“I think different religions are like different doors to the same house. Sometimes I think the house exists and sometimes, I don’t” – Steve Jobs, Founder and successful inventor/entrepreneur at Apple Inc. as quoted in Walter Isaacson’s biography on Steve Jobs.
Reading the above quote, brought the following thoughts to my mind:
Religion can be divided into three parts: One that promotes certain faith and belief system; the second which provides certain rituals and guidelines to abide by, intended to make your day to day life easier to cope with; the third a pathway for philosophic enquiry and hence take your thinking to places about life and living. Most religions are an amalgum of all three pathways.
For most of us, religion is always seen as a pathway for certain belief systems. Each religion is recognized frequently based on the belief system familiar to all about that religion. Hinduism is seen as a religion with hundreds of Gods, the laws of Karma and reincarnation. Invoking the concept of God or some superhuman entity is common to all religions, even though the descriptions of God vary from one religion to another. It is this aspect of “faith” that pertains to any religion that creates the ambiguity in my mind. This door called the faith to the house of worship seems to be very much needed at times. This house of hope, stability and permanence that one can open through the door of faith helps me to cope with situations and circumstances that I cannot handle and when I am at the limits of my rational analysis. It is only through such faith in some entity larger than my comprehension that I can come to terms with certain events in my life and in the life of others that otherwise seem miraculous and beyond my wildest dreams on the positive side or beyond the limits of misery and suffering on the negative side. Yet, most of the time, after some reflection and after regaining my analytical process for inquiry I can come to the understanding of the cause and effect and I become more certain that the laws of nature alone are at play. At that point the gateway of faith appears like a needless entrance to a non-existent house. Hence the house behind the gates of faith, the house of heaven and hell and the pre-ordination through Karma and the re-incarnation of life appear illusive.
I am more at ease with the guidelines or rituals promulgated through the religion, as long as there is freedom to practice them and they are not imposed upon me. The older I live, the more I find that rituals are the very essence of human beings living as part of a society. Over a period of time, rituals get established to bring every one into a common fold as well as to create a sense of continuity. We show our affection, respect and connection to each other in a myriad of ways through rituals established over the years. We shake hands, hug each other, etc. Yet, we don’t think much about them as long as we live in a community where these rituals are seen as part of the norm. But, when we find ourselves in communities and circumstances that we are not accustomed to, then their rituals appear strange and uncomfortable. We do not seek the meaning of rituals when they are common practice but we find rituals as meaningless, when we find them new and strange to our exposure and experience. The rituals in the baseball game would appear strange and unwarranted for the soccer fans! More often than not, the rituals get their bad rap, when individuals use them to enforce their rule and authority in areas where they do not have such role or power! These individuals use the religion and their rituals to open the doors, to the house that does not exist.
It is the philosophic aspect of the religion that I find most satisfying and much in need. This is the house full of promise, yet very few seek to open the doors for this house of substantial value. Rituals evolve as a way to codify the guidelines, which are the outcome of the philosophic reasoning. The belief systems of each religion serve more as the steps to ascend to the gates of philosophy. Take for instance the concept of objectivity. How is it possible to relate to the concept of objectivity, when we live in a world of experiences, a world of subjectivity? Our experiences, the judgment they create and our response as a result are all subjective! But, we can measure or calibrate our objectivity through a pointer, marker or reference. One who is the most objective among us is identified as the “Mahathma”. In this respect, God the ideal for objectivity at all occasions and in all situations is referred to as “Paramathma” or the Supreme Being. The path of analytical reasoning (please see the essays on “Anatomy of our experiences”) provides a logical frame work towards objectivity. Then the descriptions of Mahathama and Paramathma provide the necessary markers for the calibration of my level of objectivity. One can enter the house of wisdom through these doors of religion based on the philosophic frame work of each religion. Then the role and purpose of all other doors and the house behind them may become merely the passing scenes in the passage way in journey of life.
Nice essay! The rational, devotional and philosophical aspects of religion are well balanced in the writing. As for me, I feel like a boy lost in the woods who still enjoys the sheer beauty of nature and realizes that these trees, river and mountain were there a long time before us and will be there long after we are gone; they represent the power of the creator. The rituals keep me grounded and provide a retreat from the rat race that I am a part of. I have introduced my children to my way of practicing religion but I don’t insist that they follow the ritualistic path. When I see psalms, slokas and scriptures that have survived the passage of time despite not being written in stone or stored in microchips, it humbles me. The survival of many insects, birds and animals with which we share our modern life and the thriving of people who carry on despite their modest means, hints at the existence of an omnipotent Godhead (Paramatma).
Religion is a window through which you see god…..Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan
In my opinion rituals promote discpline to control ones mind and thus promotes further spiritual progress.
I heed your explanation of rituals because of your reasoning. Good explanation.
A very nice analysis of the religion and the rituals!! Last weekend after the snow storm during the night and loss of power I woke up to the bright sun shine in my living room. It made me think that mother nature is the most powerful force that is visible to us and is trying to teach us humans humility. We can have all the technological advances in the world but force or wrath of mother natural events like earthquake, hurricanes or snow and ice storms can bring the world to a grinding halt in a matter of minutes to hours.
In time like this having the faith in religion helps us to deal with the unexpected. This essay is amazingly written.