Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Religion: Birth, Death and the Intervening Period

Amidst the causes underlying the raging conflicts of the earth since time immemorial, religion ranks as probably a single most triggering factor. So then why do religions thrive, prosper and, in turn, consume the very same persons, they sat out to save in the first place.

Every human birth into a family is a natural phenomenon governed by the laws of nature based on factors of which we have limited understanding and knowledge. However, the commonality of birth and evolution is the life principle imbued in the cell which replicates and specializes and creates forms of life from the unicellular amoeba to the evolved man, whom we arrogantly refer to as the highest form of life. The man has through his discoveries tried to unravel the vastness of the universe and as yet the expanse of the universe is beyond the scope of his imagination, It is inconceivable that equal or more evolved forms of life are not existing. In the midst of these facts, I feel that man's continuous  attempts to conquer nature leads to either frustration on failure and elation on success.

Religion is an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or a group of gods. It stems from man's desire to explain and control nature and phenomenon which he is unable to explain scientifically. On the one hand, it seems that man is an insignificant speck in the expanse of the universe, yet he is effectively a miniature embodiment of the universe. This power makes man capable of reaching infinite highs and plummeting down to infinite lows. Over the years, at different times, a few men have risen above the mundane existence and propounded thoughts and beliefs to benefit and uplift his brethren from the morass of pain suffering and misery. They tried to show them a pathway to permanent joy. All of this was relevant to the time and era it was propounded and while some of it were in the form of universal truths, the rest was subject to change which was not in conflict with the fundamental truths which seem to be the same in all religions. The common man's ability to grasp these truths was limited and therefore, the pronouncements were subject to interpretations and needed to be explained. These led to rituals, ceremonies, rules and customs to regulate society and behavior. While this was done a majority of religions sought to impose these on the masses without allowing a choice or freedom to reason out these choices. This led to conflicts and some religions tried to actively seek followers by reasoning, coercion, and bribery. So the purpose of religion, which was to enlighten the people and give them a way out of their misery was completely negated by this fanatical zeal.

Therefore to my mind, even as man has no choice in choosing his parents and religion at birth, he should be given complete freedom and a choice to follow a path which appeals to his reason without crossing swords or opposing anybody who does not agree with his beliefs. The purpose of a life for any creature is to realize his true Self and his connection to the universe. While living to satisfy one's senses will lead to happiness, one soon realizes that this happiness is temporary and is followed by sadness. A man reaches for help when he realizes that his suffering cannot be explained or understood. Based on his evolution understanding and thoughts he will find an answer, either in the religion in which he was born or in another religion. A free choice is the essence of man's existence and there seems to be no logic in preventing a man from exercising this choice.

I belong to the Parsi Zoroastrian religion, which never actively converts others nor does it permit conversion to another religion. However, this insularity has led to declining numbers and an old forward-looking religion has reached the verge of extinction. Should the Parsis change and seek converts or should they allow those who have sought to marry outside the community and their children to  retain their religion?

Parsis historically migrated to India to escape religious persecution from Islamic forces and their welcome in India was subject to terms and conditions, one of which was not to seek conversions. However, much water has flowed under the bridge and the contribution of the Parsis to their adopted homeland has been such that they are loved and respected by a majority of Indians. Their philanthropic skills and ability to create and build institutions of excellence have made them a confident secure community. It, therefore, is but logical for them to allow peaceful and voluntary conversions and permit those who have married persons of different communities to retain their faith. Matters of free choice and human advancement cannot become the monopoly of a chosen few. I do not claim to be a religious scholar nor a revolutionary out to upset checks and balances of society, but I claim to be a humble seeker of the truth as I see it. In my life, I have made choices and have sought and taken help from many religious scriptures which have appealed to my reasoning and conscience. In the broad sense of the word I convert myself often and choose what seems to be the best, in order to enable me to fulfill the purpose of my life to realize my true Self.

Today, I have written this in a spirit of sharing and caring and this piece is my humble attempt to resolve conflict and usher in peace, which is the true purpose of any religion.


Carole Paul said...

Sitting in a hospital with an aunt who is almost 80 yrs old and going through gamut of tests (which she can scarce understand the need for, at her age she says.. She's a fit and sprightly woman)and surrounded by so many unwell people , watching the madness of politics and atrocities in university campuses , it is fortuitous to chance upon your writings. Ample time to ponder. Quo Vadis... Very apt writing Dr. Jokhi.

Kashmira Kakalia said...

True Vispi. There are questions which have no direct answers while some responses become reasons for conflict .