We all have different conceptions about right and wrong, just as we have different conceptions about God, people, and everything else. Every person, every ideology, every religion, every nation, every state seems to have different ideas about what is right and what is wrong. On one hand, we have religions and societies which denounce the practice of killing of animals and on the other hand, we have other religions and societies, which not only allow killing of animals but also consider it sacred and a necessary aspect of worship. Clearly, it is not that we have minor differences in opinion; our views are contrasting. A terrorist killing innocent humans considers it not only right but divine. People belonging to one branch of religion consider it right and their duty to hate people belonging to other branch of the religion. This is not only the case in Islam but in Christianity and other religions too.
Clearly, there is no consistency in answers. One’s conceptions of right and wrong mostly depends on where he took birth. Now, the question is: Is there a scope of getting any consistent answers for everyone? or we’ll always remain in this mess (and keep fighting with each other over these differences).
Let’s look at the concept of right and wrong in the light of the model proposed by Gurbani.
First of all, let’s agree on the definitions of right and wrong.
A right action is something that is rewarded in the form of heaven or something good.
A wrong action is something that is rewarded in the form of hell or something bad.
(Actions could be thoughts, words, or actions)
From the article “who are we?”, we know that we are souls i.e. divine light ourselves. There isn’t any separation between us and God. Also, as we understood in the article “Beginning of the universe“,
Everything we see in this world is God manifested in different forms and shapes.
If we work in the framework of this model, then everything that is happening is being done by God. Everything that is happening is as per his will. Isn’t it?
So, we can conclude that
Nothing is right or wrong.
There is no reward or punishment in the world. Rather, who would be punished or rewarded if he is everything? So,
We are free to do whatever we want
We are made in the image of God, who stands for the ultimate freedom. So, everyone of us has the freedom to create our individual lives the way we want. God doesn’t have any preferences as to how should we build our lives. As Neale Donald Walsch wrote on his facebook wall, “It is not God’s function to create, or uncreate, the circumstances or conditions in your life.” God does not punish or reward, just because he is no different from you. But we are all living under the illusion of separation, as explained in “Why and how was this universe created?“. Now, even though we are under the illusion, the reality is what it is. The totality or God is not under illusion even though we as individuals are. Given the understanding of reality, there is just no case for any punishment or rewards. We just create our lives the way we want, thought by thought, word by word, action by action.
Now, even though we have said that there are no rewards or punishments, we know that not everyone is happy. Some are happy and some (or mostly) are unhappy. Why is it so?
As explained in “Why and how was this universe created?“, to experience one thing, we need to have its opposite exist in the world. Therefore, this world is called, in many religions, as a world of duality. So, for every positive thing, we have a negative thing; for every aspect of light (truth, love, joy, compassion, forgiveness), we have a contrasting aspect of darkness (illusion, fear, hatred, sorrow, indifference, vengeance).
The choice to choose either light or darkness rests on us. No one else can choose that for us. If we lose this choice, then the whole purpose of the universe breaks down. The purpose of the universe was to experience ourselves the way we want. Now, we can choose either darkness or light. If we choose darkness, we’ll have darkness (sorrow, suffering) in life and if we choose light, we’ll have light (joy, peace, bliss) in life. It is not that someone is giving us punishment for choosing darkness. It is just an innate quality of darkness. Darkness is something that is completely opposite to who we are or to light. So, if our essence is joy, peace, and bliss, then darkness is sorrow, suffering, and turbulence.
New definitions of right and wrong
We know that there is nothing right or wrong in the traditional sense, given that there is no reward or punishment. However, if we redefine right and wrong as:
Any action that takes us closer to our essence is right.
Any action that takes us away from our essence is wrong.
Any action that is in line with our purpose i.e. to experience our true self (joy, peace, compassion, forgiveness etc) is right
Any action that is not in line with our purpose is wrong
Any action which expresses virtues is right.
Any action which express vice is wrong.
Anything that takes us to higher level of joy is right.
Anything that takes us to lower level of joy is wrong.
If we define right and wrong as any of the above – they all mean the same – then we can categorize certain actions (or thoughts or words) as right and certain others as wrong.
Role of religions
Originally, religions were supposed to just provide awareness to us about who we are because living under the illusion for a long time, we tend to forget who we are. However, once we are aware, we can choose to perform actions in line with our true essence or against it. Nobody, no religion can take away the freedom from us to choose – the freedom to choose is inbuilt in the thread of the universe. Specifically, humans have been given the power to create their lives the way they want. That is why, it is said that humans are made in the image of God. Just as God has the power to create the world, we have the power to create our individual world.
In other words, religions were supposed to provide an alternate perspective on life, a perspective which would take us closer to our true essence. Since our true essence is joy or happiness, we can say that
Religions are supposed to provide an alternate perspective on life, which would make us happier
Clearly, most religions of today are not providing “perspectives”; they are issuing “orders” on what to do and what not to do. They are not making us happier; they are instilling hatred, fear, and violence in us, just the opposite of what they were supposed to do. They are not respecting our freedom; they want to completely destroy it. Clearly, they are failing because how can they destroy something that is our essence. People are abdicating religions because they have grown tired of being tied in the chains of rules; they want their freedom back.
Most religions today have become a list of dos and donts. Clearly, there is a need for a reform in their roles. They are using fear as a tool to make people conform to them or follow their list of dos and donts. Fear is exactly the opposite of love. By instilling fear in the minds of people, they are doing just the opposite of what they were supposed to do.
