Monday, June 25, 2007

Spirituality Beyond Religions

Spirituality beyond Religions


1. Major Religious Populations of the World. 1
2. Religious, Ethical and Spiritual Values. 1
3. Religious Values and Practices. 2
4. Good and bad Aspects of Religious Practices. 2
5. Secular Scientific, Ethical Values and Practices. 4
6. Spiritual Values and Practices. 4
7. Steps for World Peace. 4
8. Spiritual Values are the answer for World Peace and Progress. 6

1. Major Religious Populations of the World
The major religious populations of the world today approximately are as follows:

2.1 Billion Christians, (1 Billion Catholics, 350 million Protestants)
1.3 Billion Muslims, (940 Million Sunnis, 170 Million shites)
1.0 Billion Hindus and people following Ancient Religions of the world,
1.0 Billion Atheists and non-religious people,
400 million People of Traditional Chinese Religions,
400 million Buddhists

2. Religious, Ethical and Spiritual Values
Most of them follow one or more of the following three values and practices.
Religious values and practices,
Secular scientific, ethical or moral values and practices,
Spiritual values and practices,

These three values have played a great role in the long human history. War, peace, administration, development, happiness and human life has progressed around these values and their practices.

3. Religious Values and Practices
So long as man is afflicted with disease, death and uncertainties in life, he will always need religion and God. To combat fears, worries, accidents and uncertainties in life man needs hope; and hope comes from faith and faith from religion. Some of the major religious traditions are, Monotheism (belief in only one god), Polytheism (belief in many gods), Vedic theism (belief that every soul is potentially divine and that there is oneness in the universe), Paganism (beliefs and practices associated with the worship of nature), Pantheism (belief that the whole of reality is divine), Animism (belief that natural features of the world are invested with divine power) and Agnosticism (doctrine that the existence of God and other spiritual beings is neither certain nor impossible).

Religious Values are essentially based on what the religious teachings are. These teachings are inscribed in their respective holy books or in their traditions. Celebrations of religious festivals, prayers and worships, wearing certain types of dresses on different occasions, visiting religious places, attending mosques on Fridays, synagogues on Saturdays and churches on Sundays, are some of the common religious practices. Religious practices may or may not be ethical. They may not even be spiritual.

4. Good and bad Aspects of Religious Practices
Prayers and worship:These have done more good than the world has understood. They help to calm thedisturbed mind.

Yoga and meditation
These are now widely accepted as alternative medicinal practices. Manypsychosomatic diseases can be treated successfully employing these methods.

Celebration of festivals
Festivals provide an opportunity for the elders to pass on their culturalknowledge and the meaning of lore to younger generations. Modern festivals andfeasts centering on the customs of national or ethnic groups enrich understandingof their heritage.

Crusade against Pagans
Nobody can deny the good the modern church did in today’s troubled world and yet undeniably the church had a deceitful and violent history. Their brutal crusade in Europe to re-educate the pagan and feminine worshipping religions spanned three centuries employing methods as inspired as they were horrifying.

Malleus Maleficarun – or The Witches’ Hammer
Torturing and executing free thinking women in the name of witch hunting got impetus by the papal bull Summis Desiderantes issued by Pope Innocent VIII in 1484. It was included as a preface in the book Malleus Maleficarum (The Hammer of Witches), published by two Dominican inquisitors in 1486. It indoctrinated the world to the dangers of free thinking women and instructed the clergy how to locate torture and destroy them. The book was translated into many languages and went through many editions in both Catholic and Protestant countries, outselling all other books except the Bible. (Microsoft Encarta). Those deemed witches by the church included all female scholars, priestesses, gypsies, mystics, nature lovers and herb gatherers.

Midwives also were killed for their heretical practice of using medical knowledge to ease the pain of child birth – a suffering the church claimed, that was God’s rightful punishment for Eve’s partaking of the Apple of Knowledge, thus giving birth to the Original Sin. During three hundred years of witch hunts, the church burnt at the stake an astounding five million women.

Several ancient humane, unorganized cultures, religions, languages and traditions especially in Africa, Australia, South, Central and North America have been wiped out by evangelists.

International Terrorism
Today our civilization has been threatened by religious terrorism. This also has its roots in the minds of people strongly believing in Semitic religious doctrines like jihad and crusade.

Religious values and practices can bring peace at home and in the world only if they accept universal values and be pragmatic in accepting new scientific concepts.

5. Secular Scientific, Ethical Values and Practices
The ethical and moral beliefs stress goodness and truth, law and order, justice and freedom, wisdom and learning, courage and loyalty and mercy and compassion. Special protection is accorded to widows, orphans, refugees, the poor, and the oppressed.

Ethical practices are born out of man’s extension of logics in life to humanity. Thus having experienced hunger for ourselves, we want to help all those who are victims of starvation. We like to be loved and respected. When we extend this feeling, we begin to love and respect others – “Do unto others what you would want them to do unto you”.

Growth of science and scientific thinking since the Renaissance period has made people indifferent towards organized churches. People found a new hope in secular ethical values. Today most educated and democratic societies have begun to appreciate these moral values. Even one billion strong non-religious and atheist people around the world accept the importance of moral values.

6. Spiritual Values and Practices
Spiritual values are experienced when man begins to see divinity in all creations in the universe and find his own relations with each and every aspect of creation. He begins to feel connected not only with men of all races and religions but also with animals, nature and even inanimate things. In ancient times most men experienced this divinity in nature. But with the advent of more organized faith-based Abrahamic religions, these experiences were replaced by very rigid religious tenets and dogmas.

