Religion vs Religion

19 JUNE 2023


Kannadasan, the greatest lyricist after Bharathiyar, wrote: “Manithan maarivittan, madhathil yerivittan” in one of the most famous songs in Tamil Cinema “paava mannippu”meaning nothing has changed – neither the sky, stars, nature but man has changed and how- he has changed to climb the ladder of ‘religion’.

In ancient India there was only a way of life and no ‘religion’. The way of life was to make life a happy experience and avoid things that would make people miserable. The emphasis was on education, health, a societal learning and specialization based on family,the law of karma and accountability to oneself for what he says and does. and prayer. The way of life had a set of do’s and don’ts that together would become habits in our daily lives.

But then there was this invasion of other people and they brought along with them religion. Indians for the first time learnt there was something called religion. The simplest thing for them to do was to convert their way of life to a ‘religion’ and the Hindu way of life became Hinduism.

The way of life had evolved and existed over centuries and so could not be erased by the onslaught of other religions. Hinduism survived. Even the attemptto convert and increase the number of people in other religions did not work in the sense, though their numbers increased, people were ignorant of the tenets of other religions and continued to follow the Hindu way of life. When a converted Christian was asked about Christ, he did not knowa thing.The converted people werecelebrating all Hindu festivals.

I am reminded of a Britisher who went to Kanchi Paramacharya and requested him to convert him to Hinduism. He said that he had read all religious literature, Quran, Bible and others but none could answer the questions he had in his mind. He went to the experts in Islam and Christianity and asked the questions he had. They got irritated with him and told him how arrogant he should be even to entertain such questions In his mind. He then went to a Hindu expert and asked him the same questions. He not only did not get irritated and patiently answered all the questions brilliantly with a smile on his face and he got complete and full answers that satisfied him completely. So he requested Paramacharya to convert him to Hinduism. Paramacharya asked a few questions on the way the Britisher was leading his life. Then he answered: You are already leading the Hindu way of life. How do I convert you from Hinduism to Hinduism? This emphasizes the fact that Hinduism is not a religion but a way of life. A reading of Thirukkural and Bhagavad Gita would underline the same message.

But the conversion mania continued unabated and continues even to date.We have seen how unbridled pursuit of anything, good or bad, attracts the law of diminishing returns and finally becomes counter-productive and produces a result that is exactly the opposite of what we sought through this unbridled pursuit. In this case, pursuit of conversions made governments pass laws against conversion!

Is there an answer to Kannadaasan’s question? What do we do, now that religions have come to stay? We have to learn to live with them happily forever. But easier said than done. Can we do something at our level to ensure that religions are of help to humans to live happily and that no religion needs help from us for the religion to live happily? Religions are tools in our hands to make our life happy and not our masters to dictate to us and make our lives unhappy.Should we get addicted to one religion and think that it is the only religion that should prevail the world over?

Why and how this attitude gets developed in some of us?

Ingrained right from childhood in our mind is the recording that "our" religion is the best. No wonder we all grow up thinking one religion is okay and the others are not. There are so many common aspects between religions and there are a few differences - that is why they are different religions!

Therefore, no two religions are necessarily opposite, so to say, because of the very many common values they preach. Even if no two religions are opposites, we have made ourselves and other people feel that they are! If we are comfortable with one religion and any other also, there will be nothing like one is right and the other not so right, there will be no attempt to think that we have to "serve" or "defend" "our" religion. There won't be attempts at converting people from one to the other and "serving" the religion that way. So we "serve" or "defend" our respective religions vigorously, think only our religion is the "best", so all people of the country and the world should follow only our “best” religion; pursuing this goal and in trying to make it happen we end up as fundamentalists. The means we adopt to make it happen is either soft or violent.The soft option included all kinds of incentives and lures to convert whereas the hard option involves violent means or trapping and cheating to convert. We do not realize that our uncontrolled, no-brake, staunchness for our religion, creates similar feelings in the followers of other religions also. Indeed it is we who are responsible for triggering the creation of religious fundamentalism in other religions, as the uncontrolled, no-brake staunchness to our religion creates the exact opposite of what we set out to achieve namely conversion to our religion; the result could be conversion from our religion back to their original religion from which we converted them earlier to our religion.

But our addiction to one and aversion or hate for the other has led to a situation where religion is being used as the cause for massacring thousands of innocent men, women and even children! Paid suicide squads are formed, trained and operated, ostensibly to help sustain or "defend" a religion. We are led to believe as though the religion will die if people, including children, do not die for the religion! Alternatively, we believe that unless we keep adding more and more numbers of people to our religion, our religion will get weaker and decay. So we keep converting thousands of innocent men, women and even children. This method is not exactly like that of a suicide squad that is using physical methods, but the softer version playing on the emotions of people-doing the same job. The followers of this method operate like multinational business organizations - having a target for the number to be converted around the world, stipulated for every small region and exercising control over and monitoring the numbers through regular MIS (Management information system).

The emotional blackmail used for conversion is as insidious as the physical force method. Instead of religion helping men, men profess to help survive or "defend" religions. If any religion needs the support of men instead of being of support to men, that religion is anyway on its decline, irrespective of its proponents' claim or its current membership!

The worst thing, an unpardonable sin, that one can do is to tinker around with the minds of people - particularly children' s minds in their very formative years-by bringing them to our way of thinking - which we may honestly feel is the only right way. Upon deeper examination, we will find the only right way as per our thinking is at best either cancerous or retarded - only because our mind is not comfortable with any other way.It is like a driver of a vehicle being comfortable with only accelerator or brake! This is particularly true of the thinking about religions that most of us have today and the way we perpetuate our view among future generations.

When the mind is liberated from the clutches of only one religion and is comfortable and happy with all, what a great mind it becomes! Truly such people are genuinely happy, and they also spread happiness all around them - in the family, the society and the whole world.

Compare this with the misery that is spread by the soft and hard options of forcing people to follow one or the other religion or ism.

There has been a recent development to sort out this problem:create a new 'universal religion' as a solution to the problem created by several religions. But eventually, the children of these families will grow up thinking that this universal religion is the best and all other religions are not okay! So the solution is not to create yet another religion, as we have too many already. The solution is in vaccinating our minds, injecting the requisite opposite in our mind: I would even suggest that we follow the religion we dislike until we get comfortable with that religion too, and from then on we will be fine. Even the punishment for conversions by those who convert should be to make themfollow, for a period of time, the daily religious practices of the religion they were revolting against until they get comfortable with it.

What is right and what is wrong? Is conversion right or wrong? Applying our findings thru the last seven articles, the receiving system here is the people. If conversion gives minus to men, women and children either through hard or soft methods, as conversion is doing now, trying to lift them out of their centuries’ old culture that has given them solace in times of crises, conversion is wrong. Conversion simply does not achieve the proclaimed purpose at all and people continue the same old culture belonging to the religion of the families they were born in thoughfictitiously belonging to a religion of the converted name.

Any religion is meant to be and is a tool in man's hands and not the other way around. Human beings are not born to be slaves - even to any religion - but born to be masters, even over religions. Let us not make another powerful tool, created, and meant to make our lives happy and comfortable, religion, a master over us.

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