By MN Kundu
All major religions offer a deep, underlying, fundamental, unity amid apparent diversity; they prescribe specific ways to live in peaceful coexistence, for self-development and ultimate fulfilment of life. Religions have five distinctly different domains, though not watertight: rituals, mythology, ethics, philosophy and spirituality. The external appearance or body of any religion lies in rituals and its operating limbs are in mythology, while its backbone consists of ethical principles, its brain is in philosophy and its heart is in spirituality.
Rituals and mythology are dependent on the faith of followers; ethics and philosophy are based on rationality and reasoning, while spirituality flowers from esoteric and experiential wisdom. Hence religions are simultaneously based on faith, intellect and wisdom.
Many people confuse mutually complementary rituals and mythology as the essence of religion and they rarely want to venture beyond these two elementary means to an end, even at the cost of fanaticism. Since these are based on followers’ faith, religious bigotry and fanaticism are usually rooted in these two. But Swami Vivekananda said that a wise person could never be fanatic as he is always open. He also advised all to move forward for progressive realisation.
The backbone of any religion lies in its ethical principles designed for peaceful coexistence in society and self-development, which enables followers to be better human beings with a sense of fraternity, honesty, empathy, humility, love, purity, truthfulness, non-violence and benevolence.
The philosophical part, the brain of a religion, theoretically concerns existential enigma of creation and Creator. It includes man’s eternal quest for true identity, origin, destination and purpose. The four fundamental questions are covered. Who am I? Wherefrom have I come? Where shall I go? What is the purpose of life? This part is based on sound reasoning and intellectual analysis.
The heart of a religion lies in spirituality which is based on esoteric experience and is experiential in nature. Religions culminate in spirituality. Spirituality is not so much a process of knowing but of becoming, experiencing oneness with the singular identity of the cosmos with infinite expansion of consciousness, merging individual self into cosmic Self, experiencing divine love, ecstasy and inner harmony. At this stage, mystery of life and creation are revealed and we see the inner life and harmony, amid diversity of creation. Hence Jesus Christ said, “I and my Father are one.” Vedanta made the fourfold proclamation, “I am That. Thou art That. Everything is That. The ultimate wisdom is That.” This is the pinnacle of realisation and end of wisdom.
Hindu rituals along with mantras have been elaborated in the early part of the Vedas. Mythology is covered in the Puranas. Revelation of the Absolute has been attempted in various ways in the Upanishads, intellectual analysis of the ultimate Truth has been made in the Brahmasutras and practical application of the highest knowledge in daily life is there in the Gita. In addition, yoga aphorisms elaborate the art of cosmic union with the Absolute in an unparalleled manner.
India, the land of religions reached the pinnacle of spiritual progress due to strict adherence to scriptures and lessons from gurus, realised masters. Penance, forbearance, persistence, aspiration, renunciation, compassion, love, selfless service to humanity and above all, surrender to the Almighty, are the enabling factors for spiritual progress. That is why India is a great source of knowledge and practice for spiritual seekers.
DISCLAIMER : Views expressed above are the author’s own.