By Joy C.L., Kuriachira
The title may look like an oxymoron, a strange contradiction like hot ice cream or cool fire. Spirituality cannot be traded or consumerised, as it does not pertain to the material world. But too much stress on materialism, clericalism and ritualism by the organised religions has compelled spirituality to nosedive into the terrestrial depths shedding its entire celestial luster. In order to comprehend such an ironical situation of inverted religiosity, it is necessary to invent such a strange combination of words.
The biggest predicament of the present socio-political scenario in India is the displaced priorities. When very many critical issues hang above the head of an average Indian like the sword of Damocles, the political and religious leaders try to inflate their balloon of fantasies with the air of unrealistic ambitions to the extent of bursting. For the last few months the most talked-about issue in Kerala has been the conduct, management and admission of self-financing institutions. These institutions by no stretch of imagination cater to the needs and aspirations of an average Keralite. However, by continuous stuffing of propaganda into the minds of the masses, aided by the unscrupulous media, the religious and political leadership has succeeded in projecting this as the gravest problem facing the Kerala society. To confuse the issue further, the vested interests sponsoring this issue have intertwined it with the minority rights, thus painting it with communal colour.
The religious and political leaders very well know that any issue when tied with religion can gain support and create fragments in the society, which otherwise is peaceful. They can utilise this fragmentation and the resultant confusion in the society for achieving their vested interests. There is a conscious effort jointly engineered by the political and religious leadership to systematically fracture the society, to meet their vested interests. Bertrand Russell, the renowned philosopher, has rightly commented, ?The statesman thinks of the next generation; but the politician thinks of the next elections.? Unfortunately, we have very few statesmen; but have innumerable politicians whose myopic vision cannot go beyond the next elections, their only ambitions being power and money. In this process, the welfare of the society and the future of the generations become casualties.
In a secular society, where every citizen is guaranteed freedom of religion, the very concept of religious minority is illogical and a misnomer. It is an un-dignifying term for those who are labelled as ?minorities?. In our motherland, every citizen belongs to the majority community-the proud sons and daughters of Mother India, with equal status, equal dignity and equal rights. The practice of a different faith by a group from that of the majority should not alienate them from the mainstream.
The minority-majority rift is a creation of the politicians in close connivance with the religious leadership with vested interests in their hidden agenda. The leadership of the so-called minorities in India claims that establishing and managing the educational institutions are the most important minority right.
The minority-majority rift is a creation of the politicians in close connivance with the religious leadership with vested interests in their hidden agenda. The leadership of the so-called minorities in India claims that establishing and managing the educational institutions are the most important minority right. In fact, those are profit-oriented business houses involving no element of service. It is not the vocation or the mission of the religion. The laity of the minority communities is not at all interested in these. The minority right as it is practised today is a commercial and political privilege exclusively enjoyed by the clergy and the privileged among those communities.
The primary mission of politicians is to work for the material uplift of the society with selfless work. When so many socio-economic problems are facing the society, it is highly objectionable, wrongful and sinful to divert the precious time and energy of the leaders of the public to trifles. The primary mission of religion, its leaders and the clergy is to work for the spiritual emancipation of the society, through formatting of individual'sconscience. It is high time that religion and spirituality are redefined and rediscovered. The essence of spirituality is the love of the other-the extension of one'sego boundaries. In Hinduism, the principles of ?Aham Bhahmasmi? and ?That-thwamasi? teach that God and I are same and my neighbour and I are same. The essence of Christian teaching is that in love of God and love of neighbour, obedience to all commandments is fulfilled and that love of God could be manifested only through loving the visible neighbours. This is another way of expounding the same principles. Islam means peace. Peace is the result of justice. Islam does not recognise priesthood and hierarchical authority. Prayers are a direct link between the worshiper and God. Jihad implies struggle against evil inclinations within oneself, struggle to improve the quality of life in society, struggle to protect one'smotherland and struggle against tyranny and oppression. We all know how these great ideals are compromised and how priesthood is gradually developing in Islam. Terrorism in the name of jihad is a total negation of Islam and the great ideals, which it stands for.
