I And Mine: [02.12] - A Religious Revolution - Religion: Scientific or Unscientific

Published: 13.11.2005
Updated: 02.07.2015

'Can religion provide answers to the present problems?' The above question haunts the minds of the intellectuals. It is also discussed in various seminars. But who would answer it? The propounders of religion whose religion is being practised are no longer alive. What is available is what they said and the scriptures recording it with all their limitations. There is one utterance but it has many meanings. There is one scripture but its commentaries are many. Consequently religions too are many.

Truth is one; it cannot vary from person to person. My truth and ­your truth cannot be different. Then how can my religion and your religion be different? If religion is Truth, it should not admit of individual variations. And if it is not truth, it should not be given much importance.

Religion and Truth have been defined in countless ways, yet they look like being yet undefined. What is Truth? That which exists is alone true. What is religion? To be alert about the existence of awareness alone is religion. Truth puts on different forms when it is interpreted in different contexts. Since there are different forms of religion the question is asked, 'Is religion scientific?' The question has become all the more pressing because we are living in a scientific age. Science emphasized experimentally proved facts. Scientific investigation yields results whose validity transcends time and space. A replicated experiment yields the same results everywhere and at all times. Is religion scientific in this sense? Can it be subjected to experimental verification? Do we get universal results by testing it - results transcending time and space? Many such questions are asked to determine the scientific character of religion.

Religion means existence. The nature of a thing is religion. He who defined religion, thus, experienced the inner reality of religion. The nature of the soul is consciousness. Experiencing consciousness is itself religion. Experience is always personal. Thoughts can be collective, but experience cannot be collective. A thought can be tested; an experience cannot be tested. Thoughts manifest themselves in language; there is no way to make experience manifest. Under these conditions experience cannot be verified. That, which cannot be verified; that, which cannot be tested in a laboratory, cannot be scientific. In this sense religion is not scientific. Those who have experienced the soul or consciousness; those who are awake to their soul's existence, have had uniform results. They cannot vary according to time and space. From the point of view of the uniformity of results, religion is scientific.

We talk of the scientific or unscientific character of religion without experiencing it. This is the biggest cause of our inability to understand religion. On the plane of ideas both arguments and counter-arguments are given. They have no place in relation to experiential truth. There are some who prove the existence of religion through reason; there are others who use arguments to disprove its existence. Some regard themselves theists, others atheists. I see no difference between a bigoted believer and a bigoted non-believer. Each is bent upon refuting the other. Neither has any curiosity to know truth. Neither is engaged in its quest. They live simply on assumptions. Both feel self-assured by quoting their respective scriptures. I see no difference between believers and non-believers provided both are engaged in the quest for, and are curious to know, Truth. One is refuting non-existence by accepting existence, another is rejecting existence by accepting non-existence as having critical importance. But the door of the quest of existence and non-existence is not closed. Therefore, such a non-believer keeps the lamp of belief burning within himself.

We are nursing religious bigotry. When ideas get aligned with religion, bigotry becomes inevitable. Some people believe that religion cannot survive without incorporating bigotry. We have mistaken religion for an organized association of people; we have given it the form of a caste. Any thing, which takes the shape of an organization or caste, can never be answerable to truth. The omnipresence of religion and Truth can be proved only on the plane of experience. The growth of sects has not taken place on the basis of the experience of religion and the soul. It has taken place on the basis of thinking. Experience unites people; it does not build organizations. Thinking has the potentiality for both uniting and disuniting. It unites people and builds organisations on the basis of common thinking. But where there is organization, there is also that which religion does not favour. There have been many conflicts for religion. History has criticized religion precisely because a lot of blood has been shed in its name. We still nurse the delusion that bloodshed, which took place in the name of sects or organizations, was in the name of religion. Interpretations of religion vary considerably. Its code of conduct is also uniform. But all religions have one thing in common: each one said, 'Look inwards; see yourself. The basic form of religion is none other than this. All religions are agreed on it. No religion refutes it; all religions strongly approve it. Can any sparks of conflict come out of a religion that declares, 'Look inwards; see yourself'? Can it ever lead to bloodshed? Conflicts and bloodshed have been caused by castes, organizations and sects, which grew in the name of religion.

