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I And Mine: [02.04] - A Religious Revolution - Religion Is First Reflected In Moral Behaviour

Published: 05.11.2005
Updated: 30.07.2015

'Religion' is an old term. It is ingrained in the psyche of the people. No other term is more familiar. I feel it is because of over familiarity that people feel less inclined towards and identified with religion. In olden times we used to mention the term 'religion' with great reverence. In the present-day world religion can be acceptable only on the basis experimentation. When it comes to religion, there are two streams thought, both being extreme. At one end are people who want forever to keep tied to tradition. They do not want any change or modification in the form of religion derived from tradition or heritage. They are not in favour of subjecting religion to any surgery. At the opposite end are people who squarely and totally reject religion. Both these extreme viewpoints are incapable of creating a proper balance.

If acceptance of the hereditary character of religion is not desirable, its rejection is altogether undesirable. Let me ask you if religion can be completely rejected? No one who has the slightest intelligence, who things in the language of unity, harmony and love can ever reject religion. In the absence of understanding the distinct between institutionalised religion and religion as such, people fall into the error of rejecting religion. It is rationality and spirituality, which have given rise to society. When man was alone, he used to roam around like an animal. The first signs of non-violence arose when he started living in groups. It can be rephrased in the reverse; when the first signs of non-violence arose, man started living in groups. The first principle of socialness is acceptance of other person' s existence and adherence to ethical self-restraint. An instance of such restraint - both individual and social - is people not transgressing into others' houses or robbing others of their headgear. Ethical self-restraint prevents people from becoming a hindrance to other people. Where did this restraint originate? I would say it has its origin in religion, non-violence and non-possession. Our sense of discrimination enables us to distinguish between obligation and non-obligation, edible and inedible, nectar and poison, grass and corn. It is made possible by religious awareness.

Religion having divorced itself from its base - spirituality - has come to be shackled by externally imposed rules. And a shackled religion instead of developing religious awareness frustrates it. I am not against rules, nor do I suggest abandoning them. In the words of Acharya Shankar, 'As long as there is invisible life in this body, even Lord Shiva has to obey prescriptions and prohibitions.' But I do not like to be a captive of artificial rules uninformed by spirituality. I want my religion to be the culmination of my independent awareness. It should not be a birth-related imposition. People regard themselves as Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Jains, Buddhists and Sikhs. What causes them to do so is genealogy not religiousness. Genealogy can be a source of inspiration to religion; it cannot be its soul. The soul of religion is spirituality. Only that person is religious who has an agile spiritual awakening, irrespective of his or her genealogy.

Some people wonder what would happen to their religion if a particular system of government were established. Such thinking belongs to a lifeless religion. No system of government can pose a challenge to a religion full of spiritual splendour. If I exist, then how is it that religion does not exist? The question of protecting religion arises only when religion is supposed to have an existence separate from that of the religious person. A system of government, which regards religion useless, may do only temporary harm to it. It cannot permanently harm it. It has been seen that the very system, which destroys traditions in the beginning, establishes them again in the middle of its regime and espouses them in the end. We care more for tradition than for religion. The survival of religion automatically ensures the survival of tradition. But if only tradition without religion survives, what good will it do? I am never worried about the fall because it is invariably followed by spring. All I am worried about is the safety of the roots of the tree.

Bliss and spiritual alertness are the soul of religion. They constitute the most attractive face of religion. We are seldom aware of them because we use introversion very little. Religion should never have an external origin, nor should it be an imposition. Its springs should be within, even as a well is sustained by its internal springs. The well digger should only connect the external world with the inner springs. Traditions or sects should also confine themselves to connecting the inner springs of religion with people's gross external personality. He who is not aware of his inner riches remains deprived of prosperity. He who has no self-confidence becomes lack-lustre and weak. Mental conflicts result from the acceptance of the external and the rejection of the internal. An age characterized by such people and things will be known as an age of insanity.

The old are worried by the religious indifference of the young. But their worry lacks resolution. Are they prepared to bring about a form of religion that may attract the young?

A stranger and unfamiliar person comes to a village as a new doctor. Successful treatment of one or two cases makes him the centre of attraction of the entire village. The attraction is related to the public benefit. We, the religious people, should deliberate whether our religion too is related to benefit or not. The benefit related to religion is altogether indirect and accrues only after death. The great Jain Acharya Umasvati said, 'Liberation is possible only during the present life.' If liberation is possible during one's lifetime, why can't heaven be also present here? Shall we consider that person religious who has no experience of heaven or of liberation?

No attraction is possible towards extreme indirectness. May be, people might have felt attracted towards the idea of reaching heaven after death at some time in the past. Such attraction cannot be felt by the modern thoughtful man. He wants to see religion's effect on life in the present. Our religious tradition is paying very little attention to the present. That is why it does not appear attractive. I am not endorsing the idea of not worrying about the distant future. What I want to emphasize is that we should not give up worrying about the present. Today people are feeling the necessity to re-establish religion. That form of religion can benefit both the present and the future whose basis is spirituality and whose end-result is morality.

Morality is a relative term. If socially approved mores are deemed morality, their form can never be unchanging. Time and clime change and with them change the moral beliefs of society. Very few practices have escaped approbation and disapprobation of society at one time or another. Morality as end-result of religion is assessed not by social beliefs but by personal purity. There is no place for exploitation, oppression, crookedness, arrogance and frenzy in the behaviour of a religious person. It is full of propriety, truthfulness and simplicity, and it is such behaviour that constitutes morality. Shall we call that an incense-stick which even when burnt does not make the air fragrant?

Shall we call him religious who does not reflect the spirit of religion in his behaviour? Just as whenever there is smoke there must be fire, wherever there is morality there must be religion. Seeing smoke we infer the (invisible) presence of fire. Likewise, encountering moral behaviour we can infer the religious spirit inherent in a man.

If I think aright, I should say religion is first reflected in morality and only later in worship. Violation of the above order indicates absence of natural progress, erratic movement or an effort at a leap in the dark. Will a mansion without a strong foundation endure? Can a structure built on worship without morality be able to afford proper protection? I will like to answer these questions thus; in the absence of morality, the place of worship will tumble and religion will not be safe on this earth.

  • I And Mine by Acharya Mahaprajna
  • Edited by Muni Dulahraj ji
  • Translated by R.P. Bhatnagar, formerly Prof. Dept. of English at Jaipur University
  • Published by Jain Vishva Bharati Institute, Ladnun, India, 1st Edition, 1995

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  1. Acharya
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