Man attains the absolute spiritual stage when his ego boundaries are extended to infinity so as to contain the whole universe and its inhabitants-Vasudhaiva-kutumbakam (Mahopanishath). But unfortunately, at present we find hypocrisy and pseudo-spirituality around us. People go to worshipping places and pretend to be religious just to satisfy the religious community to which they belong. Fear of the society, and not fear of God motivates them. The threat of social ostracising compels them to participate in the religious rites mechanically. It is easy to float in water like a log of wood and move according to the flow of water. The unscrupulous clergy exploits this weakness of common man. Every ecclesiastical rite has a price tag! In fact, religion is a quest for the ultimate truth and a search for one'sidentity. The primary duty and absolute goal of religion is to take man to the peaks of spirituality and give him the touch of divinity. There will not be any religion without spirituality and divine experience. But, due to the influence of consumerism religions have deviated from this goal. The imposition of a creed on an individual through council decrees, encyclicals or fatwas strangulate the identity of the individual. He will be constrained to surrender his intellect, will and discretion to the dogmas decreed by the religious hierarchy. God is unknown and unknowable. Any definition of Him would be a distortion of truth. As the noted jurist Nani A. Palkivala has put it, ?A blind obedience to authority is the surest prescription to spiritual paralysis.? Religion is neither a cluster of rituals and sacraments nor a code of do'sand don?ts; but is an epitome of eternal values-Sanatan Dharma-that leads humanity to liberation (mukti) and salvation (moksha). To attain these goals, religion should propagate the virtues of justice, liberty, equality, fraternity, peace and tolerance. Condemning other religions as false and nurturing enmity towards the followers of a different faith are negation of the eternal values, which the true religion should stand for. Every religion is a unique path designed for its followers. Every path has its own dimensions and specialties. Thus every religion is the will of God. Without the divine blessing, no religion can exist in the universe. So condemning or cursing any religion is sacrilege and blasphemy.
The established organised religions never oppose social evils such as tax evasion, smuggling, corruption in public life hoarding of essential goods, amassing of black money etc. In fact these are encouraged on the condition that portion of the ill-earned money is donated to build huge church mansions and support the luxurious royal lifestyle of the clergy. In fact, religion should be a moral encouragement in social life. But the political designers and manipulators contaminate the purity of religion and the traders in religion and spirituality spoil the essence of politics and statesmanship. This reciprocity weakens the very fabric of the society. Society becomes fragmented and people are compelled to remain in their communal ghettos.
The greatest tragedy of the contemporary era is that religion and spirituality have become profit-making businesses. The priesthood, which was once a noble service, has been degraded itself to a ?profession?. The clerics are more concerned with the offerings of the faithful than catering to their spiritual needs. Through organised priestcraft and aggressive propaganda they make one believe that by giving offerings to the priests, the faithful can obtain favours from the Almighty! The religious leaders are not at all interested in true spirituality; but in trading in religion. Most of the religious institutions have now become cut-throat business houses that trade in spirituality and temporality. They employ sophisticated marketing and management techniques to ensure enrolment and to attract large crowd. Artificial believers are created through ceremonies, rituals, sponsored miracles and pseudo spiritual exercises. The Charismatic Movement in Kerala (Catholic Pentecostal Movement) is a classical example of this. True God, true spirituality and true religion do not require advertising and canvassing. People will feel the impact automatically. The organised religions do not teach that God'smercy showers on all alike. They teach that God'smercy and consequentially salvation are available only to the members of their particular religion, rather sect. Each religion claims superiority over the other and claims to be the one and the only true religion. They project a sectarian and communal God! These heretic teachings go against the spirit of universal fraternity and lead humanity to communal stratification. Because of these, believers in religions never become true believers in God; but only indulge in religious narcissism and miss the ecstasy of spirituality and the bliss of divinity.
(The writer can be contacted at St. Thomas Road, Kuriachira, Trichur 680 006; [email protected])