Mis­guided re­li­gion?

Business Bhutan - - Edi­to­rial -

What is re­li­gion? Many would say it is a quest for sal­va­tion or nir­vana. Oth­ers would say it is a set of rules and reg­u­la­tions that steer you from morally wrong ac­tiv­i­ties to the right ones. But can re­li­gion be de­fined so sim­ply? Not only are the deeply en­trenched be­lief sys­tems and nuances in re­li­gion com­pli­cated, these vary in dif­fer­ent re­li­gions mak­ing mat­ters more com­plex.

There is a be­lief that mankind started out wor­ship­ping na­ture or its dif­fer­ent el­e­ments and as cul­ture and tra­di­tion evolved, re­li­gions evolved as well. Some peo­ple also be­lieve that some re­li­gions fa­vor cer­tain classes or gen­der and are bi­ased against oth­ers. Of course, we have seen this played out time and again in his­tory.

One thing is cer­tain: hu­man be­ings by their very na­ture are wor­ship­pers. If they do not wor­ship gods of a re­li­gion, they will wor­ship other ob­jects. These other gods can vary from money, power, sex, ac­com­plish­ment, art and beauty to sev­eral other idols. Hu­man be­ings wor­ship be­cause their in­trin­sic na­ture is to fill the void or crav­ing in­side them with some­thing wor­thy or in­spi­ra­tional. They are al­ways look­ing “up­ward and for­ward” be­cause a sense of eter­nity is placed in them.

Which is why it is so very es­sen­tial to fol­low the right “god” in life. Es­capism, he­do­nism and ma­te­ri­al­ism will drive us to the wrong pur­suits. In fact, re­li­gion it­self is a de­cep­tive term. There ex­ists a vast dif­fer­ence be­tween re­li­gios­ity and spir­i­tu­al­ity. While re­li­gios­ity changes us from out­side in – longer dresses, shorter hair, elab­o­rate rites and rit­u­als; spir­i­tu­al­ity changes us from the in­side out – it makes us more lov­ing, hum­ble, for­giv­ing and ba­si­cally a value-driven char­ac­ter.

It is good if we spent on pil­grim­ages and ko­ras and religious rites but if they fail to change us from the in­side, what use is it? Also, though we do­nate a hun­dred bucks to a beg­gar, if our sole aim is to gain the ad­mi­ra­tion and praise of on­look­ers, what do we gain apart from a false sense of piety or worse an in­flated ego?

Bud­dhism is a re­li­gion that teaches us val­ues like non-at­tach­ment, com­pas­sion and tol­er­ance. This is good. But go­ing by how re­li­gion is prac­ticed these days: we will gain merit if we light in­cense and but­ter lamps at the lhakhang while we bitch about our neigh­bor, or we will earn pos­i­tive karma if we com­plete cir­cum­val­lat­ing a few hun­dred times while we con­tinue to be un­faith­ful to our spouse in thought or deed, or maybe we could make up for be­ing a self­ish, bit­ter and an­gry per­son if we do­nate to charity?

Re­li­gion ex­ists so that change springs from within and we can spread pos­i­tiv­ity aris­ing from this around. We can­not make up for a char­ac­ter deficit by look­ing good on the out­side. It is a smart al­ibi but an al­ibi nev­er­the­less.

Re­li­gion should also serve to make us more com­pas­sion­ate. While we can­not agree to ev­ery world view pre­sented to us, we have the choice to be non­judg­men­tal or con­demn. As some­one once put it, while not judg­ing will not al­ways lead to im­prove­ment, judg­ing will al­ways lead to de­te­ri­o­ra­tion. The choice is ours.

Out­ward acts of piety are es­sen­tial to re­in­force re­li­gion but the trans­for­ma­tion in­side is para­mount. We know we fol­low a mis­guided re­li­gion if we heap praises on those who do­nate mil­lions to charity out of the bounty they pos­sess in­stead of rec­og­niz­ing the quiet power of an in­di­vid­ual who keeps a rein over lust or anger.

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