15 August 2009
In order to understand society, we must first understand the individual. He who knows one, knows all; and he who knows all, alone knows one, Mahavira would say.
Complete knowledge of an atom is not possible without understanding it in the context of other things. That is why, when analysing an atom, one comes to know the countless laws of the universe.
The individual faces three types of problems: Physical, social and spiritual. To cater to ones physical needs, economic power is required. To regulate these matters of commerce, trade, money and distribution -- the state is required. Administrative machinery run by the state becomes necessary when the needs of the people have to be taken care of. Hence multiple identities evolve out of various functions and responsibilities. However, the power-centres created for solving individual problems have often themselves turned into problems.
There is a story in the puranas of a mouse that performed penance to earn the blessings of Lord Shiva and the mouse turned into a cat. As a cat, the mouse no longer feared other cats. But still the fear of dogs continued. Through successive courses of penance he kept changing from cat to dog to leopard to tiger and finally to man. One day Shiva asked him, "Are you now free from all fears?" He replied, "Even by becoming man my problems are not over, for I am suffering from fear of death. I may, therefore, be favoured and turned into a mouse again." Lord Shiva once again blessed him and he returned to the original form of a mouse.
Money was invented to enable us to share goods and services in an equitable manner. Today, however, it poses major problems. There is the rich-poor divide. From being created as a means to fulfil needs, money has come to be flaunted as a status symbol. Money, because of its purchasing power, is a much sought-after commodity. Its scarcity among some gives rise to theft and corruption. Enforcing law and order is also therefore a duty of the state.
State power lacks discipline. Religion faces its own set of problems. In some instances it is used as an instrument of state power. This is because religion has been reduced to mere ritual. True religion has no need of state power.
True religion stands for the experience of unity and harmony. There are some who say that religion has failed to solve human problems. But that is because religion is being used to accumulate wealth, cure disease and win legal suits. More importance is being given to name and form. Religion is not meant for these things; it is meant to elevate your consciousness on the spiritual plane.
So-called religious wars were caused not by religion but by its form and name. The soul of religion is unity. No war can be fought without destroying the spirit of religion. Vedanta propounds the principle that all sentient beings originate from the same source. Jain philosophy also asserts that all sentient beings are alike. Could human beings have fought each other, if people had practised the above feeling of unity and harmony? Could one individual have exploited another individual? Could one man have hated another?
Feeling unity and harmony with everyone is the spirit of religion. The greater the identity one feels with others, the more the religiosity one imbibes. Thinking along these lines convinces me that we have merely touched the veneer of religion but have never felt its inner core. What we have seen are the outer garments.
Source: The Times of India, New Delhi
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