A Believer From A Non-Believer

Published: 11.11.2009
Updated: 13.11.2009


Central Chronicle


 

Religion's true character lies in calming, not in exciting passions. Has such a true religion ever been practised?-Acharya Mahaprajna

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 may not have to suffer so much unhappiness."

Third, there was a man who was very quarrelsome. 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 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 practising 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. Incredibility, 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 etc.? 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 even more enthused when 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 acute 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. Man revels in the outbursts of his emotions; he has not left even the field of religion untouched by the above tendency. In fact, religion's true character lies in calming, not in exciting passions. Has such a true religion ever been practised?

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?

Sources
Central Chronicle - by the efforts of Mr. Lalit Garg
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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya Mahaprajna
  2. Central Chronicle
  3. Fear
  4. Lalit Garg
  5. Pride
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