Does it mean that there are no dos and donts in the world? Then, why do religious scriptures are filled with them?
The answer is that whenever religious scriptures prescribe dos and donts, they are making an assumption that you prefer joy over suffering, peace over turbulence, light over darkness, and your true self over its opposite. For example:
A child does not want to go to school. He finds it extremely boring to go to school. He wants to play all day long. But his parents understand the importance of education in life. The challenge is that given the limited understanding of the child, they can’t really communicate the true importance of education. All they end up saying is “Studying is a good thing”. Sometimes, they also use fear in the form of shouting or slapping to push the child to study. The child studies lest he may be shouted at or slapped at or not allowed to play. But the real downside is not a slap or a shout, the real downside is illiteracy. The parents make an assumption that the child, even though doesn’t understand, would prefer to be educated than uneducated. Now, their assumption could be wrong.
Similarly, scriptures, when prescribe us to be tolerant, loving, forgiving, compassionate, to meditate and even at times say that we may go to hell if we don’t do these things, make an assumption that we want to be closer to our true essence or joy. No hell exists in reality. Or the only hell that exists is the hell of separation i.e. when we are separated from our true selves. Neale Donald Walsch says, “Isn’t separation enough of a punishment? Why would God need to create a hell?”
Another example is that when a 2-year old wants to play with the fire, he is lovingly asked by his parents to not do that. When he doesn’t stop, he is even threatened by the parents. However, we know that no threat is bigger than the threat of burning.
Similarly, when a scripture talks about rewards or punishments, it is acting like a parent who wants us to avoid fire. Rewards and punishments cannot exist in reality given that there is only one God and that we are all souls. Who would be punished?
Never follow blindly. Never discard blindly.
So, we may choose to follow religions for our growth and happiness, not out of the fear of hell. There is indeed a lot of peace and happiness in meditation, kirtan and a life of virtues. But we have to see it for ourselves if it is there. We shouldn’t blindly follow anyone. However, at the same time, we shouldn’t discard anything blindly.
It is also important to note that we must listen to our heart while following religions because the true religion i.e. the soul exists in all of us. The outside religions are just tools to help us connect with our true religion or our soul. The reason we must listen to our heart and not follow the religion completely blindly is that a lot of time, what we hear from religious institutions is interpretations of religious scriptures i.e. not what the scripture actually says but what somebody interpreted out of it. People interpret scriptures out of their own greed and motivations. Religions today are preaching hatred for others. We know that is wrong. Religions today are using fear as the medium to conform. We know that is wrong. Religions today are claiming superiority over each other. We know that is wrong.
So, whenever we listen to anything, we must ask ourselves “Does this resonate with my higher thoughts?” “Would I feel great doing it?” “If everyone does this, would the world be a better place?” If the answers to these questions are No, then avoid those teachings and even that person. If the answers are yes, then you may want to make those teachings a part of your life. Even though it may be difficult to change yourself (as change is always difficult), you may still want to do it out of your yearning to grow and be happier.
Always remember that no one is going to punish you.
Follow a religion out of love for growth and love for yourself, not out of fear.
Also remember that
God resides first in the hearts of humans, than in any other place of worship.
However, it does not mean that we do need any places of worship. We need places of worship if they can connect us with love, our true selves, take us to higher and higher levels of joy, help us remember who we are. However, if they don’t do any of these things, then we are free to reject them or reform them if we want.
God loves you unconditionally
As we have understood in the article “Who is God?“, God is love and so are we. So, the basic thread the connect us with God is also love. Love is love; it doesn’t have any strings attached to it. However, given the way we have come to use word “love” in today’s world, it is important to say that God’s love is unconditional.
God is Absolute of the Absolute. We cannot change him. So, if he loves us, he loves us. We cannot change his love for us. His love is non-judgmental. So, no matter what we do, he continues to love us. Since his love doesn’t come with strings, he allows us to do whatever we want to. He has given us the freedom to build our lives the way we want. However, seeing that we are moving increasingly towards darkness and sorrow, he keeps sending evolved souls in the form of prophets and saints who can make us aware about our true selves. But once these people pass away, we forget the essence of their teachings and just focus on the superficialities.
While in the reality we are who we are, in this world of duality, we create our own world through the fundamental law of the universe i.e. we reap what we sow. Obviously, we would all want to reap joy, abundance, peace, and bliss. But we are not completely aware about the seeds that we need to sow for them. So, we need to be open to higher thoughts that can guide us towards a life of joy. Those thoughts may come from religions or other human beings. When we hear those higher thoughts, they may demand us to change our lives i.e. uproot the existing seeds and sow new ones, then once again, we’ll have a choice to follow the higher thoughts, to bring about a change in our lives. We would need to make a choice between seemingly difficult Joy or easy Suffering. The choice would be ours. No one can take away the choice from us.
If we want people to have forgiving attitude towards us, we may have to choose to be forgiving to others. Forgiveness is not a compulsion but a choice.
If we want people to be loving towards us, we may have to choose to be loving towards others. Love is not a compulsion but a choice.
Everyone of us wants to be love unconditionally without any strings attached. We just want to be ourselves without any facades and want people to love us the way we are. But are we willing to love people unconditionally, without any strings attached?
How will we reap what we haven’t sowed?