Religion is one topic on which everyone has a view. Doesn’t matter if you have read any scripture thoroughly or tried to live your life according to the religious principles, you are entitled to have a view on religion. Naturally, most of these views are contradictory and devoid of all logic. They are just passed on from generation to generation in the name of faith. Given the state of affairs, it is not very surprising to see educated class becoming increasingly suspicious of any truth in religions.
In this article, I’ll tackle three primary myths that people have about religion.
Myth 1: Religion is about rituals and practices
Clearly, religions comprise rituals and practices, but saying that religions are all about rituals and practices is like saying education is all about wearing school uniform and sitting on school benches. Just as education is about the growth of the intellect, religion is about the growth of the spirit or the soul. Just as an education system is bogus and useless with all its rules and regulations if it doesn’t help grow the intellect of the students, a religion is bogus and useless with all its rituals and practices if it doesn’t help grow the soul of an individual. So, while rituals and practices can help in the spiritual growth of an individual, they are just the means and not the ends. If one practices these means without caring for or having an end in mind, these means are devoid of any value and are just a waste of time.
Myth 2: Religion is about knowledge
The problem in the religious world is that everybody knows that God exists, but nobody lives according to this belief. It’s like: all scientist know that gravity exists, but none of them takes gravity into account while making machines or rockets. What is the use of any knowledge if it doesn’t impact our life?
Can we even call it knowledge? Can we call it even a belief?
It is clear from the lives of the people that they don’t believe God exists. God is the one who exists in everyone, and under whose command the whole world works. God, by definition, is the only one who exists. There is nothing else. From God, everything originated, and everything is part of God. A direct implication of this fact is that we are all souls or parts of God.
Now, among the people who “know” or claim to “believe” that God exists, how many of them live their lives believing that they are souls and that all the people they meet are also divine. Clearly, a person who believes in God would be always honest, caring, compassionate, loving to other people. A person who believes in God would never worry about his future, would not fear anything, and accept all human beings as equal. Now, where is such a person who believes in, let alone knows, God?
If we call cramming of scriptures as knowledge, then religion is not about knowledge. Religion is about knowledge or beliefs on which the life of a spiritual aspirant is based. Religion is about knowledge that arises out of the personal experiences of an aspirant. A knowledge of scriptures helps a spiritual aspirant to live his life on spiritual principles. But a hollow knowledge of scriptures without any impact on the practical life is not religion.
Myth 3: Religion is about after-life
Gurbani and most eastern religions talk about rebirths. Clearly, without an after-life, there cannot be rebirths. So, we do have after-life. And whatever we do in this life affects our after life since there is a continuity between births. However, it would be very incorrect to say that religions are only about after-life.
It is quite clear from the lives of saints who have followed their religions truly that religions can have a defining impact on our human lives. Besides, anyone who is a sincere spiritual aspirant knows from his experience that religion does impact his daily life. The purpose of religion is to connect us to our true self i.e. divinity or soul. And soul is a pure positive energy i.e. a soul stands for love, peace, joy, bliss, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, optimism etc. As we walk on the path of religion, we get closer to our true self, and our life starts reflecting more of these virtues. We become more joyful, peaceful, compassionate, kind, forgiving, optimistic etc.
It also means that if our life continues to reflect frustrations, negativity, anger, suffering, vengeance etc, then we are not following any religion in the true sense. We may just be engaging in rituals mindlessly, but the path we are following doesn’t lead to any worthy place.
So, we should try to keep track of our progress as we walk on the path of religion. However, it is important we track our progress by comparing ourselves with our past, not with others. Some people may be much better than us even though they may not be following any religion. Their karma of previous lifetimes, and circumstances and association in this lifetime could have been better than ours. Comparing ourselves against them would only make us feel inferior and make us doubtful of our path. On the other hand, there might be other people who would be far worse than us. Comparing ourselves against them would only make us arrogant and create obstacles on our spiritual path.
Therefore, we should just focus on our spiritual growth, and compare ourselves against our past and not with anyone else.