To become more vast, more complete, more powerful than the trivial life of a thousand painful limitations and imperfections and sorrows in which we live now—that’s the authentic Religion. Cherish a lofty aim and pursue it—that’s what great Thought or Religion or Mysticism or Idealism or creative Art plead in their truemost sense.
- If a creed, a dogma, a rite, an observation of the vow, weekly fast, worship of an image or a photo, chanting of a name, pilgrimage, reading of scriptures, offering a flower or waiving a lamp or lighting an incense stick or perambulation is going to help me grow in vastness then what’s wrong in that practice?
- Or else I take a painter’s brush or write poetry to discover myself—and is that not my legitimate religion which demands following its discipline and rigour?
None can stop me, none need stop me from that “religion” of mine. Call it commitment to one’s ideal or devotion to it, my criterion is my progress through it, my inner and spiritual progress and not my professional success.
There are codifications, there are commandments, there are laws, there are ancestral and cultural traditions, there are communal systems and rituals and scriptures, and there are even legal entities. Often bureaucratic structures and hierarchies also get formed.
- But what is religion?
- What is its function, its role in life or is it more concerned with after-life?
There are dharma-shastras, moralistic prescriptions, procedures for the conduct of life at every stage, from birth to death, with matters concerned with earth and heaven, with sin and virtue, good and evil, and the punishments and the rewards. There are social divisions and there are sub-groupings and strict assignments and job responsibilities for each. There are a variety of officials also supervising the organizational functionings. If we go by such formalized considerations, then we are actually dealing with the institutionalisation of a society and the conduct of the collective life, which is quite another matter than a free individual’s quest for God-Light-Freedom-Immortality. It is of course necessary that these be not mixed up in our discussion.