7. Steps for World Peace
Limitations of Religious Values
Semitic religions have wrought havoc in this world by dividing the world into believers and non-believers. In the first millennium they destroyed the pagan religion in Europe. Very few Pagans are now living but there is a greater awareness amongst the Europeans about their ancestors and it is being revived.

In the second millennium, the Semitics decimated the ancient civilizations of the American Aztecs, Mayans, Incas, Red Indians, and aborigines of Australia. Only the Maoris of New Zealand could offer a tough resistance and win. The second millennium also saw the much discredited slave trade under which millions of African natives were reduced to worse than the animal life. This millennium also witnessed the two world wars.

Many scientists and scholars like Copernicus, Galileo, Bruno, Hypatia and Joan of Arc were humiliated, tortured and brutally murdered as their scientific investigations led them to believe facts that were contradictory Biblical ideas. They paid the price with their lives for believing that the earth is round, that earth moves around Sun, that the earth is older than 6004 BC etc.

Limitations of Secular Ethical and Moral Values to bring World Peace
Due to holocaust, world wars and genocides common man in Europe has turned away from church and religion. He now believes more in ethical and moral values and practices. These values have no doubt enriched his life but they also have brought untold miseries to many in the form of consumerism, permissive societies, alcoholism, individual freedom, increasing divorce rates and unwed mothers, single parent families, homicides and suicides.

World Wars
The unbridled greed in man resulted in the two world wars. The numbers of casualties in these wars were:
World War –I: 8.5 million dead and 21million wounded.
World War –II: 55 million dead both military and civilian.
Of these 5.5 million were innocent Jews and Roma (Gypsies).

Civil War in Rwanda in 1994
More recently in 1994 the civil war erupted in Rwanda resulted in an estimated death toll of between 500,000 and 1 million Rwandans, mostly members of the Tutsi ethnic group. On December 15, 1999, an independent panel commissioned by United Nations (UN) secretary general Kofi Annan submitted a report on the UN's response to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. The report concluded that the UN and its member states could have stepped in and stopped the killing, but failed to do so. Many church members including nuns played an active role in the genocide. Bill Clinton while inaugurating the Genocide museum has shed tears for doing very little while the butchery was in progress.

Ecological Disaster
Global warming, the depletion of the ozone layer in the atmosphere, destruction of the world’s rain forests, depletion of fossil fuels are just some of the problems that are now critical. These are a consequence of our style of living causing air and water pollution, groundwater depletion and contamination, chemical and nuclear toxins.

Evil effects of Globalization
Economic consideration is rapidly moving the world into one market. But this globalization will have a bad effect on many treasured values of ancient and universal religions and cultures. Materialism will replace spirituality. It will spell a loss of ancient religious, health and cultural practices such as traditional ways of prayers, fasting, rites, naming ceremony, house warming, birthdays, cremation rituals in different ancient cultures giving way to the Western Anglo Saxon Protestant (WASP) customs and traditions. Ancient traditional food habits, fasts, medicines, games, exercises, recreations will be phased out. Spiritual practices like observing silence, celibacy, meditation, will give in to discos, pubs, picnics, night clubs consequentially resulting in sharp increase in drug abuse, alcoholism, obesity, aids, divorces, premarital sex, abortions and increasing number of unwed mothers and breaking down of families. Ancient cultures in the vein of kindness, truth, sincerity, honesty, are replaced with thrust on profit, publicity, anger and authority. A successful man in modern days is one who possesses more and more. The passion to “Get, get and forget will replace Hindu and ancient values of give, give and forgive”. Service, charity humility, seeing Divinity in others will loose their battles against pride, vanity, hypocrisy and authority.

8. Spiritual Values are the answer for World Peace and Progress
The answer to above problems can be found only in the scientific, universal, spiritual values and practices of the ancient religions. Pagans, aborigines, Maoris, Native Indians and Hindus have always seen divinity in others and even in inanimate things. Every thing that is of use to mankind has been revered by Hindus as equivalent to mother, the symbol of ultimate sacrifice for the common good of the family. Thus the earth which bears us, rivers that sustain us, cow that gives milk, scriptures that teach us universal brotherhood and their likes are all honored as mother. True spirituality proclaims universal oneness. Upanishads talk of consciousness in the singular and this is the basis of peace.

Moreover Hindus perceive the world as one family and not as one market. In a market the foremost thought is that of profit and exploitation of the weak. But in a family the foremost thought is to love and serve all members especially the weak. Thus wherever the Hindus went they went with the message of peace and benediction. History of Cambodia, Thailand, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia for 1,500 years since the beginning of Christian era is full of such enduring and inspiring exchange of cultural ethos. Their mission was “Let everyone be happy and let every one be free from afflictions. Let everyone hear the auspicious and let no one suffer”. With their sharp intuitive mind they realized that “Truth is one though scholars may call it variously”. They saw unity in the midst of diversity and happiness in the midst of sufferings.

At this extremely dangerous moment in human history, when any one mad man can press the nuclear button and wipe out entire civilization several times, the only way of salvation for mankind is the path of spirituality beyond religion. Hinduism with its well defined philosophy and past experience is best suited for this purpose.

As Nobel laureate Erwin Schrödinger has said, modern world needs some transfusion of blood from ancient religions to save western science from spiritual anaemia.

(2,030 words)

- 1 - Feb 2006


KVSSNrao said...

Please see for detailed treatment of Apastambha sutra.

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