By Virendra Nath Bali
Though religion is what makes a human being essentially different from animals and other living beings, it is, unfortunately, religion only, that has the maximum potential for exciting humans into such ferocious violent behaviour as would impale even the most brutal of animal behaviour into insignificance. The reason is that most human beings' 'self-identity', in their respective unconscious minds, gets quite firmly defined by, and inseparably associated with their religion.
Mostly, we get our respective religions automatically from the religion of the family in which we take birth. Our religion is therefore not a matter of rational choice on our part, just as our sex, our looks, our parentage, are not a matter of choice for us. We are, so to say, a given delivered 'package' of body-mind and a religion. Our ego is made up of this package. And therefore the psychological process that evolves our ego as we grow up, applies equally to the religious component of our ego.
Our ego, the consciousness of 'being', or the sense of "Iam-ness”, sprouts in us for the first time when the umbilical cord joining us with our mother is snapped. We have our first encounter with extreme loneliness and helplessness and we howl and cry in desperation and panic until such time as we get ensconced in the warmth of our mother's bosom and get our first feed. Thus takes form our first concept of ourselves. Our ego learns its first lesson, that all by its own self alone, it is 'nothing'. It has to embrace something from outside and merge it into its own identity, in order to meet the challenge of its survival. Thus comes into being the sense of "my-ness". 'My mother', 'my father', and it goes on including more and more of outside elements in its concept of itself, as they come to be required to meet the ever growing challenges to its survival, and to gain superiority in its peer circles.
Eventually, thus, "my religion' too gets merged into our ego, i.e., our 'self-identity' in our sub-conscious, irrational mind. The problem with the concept of 'mine' is that it cannot exist without a 'thine'. My ego wants full awareness about its 'being'. And that is possible only by as clear a definition of the outlines of 'me' and 'mine', as is possible. And a clear demarcation of 'mine' is possible only with a clear demarcation of 'thine'. This clarity being so crucial to my own concept of myself acquires a dangerously hazardous sensitivity.
All religions accept 'One Almighty' God, though they address Him differently. But there are serious differences amongst them when it comes to rituals, ethical and moral codes of behaviour, and the concept and approach towards the 'Hereafter'. And these, obviously have been incorporated by the vested interests, be they pundits, mullahs, priests, or whoever you name, with the ulterior motive of keeping their own herd away from getting mixed up with a rival herd grazing in a common field. And this is where the root of our problems with religions lies. Power-hungry politicians and religious bigots have a wonderfully effective weapon in the form of the differences in the nitty-gritties of various religions. They can, as they have successfully done in the past, exploit the hazardous sensitivity of the masses by inciting their religious sentiments. Spiritual giants like Ibn Arabi, Nanak, Nizamuddin Aulia, Nand Rishi, Maa Aanandmayee, have all stressed on 'One ness' of all existence. But the problem with spirituality is that it is too subtle to be apprehended by the masses.
In contrast the religious rituals and practices are overly concrete, display- oriented, and involve palpable experience, often requiring no or very little imagination on the part of the practitioner. One wonders therefore about the utility of any of the intellectuals discussing amongst themselves about the fine points of similarities in the basics of various major religions. How many people amongst the masses have egos that are susceptible to logic for reduction of irrational sensitivity of their sub-conscious mind in matters of their religion? A way, has therefore, to be found out, by which the masses could be disillusioned about the unquestionability of
their religious beliefs; and persuaded to give religion its merited place of a 'relative' and not an absolute 'Truth'. And obviously this kind of a major sociological step can be taken only and only with a worldwide simultaneous effort by our spiritual leadership.
Virendra Nath Bali is a professional auditor, writer of TV serials and a poet of "Khaamoshee kee lehren", a collection of ghazals.