The Way Of Ideal Life

Published: 21.06.2008
Updated: 10.11.2008

Central Chronicle

Saturday June 21, 2008

I see a picture emerging before me. It has three aspects: First, a man was performing religious rituals. I endearingly asked him why he was doing it.

He spontaneously replied, 'It will ameliorate the hereafter.' Second, there was a man who used to do business. Despite many efforts he did not get success. He grew disappointed. He started spending all his time in religious rituals. One day I asked him why he spent a lot of time in those rituals. He replied, 'I am unhappy in this life because of bad deeds in the previous birth.

I am doing those rituals so that at least in the next birth I may not have to suffer so much unhappiness.' Third, there was a man who was very quarrelsome. But he was equally a strong advocate of religion. I was at a loss to understand how pugnacity and religiosity could go together. However, he regarded himself religious and others also called him religious. One day I asked him what his being religious could mean when he was quarrelling all the time. He replied respectfully, 'I have got into the habit of quarrelling and can't get over it. This life will run its course the way it is doing.

Let me by practicing religion at least hope for a better hereafter.

If we put all the three aspects together, the integrated picture suggests that religious people are not as much concerned about ameliorating the here as they are about the hereafter. They are not as desirous of improving the present life as they are of improving life in the next birth. And not apparently unreasonably so. For they believe they are helpless about what is happening in the present life, since it is the outcome of the bad actions of the previous life. Their next life would be good in proportion to the good they do in this life.

Their idea of a good life is availability of abundant wealth, a nice mansion, a good family, plenty of domestic aids and luxury goods. In authenticity, falsehood, breach of trust etc. are not opposed to their idea of a good life. They are not ascetics. After all they have to do business for earning a livelihood. Can one make a living through authenticity, truthfulness ets.? Such arguments never allow them to be righteous.

Let me explain their concept of religion by quoting an incident.

One day, a new face was sighted in a seminar. The participants present there asked the stranger out of curiosity: 'What is special about your life?' The stranger replied, 'My special quality is that I never neglect or abandon religion.' He felt all the more enthused when the people looked at him with eyes full of wonder. He added, 'When required, I drank liquor and gambled, but never gave up religion. Hunger is an actute problem and to satiate it I sometimes stole and even robbed, and yet did not abandon religion. Who does not have a weakness of mind? I too indulged in prostitution out of weakness, but did not relinquish religion; occasionally I committed murders also out of rage, but did not jettison religion.' Keeping his eyes closed he went on indulging in self-praise. Then one of the men asked him, 'what is your religion?'

The stranger replied with a sense of pride, 'I never ate anything at the hands of untouchables. I faced countless hardships but spared no efforts to remain steadfast in religion.'

One can find hundreds of similar incidents and stories. They present before us religion as conceived by the common people. Of course there is also no dearth of people who would disapprove of such a concept of religion. But man revels in the outbursts of his emotions he has not left even the field of religion untouched by the above tendency. As a matter of fact, religion's true character lies in calming not in exciting passions. But has such a true religion ever been practiced?

A person who deems himself religious is as full of fear, grief, hatred and agitation of mind as is an irreligious person. If those lecturing on the equality of all sentient beings are discriminatory and if those lecturing on the common fatherhood of God are cruel, it is natural to conclude that philosophy is confined to the intellect and lecturing only.

I failed to understand why even those people do not hesitate to indulge in evil who believe that the spirit exists, that it is reborn, that good results in good and evil results in evil. Then how can one distinguish a believer from a non-believer?

Central Chronicle, by the efforts of Mr. Lalit Garg.
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