Origin of Religious Species

The churn of a storm, the lightning that tears open the skies, the wasted colors to beautify a moment’s horizon. Each, in the mind and heart of perceiving man, gives birth to awe. That unique state where, bereft of understanding, there stands a heightened state mingled with fear. And some might argue a state of perception beyond mind. Religion, poetry, piety and more might have their birth here.

I have always been fascinated by the religious instinct in man. Especially the origins of it. What impelled earliest man to conceive a God? Whence the origins of his impulse to obey and surrender?

I believe I have come across a plausible answer on what could have given birth to the religious instinct. And the clue arrived while watching this movie called the Quest for Fire.

The sequence occurs when Naoh, of the Ulam tribe, is being chased by the Kzamm tribe. While fleeing Naoh comes across a herd of Mammoths, more menacing and imposing than any creature he has ever come across.

Keeping in mind the evolutionary stage of this tribe the typical response would be to flee or fight. Neither of which are relevant or feasible in this scenario. Kzamm tribe outnumbers the paltry four from the Ulam tribe, including Naoh. The Mammoths are in a herd, with the testy bull male right upfront. Again, to emphasize the obvious, neither flight nor fight is feasible.

That is when Naoh does the unexpected. With eyes reflecting a mixture of suppressed fear, or is it surprise?, he does the unthinkable. He moves towards the bull male, slowly inching his way forward, contradicting every instinct he has grown to trust. When close to the animal he bows; head down, arms raised with palms facing forward and bows, kneeling and head touching ground. The near-human animal offers its surrender to the Mammoth, acknowledging its superiority.

And the Mammoth acknowledges that surrender. It protects the near-human creature by chasing away the Kzamm tribe when they try to get close. Naoh and his tribe mates don’t fail to observe this response by the Mammoth.

This  amalgam of emotions – shock, fear and being in the presence of something big and unexplainable is how I perceive awe. Awe becomes the origin of our first religious instinct, inspiring our surrender and the giving of ourselves entirely.

In response, the one who surrenders sometimes perceives the answering grace. And in that specific stimuli-response is the origin of all preoccupations that exceed our sense-filled rationality.

No Lucifer in Hinduism

icarus2

Idea of eternal damnation is an impossibility within Hinduism.

There is a hell, Naraka, for sure..and the hindu versions of boiling oil and other assorted cruelties remain. But the idea that an act, however heinous, once done condemns forever is not possible.

Allow me to explain. Every Asura, Rakshasa and other principalities of the nether world are all incarnations of a older, often nobler principle. Who by the deviance of their wills, or the pride of their powers, start their descent into the offices of ignorance.

Every chief power of the dark realm finds his or her end at the hands of a Divine manifestation within Hindu mythology. Death to evil in this case acts as a salvation, a redemption of the fallen soul.

Sometimes, one does not wait for Death to redeem. Either at the gates of death. Or in events that bring the full force of death, redemption is granted.

This idea of release from the karmic bonds of existence, however dire and twisted it may be, offers a hope which is absent elsewhere.

Shiva, in a poem by Sri Aurobindo, is referred thus “Is he God then, whom the forsaken seek, things of sin?”.

nrsimhadev

Hiranyakashipu, a demon who compels the descent of Vishnu as Narasimha, gains his powers by performing sever austerities to Brahma. Killed by Narasimha, the soul released from the shackles of the perverted self, would go back to its source after working out the fruit of its karma.

Ravana, said to be an ardent devotee of Shiva, had Vishnu as Sri Rama to come and stop him. Again, killed by a Godhead and the soul returns to source after karmic debts are paid.

The idea that God, who exceeds all our measures of morality, should be vengeful or wrathful to a tribe or people or non-believers, is to make Him or Her or It very limited in conception.

Above all to limit individual action by the notion of eternal condemnation is a brutal idea. Perhaps effective in keeping the simplistic lot under the umbrella of a particular creed. But utterly useless to anyone who ventures to think deeply.

An Omniscient God would, by definition, pervade all things. Including the evil that befalls the world. Including the other sundry godheads that may piggyback on His Omnipotence. His infinite variety would not be limited to a single name. Or form.

The Highest God would be compassion and love, instead of breathing fire. One day he might come as warrior, as the cleanser of our souls. Another day as the lover, who woos us with the music of heavens. Yet another day perhaps he might come as the mother who lulls us into a primordial sleep. Each manifestation would take the most beneficial aspect towards the child-soul.

The next time, someone condemns you in the name of religion, remember the karmic dues might take an eternity to pay but your reaching the highest goal, to the very bosom of the Infinite, is a done thing.

Lucifer and his ilk, are the spiritual counterparts of Icarus, not examples to prove the irreversibility of the effects of sin. Let your heart be not worried.

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

Religion is Dead, Long Live Religion

Religion as a system of living is dead.

What remains is only ritual, some archaic pictorial descriptions and a strained existence with a society that wants answers now.

Promises of nubile maidens, an unstrained existence, of honey and wine amidst Mediterranean climes, harps and precious little actual work to do don’t hold water anymore.

Instead of religion being the equalizer and opener of minds and doors, now it is money that plays religion’s role.

Money is the disinfectant for all notional ideas, the grand flattener of various mental terrains. Religion, social structures, moral values, caste & creed and every damned ism vanishes with money.

Religion is nothing but a few spiritual best practices that helped the individual connect with their higher goal . A set of best practices that have worked for a few and been codified into systems.

Let us not get into what the goal itself is. Each race and time seems to have its own definition of it.

The point to note is who checks if these steps work now. Whether the ism and systems hold validity, who would stand up and question its efficacy?

Does the crossing of the fingers to symbolize a cross work? Does the gesture of bowing the head to a temple passing by gain the attention of the god? Or the call to the faithful, does it rouse the spirit? Do these gestures done over a life time, accumulate in some way, and open a path to the rare heights?

The religion and the ritual has lost its efficacy. We need to step back and re-invent the methods and means of our aspirations.

Whether it is in the bunch of universal values we adopt. Or in the rigorous monitoring of our motives. Or even the curtailing of our appetites. The time has come to better understand the residual effect of our thoughts and actions, or as some would say to be aware of the Karmic impact of our actions.

In a sense we have to return to first principles, to begin anew. To discover the forms that are relevant to the current age and time.

And in doing so build the next version of religion. A personal religion. Intensely private. Of infinite variations.

What would such a religion look like? It would allow me to be born with the Vedic chant, sit at the foot of the Cross-bearer and learn of fortitude, cavort with the Dark-Hued one besides the banks of Yamuna, bow in utter obeisance to the fierce protection of the All-Mighty Mother, smile a little at the humor of a Rishi and allow me to join my brothers at their fasting.

I shall not be confined to a single strain of joy. Delight in its infinite variations shall come unto me.

I shall not be circumscribed by a single taxonomy. All methods shall be mine but none shall call me their own.

Within me Zeus and Indra shall discuss the finer aspects of their bolts. Adam and Manu shall wonder together what it means to be the first beings to aspire. The triune of the Bible and the triune of the Veda and Purana shall discover their shared identity.

With the middle man and the chatter of a mindless crowd gone, my paltry breast shall be big enough to hold the universe of truths.

The individual ‘I’ shall discover its oneness with all that is. And the many shall cease to baffle me.

This I shall learn to be the true religion.

Long live religion!