and whole new creations.

But I came first, and then came religion. 

Religion, as millennia flew past, became rigid, with people wanting to make it perfect; and became an obstruction for our personality to blossom. But again, that is matter for another blog post. In this post, I'll stick to the premise we've established so far. There are different kinds of people, and that happened before religion was ever invented. People existed without 'religion' for tens of thousands of years. The personalities just adapted to the religions as they were created. Now, whether a teacher was born into a Hindu family or a Muslim family, he would do the same thing! He would read the scriptures of his religion, contemplate on them, come out with his own version of the rules, and share it with others around him. The followers would follow the rules unquestioningly - irrespective of whether they are Christian Commandments, or Jewish ones. The doer, who revels in action, would perform the acts mentioned by his religion, joyfully. And the Witness, irrespective of the religion into which he was born, would simply witness.

If a man who possessed tremendous passion were born into a family that follows radical Islam, he could become a Jihadi. If he were to be born into a radical Hindu family, he probably would climb atop Babri masjid and destroy it. The expression is the same. It is just the framework and the color they each sport that is different. There is no question that if the exact same man were to be born into another religion possessing a different set of radical ideas, he would get drawn to them and use it to express himself. Just the birth and the environment are different. The ideas are the same, as seeds came with the birth. They just take form and flourish in their surroundings. If Shankara were born in Jerusalem, he would have become Jesus. Our scriptures have been saying the same thing ever since they've been written - that it is all the same. We're just pursuing the thought from a more worldly plane through this blog post. Noah from Mesopotamia, and Manu from India, both built great boats, gathered species, and sailed till the great flood subsided. They would have made great friends! Sharing stories of how each built his boat, what wood they used, and how they each herded the animals, collected the plants, and made do till the waters receded. They could've been brothers, with the similarities in their personalities. Except that they were born into different regions, and different times, and hence became different people, doing the same tasks. The waters split for Moses, and they also did for Vasudeva. They probably did so for other people from other regions too. 

As time went along, religion started influencing us more and more. I was born into a Hindu family and chose to be a Hindu. If I would've been born Amish, I would probably be living out my life in interior America, without speaking to anyone and without any worldly comforts (except that they call these 'comforts' as impediments on the path to God). Being born isn't usually in my control. So from where does the concept of 'My Religion best' arise?

Over time, 'I' became 'Me', because of various factors, including religion. And that is where the degradation began. The day my religion became more important than I, I ceased to exist. The personality I carry, juxtaposed onto a set of radical ideas that my religion threw up, became a monster and ate me whole. They destroyed the teacher and made him a preacher. They destroyed the follower and made him a Sevak. They destroyed the doer and made him a Jihadi. And then the 'I' died. Except that I doesn't die; so lets call it 'I' went dormant. Dormant till this image of myself as a crusader for my religion fades out. Dormant till I discover that I am more than my religion. That my religion is just an expression for me to find the purpose of my life (or to find God - they're the same). Dormant till I realize that the symbolism in my religion was created by a person like me, and is not meant for me to get caught up in. Dormant till I realize that Noah and Manu are the same; that the man speaking on Bhakti TV and the man on God TV are the same. 

Dormant till I realize that I came first, and that religion came much much later.

PS - The title of this post was originally 'I and My Religion', But as I wrote it out, I realized that we've sadly changed our order of priority thus.


Vanichandra Vanichandra said...

Very great post.

Chandra said...

Thanks Aditya. You have given a rational and orderly expression to many of my thoughts, muddled as they are. :)
That we have all but given up on the 'I' only to embrace the relatively inconsequential 'My Word' is something we had better realise and quickly too.
Let there be more such mirrors in your studio. And may you inspire many more to hold them up for the un-wise like yours truly here. :)
Best wishes,

GVLU said...

Excellent thought on religion and I.may you write more are a good teacher.concept well explained.. Thank you aditya..