When Solutions Become Problems

Published: 19.03.2006
Updated: 02.07.2015

I see on the one hand the enormous universe and on the other a minuscule man. The present-day thinking is inclined towards the enormous, the aggregate. All things are conceived on a large scale. But the problems of the gigantic universe are the same as those of the individual. What is there in the human body is there in the universe too and vice versa. We become partial and one-sided by being concerned with either the individual or the group. A comprehensive viewpoint dictates that we do not forget the individual while being concerned with the group and be aware of the group while being concerned with the individual.

One of Lord Mahavira's principles is: 'He who knows one, knows all; and he who knows all, alone knows one'. We are at a loss to find solutions to the problems because we do not know even one. It becomes essential to know all other things in order to be able to know an atom. Full knowledge of an atom is not possible without understanding its similarities and dissimilarities and presence or absence of relatedness with all other things. That is why in analysing an atom one comes to know of countless laws of the universe.
These days we are obsessed with extension. We have no liking for concision. The Upanishads declare: 'He who sees manyness is heading for a condition worse than death. Any attempt to know manyness, that is, society without trying to know the one (individual) is truly disastrous.

The problems of the individual can be divided into three classes: 1. physical, 2. social, and 3. mental or spiritual. Economic power or the power of money came to the fore ever since the beginning of civilisation to fulfil the basic needs of life. But the advent of economic or money power gave rise to another problem: robbery, plunder, snatching and looting. The strong started terrorising the weak. State power came into being to solve this problem.

Even state power, which grew to resolve the problems of economic power, could not remain untainted. The need for a moral or religious power was felt to curb the arbitrariness of state power.

However, despite the emergence of these power-centres, individual problems remained. The individual is even today poor and deprived. He is bereft of social cooperation. His awareness is blunted. What is the cause? The power centres created for solving individual problems have themselves become problems. I recall a tale contained in the Puranas. A mouse performed penance and earned the blessings of Lord Shiva and became a cat. He did so out of the fear of cats but still the fear of dogs remained. Through successive courses of penance he kept changing from cat to dog to leopard to tiger and finally to man. One day Lord Shiva asked him, 'Are you now free from all fears?' He replied, "Even by becoming man my problems are not over, for I am suffering from fear of death. May I, therefore, be favoured and turned into a mouse again. Lord Shiva once again blessed them and he returned to his original form of a mouse.

Modern man should also be thinking of reverting to his primitive state, because in his case too all new solutions have turned into problems. Take the case of money. It was intended to solve a major problem but today it has become one of the greatest problems. At one place we find tons of money, and at another place people are crying in agonising penury. Money is less a means of fulfilling human needs and more a status symbol. State power, originally intended to provide order and security, finds itself incapable of doing so, since it has lost internal discipline. Religious power, capable of inspiring state power to practise internal discipline, is itself embroiled in its own affairs. Religion no longer has internal strength. It has become an instrument of state power. There could be no greater contrast than that between the illustrious character of religion in the past and its lacklustre present-day form. It has come about because people have reduced religion to mere rituals. Is it graceful that religion should seek the protection of state power? It is truly a case of glowing fire being covered with ash.

In its radiant form, religion stands for unity and harmony. We are witnessing a new thinking at present, which can even root out religion. People wonder whether religious worship practised for thousands of years has succeeded in solving human problems. They have in fact come to believe that there has been no success at all. I am afraid I cannot agree with them. Even then I shall not try to evade their question. Anyone who uses their language can say that religion has failed to solve human problems. People want religion to help you accumulate wealth, cure disease and win legal suits. They would do well to seek the help of a skilled businessman, a doctor or a lawyer. The solutions of problems they seek have no direct relation with religion and yet most people are pursuing this course.

We have cared only for the form and the name of religion. It is one of our weaknesses that our eyes and ears see and hear only external objects. No wonder we give importance only to names and forms.

We do not know how to respect the holy life of an ascetic. We only know how to respect the formal appearance. A Vaishnava does not revere a Jain ascetic and a Jain does not revere a Vaishnava ascetic, the simple reason being our reverence for form and ignorance of type or content. The content gets lost in the blaze of appearance. Our sight is fixed on names and forms; we cannot look beyond them.

It is said that religion was responsible for wars. I have always refuted this contention. Wars were caused not by religion but by its form and name. The soul of religion is unity. No war can be fought without destroying the spirit of religion. The Vedanta propounds the principle that all sentient beings originate from the same source. Jain philosophy also asserts that all sentient beings are alike. Could human beings have fought one another, if the feeling of unity and harmony had been practised by them? Could one individual have exploited another individual? Could one man have hated another? Fighting, exploitation and hatred are thriving on the basis of manyness and discord. One person works tirelessly the whole day and earns some money.

The entire family shares it, but no one complains. A cultured husband does not castigate his wife by telling her that he earns while she sits at home. There is a feeling of unity in the family and so no occasion for complaint arises. Complaining is the outcome of disunity. Does any government employee receive kickbacks from his son? Does a shopkeeper deceive his son? Bribes and deceit are found only where there is no unity.

A feeling of unity and harmony with everyone is the spirit of religion. The greater the identity one feels with others, the more the religiosity one imbibes. We have merely touched the veneer of religion but have never felt its inner core. What we have seen are the crabs, shells and oysters in the sands of the sea beach, not the pearls lying at the bottom of the waters.

The end-result of religious power is purity. It should be coupled with morality. A religious person has his gaze fixed only on the hereafter and rarely on the now and the here. One is afraid of spoiling the hereafter in the absence of religion, but there is no fear that unethical behaviour is bound to spoil the hereafter. People feel remorse and consider the day wasted if they are not able on that day to count the beads on a rosary, but they neither have remorse nor consider day wasted if they indulge in unethical behaviour. This is because they have convinced themselves that a few minutes of religious ritual will purge them of thousands of sins. Today people are suspicious of a religious person because there is no compatibility between his inner being and external behaviour. His fragmented personality is unable to instil goodwill towards others.

The dividing line between the religious and the irreligious, between a believer and a non-believer has disappeared. This should urge the religious people to give serious thought to the matter. I see only one way of strengthening religion - developing a feeling of unity or equality and creating a bond between religion and morality.

Share this page on:
Page glossary
Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Body
  2. Cooperation
  3. Deceit
  4. Discipline
  5. Fear
  6. Jain Philosophy
  7. Puranas
  8. Soul
  9. The Tribune
  10. Upanishads
  11. Vedanta
Page statistics
This page has been viewed 1203 times.
© 1997-2021 HereNow4U, Version 4.5
Contact us
Social Networking

HN4U Deutsche Version
Today's Counter: