The easiest job of our times seems to be that of a cynic. Anyone and everyone sits on their well-fed, comfortable and properly vaccinated behinds and criticises all that is wrong with the world today – nuclear weapons, terrorism, the rise of extremism, greater social acceptance of many social ‘evils,’ environmental pollution, racism and the Big Mac.
In the context of the events that have shaken our nation recently and greatly upset the world, let’s pick up a topic we’ve all read everywhere: I, for one, fail to understand the concept of religious harmony or the lack thereof. As in Hindu-Muslim, Arab-Jew, Christian-Muslim or Shia-Sunni. This topic is a favourite with all modern critics. They spare no words in the dictionary in describing how, today, millions are killing each other in the name of religion. We all know that happens, and we also know that it isn’t a new thing. Since man thought of God, man killed for him. I use this sentence knowing its full implications. I firmly believe that God is a creation of man and not the other way round. And since I have not been struck by a bolt of lightning, I’m sure that if there is a dude up there, he doesn’t mind what I just said.
Which is what brings me to the bone of my argument. When the images of Hindu gods and goddesses are used on bikinis, some zealous Hindu society decides to take it upon itself to avenge the ‘sin’. If hard-hitting cartoons on Prophet Mohammed show up, multitudes of men in long beards and sunglasses come out and burn a few embassies – killing innocent people in the process. These same men, in both cases, will go back and stare over lurid pictures of worldly ‘goddesses’ in bikinis or less, beat their wives, cheat a customer, pilfer money from government funds and so on. Aren’t they then hurting the religious sensibilities of devout Hindus and Muslims? (Maybe not all of them, but some certainly do.) Should those who live by Jesus, Mohammed, Buddha or Ram’s exhortations for honesty, love, equality and service to all, gang up and shoot these merchants of idols and madrasas? Let’s say that those who abuse Guru Nanak or debase the Quran Sharif or use the images of goddess Durga to sell beer have done wrong or any such sacrilegious act. Let’s say they have ‘sinned’. Let all the faithful get together and stone these blasphemers. And, I almost forgot to add, let the one who has never sinned throw the first stone. I think Lord Jesus captured the essence of our perception of human morality perfectly here – everyone’s a saint until they get caught.
Most of us have a religion, whose tenets we freely follow in our private lives. We all make our mistakes and we forgive ourselves or get others to forgive us and move on. Why is it that matters we hold so close to our heart be brought out and beaten about in public?
Can’t I do what I want in privacy and you do what you want?
Do we necessarily have to come out and first smash each other’s heads open and then hug each other closely to make up? Matters of faith and divinity are best kept private, because in public they are hijacked by corrupt leaders. The world has never been a very peaceful place anyway. Extremists come and go. Theocrats rise and fall. Tin-pot dictatorships melt and walls are swallowed up by the sand dunes of time. I, for one, will live the way I want. Regardless of whether you burn my Quran Sharif or desecrate my gurudwara. Because, in case most of these representatives of the several gods that seem to rule the earth haven’t noticed, I have better things to do than burn embassies because someone insulted a great man. I have more pressing issues on my hands like the millions who face sure and deadly starvation, or the thousands raped and murdered every single day, or the many who suffer from the ongoing pandemic across our globe.
We need to clearly recognise that the basic aim of all religions is the same. All religions can and should learn from each other. The ultimate goal of all religions is to produce better human beings. Since all religions are for the sake of taming one’s own mind, to make one a better person, we need to use all religious practices for the healing of our own mind. If we put to use our more subtle consciousness, there will be many things that we can use the mind for. Therefore, qualities that begin in the mind can be increased limitlessly. There should be a balance between material and spiritual progress, through the principal based on love and compassion – which is the essence of all religions. Whether one believes in religion or not, there is no one who doesn’t appreciate these two supreme qualities.
So, love and compassion is to be the only universal religion.