Is it dangerous to build sects, organizations or castes on the basis of religion? Most certainly, it is. But this danger cannot be avoided. Is it possible to light an oil-lamp without creating soot? These results are incidental to religion. It is not possible to prevent them. Is there no way of escaping this danger? There is nothing in this world without a way out. If there is an end, there must be a means too. The way to avoid this danger is right viewpoint of evaluation. We are mistaking a sect's code of conduct for a religious code of conduct. The former has in it seeds of hatred, contempt and conflict. People belonging to another sect are called atheists, satanic, devilish and infidels. This is the danger. It cannot happen with the religious code of conduct. Its language is quite different. It is that of existence. In it there is no room for 'self' and the 'other'. And this alone is the way to save oneself from the above danger. Every sect says, 'Subscribe to me, else there is no salvation for you.' According to Lord Mahavira, anyone who says so, binds, does not liberate. Lord Krishna said, 'Come and seek refuge in me, you shall be liberated.' Krishna is Truth. He is soul. He is God, One who seeks refuge in Truth is not bound but liberated. Mahavira held that religion transcended sects. He said, 'for freedom from suffering joining a sect is not necessary. What is necessary for it is to stay within the self. One who stays within his self needs no initiation into a sect in order to get liberated. 'He called such a person Ashruta-Kevali. He who stays within the self can be liberated even after having been initiated into a sect. Mahavira called such a person Shruta-Kevali. In both cases liberation is dependent not on remaining within or without a sect, but on staying within the self. One who is spiritually steadfast gets liberated irrespective of the fact whether he belongs to a sect or does not. One who is not spiritually steadfast cannot be liberated, whether he stays or does not stay within a sect. Spiritually steadfastness and liberation are coextensive. Sects and liberation are not coextensive: Religion transcends sects; it is the experience of pure consciousness. That is why it brings about the same result in all times and climes. Since its result is universal, it is scientific.

In the age of Mahavira there was religion but there was no yoga and philosophy. Philosophy, knowledge and conduct - all the three were an integral part of religion. Yoga and philosophy began to develop as independent disciplines in the third and fourth century B. In the fifth and sixth century A.D. philosophy and yoga become primary and religion became secondary. It got reduced to mere behaviour. It took on the characteristics of a bird without wings. Both of its wings­ philosophy and spiritual practice - got severed, Religion became a bundle of rituals; it became unscientific. This fact began attracting attention in the eighth century A.D. Acharya Haribhadra felt that it would not be good to consider philosophy and yoga separate from religion. He wrote, 'Religion joins together individual and liberation; hence religion itself is yoga.' Yoga is not anything different. Religion is the nature of things. Philosophy analyses the nature of things, therefore it too is not different from religion. Realists {those who understand the serious import of the scientific approach) among Jain Acharyas kept saying, 'Philosophy is nothing but perceiving the soul. Spiritual knowledge means to know the soul. Good conduct means to remain steadfast in the soul. These three precepts are not different from one another and they together constitute religion. 'But the religious people leading a practical life did not let this truth prosper. They kept identifying religion with sects, organizations and castes and presented it merely as a code of conduct. The state and society as institutions both started organizing themselves on the basis of religion. Religion came to occupy their centre stage. It received state patronage.
Religion became state religion. The fate of religion became dependent on the ruler's wishes. The religion embraced by the ruler prospered. That disapproved by him suffered decline. Similarly, religion approved by strong sections of society began to spread and that of the weaker section continued to lose its vitality. In this dispensation the inner strength of religion (experiencing consciousness, seeing the inner self) kept being pushed to a secondary position. Religion began to sustain itself with the support of mystical charms and incantations as well as magical mumbo-jumbo on the one hand and the power of the state and of its stronger sections on the other. It lost its inner vitality. Attempts began to be made to keep it alive through artificial respiration. Consequently, its sustenance became dependent on external sources. Such a religion can be called neither scientific nor unscientific.

The image of religion in the modern mind is not installed with faith. History soaked in blood associated with it has obscured its purity. The modern thinking individual is not hopeful about the sectarian and organized form of religion - he cannot be, nor should he be so. All this notwithstanding, his religious roots have not weakened. The reason is simply that every individual is a lighthouse of consciousness. Knowingly or unknowingly its ways penetrate inside him and religious consciousness gets awakened. He experiences the feeling that what he has missed in the world is right within him. That truth of one's own self, spontaneous joy and natural energy is distinctly experienced, which has no parallel in material prosperity. In the present, religion is once again finding an exalted place in the human mind in the form of Yoga. It seems that people are seeking in it and finding solutions to present-day problems. The scientific character of that cannot be challenged whichhas the power to resolve and solve.
Sources
  • I And Mine by Acharya Mahaprajna
  • Edited by Muni Dulahraj ji
  • Translated by R.P. Bhatnagar, formerly Prof. Dept. of English at Jaipur University
  • Published by Jain Vishva Bharati Institute, Ladnun, India, 1st Edition, 1995

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Some texts contain  footnotes  and  glossary  entries. To distinguish between them, the links have different colors.
  1. Acharya
  2. Acharya Haribhadra
  3. Acharyas
  4. Consciousness
  5. Haribhadra
  6. Krishna
  7. Mahavira
  8. Science
  9. Soul
  10. Space
  11. Yoga
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