There is a lot of debate on various questions related to religion. What is religion? Why does man need religion? Can a person be religious and scientific? Why does man need several religions? Do all the religions lead to the same goal, as some people claim?
Here are some important questions:
- Inspired by what, can a person hold on to speaking the truth and not tell a lie, even if it will cause great pain, cause great material loss, cause great dishonor, or cause even death?
- Inspired by what, can a person not intend any harm to any person, creature, society, culture, environment, etc. even if it will cause great pain, cause great material loss, cause great dishonor, or cause even death?
- Inspired by what, can a person look upon every other person or creature, not as an object of sense gratification, but as a thinking and feeling living being?
- Inspired by what, can a person not desire or claim anything that has not been provided to him/her as a fair and legal compensation of his/her contribution to the world and society?
- Inspired by what, can a person lead a simple and sustainable life so that there is enough for everyone in this world now and for the generations of the future?
- Inspired by what, can a person love every person and every living being as his own self, irrespective of species, gender, domicile, religious belief, religious practice, intelligence, culture, language, moral stature, etc., and serve others genuinely for their short term and long term well-being?
- Inspired by what, can a person be absolutely immune to sorrow, depression, anxiety, anger, greed, jealousy, arrogance and other such psychological problems, that tend to arise out of the various favorable and unfavorable situations in life?
So far, humanity has found only one single silver bullet that can address all the above seven questions. And, that is called religion. Anything that does not promote the above seven points, cannot be considered as a religion at all.
Religion complements the other pursuits of life like science, politics, economics, etc. Their domain and purpose are different. So they cannot conflict. A person can be religious and scientific at the same time. But a person cannot be religious and a crook at the same time.
Religion is needed to make the life of a person and society complete. The seven points are goals in themselves. Questions like, “What is the use of telling the truth?”, “What is the use of not harming others?”, etc. are as invalid as the questions like “What is the use of being happy?” and “What is the use of being safe?” Hinduism calls the first five points as Dharma and the last two points as Moksha. They are the higher two goals of human life. The lower two goals are safety (Artha) and happiness (Kama).
Different religions are different belief systems or groups of belief systems. Depending on the temperament and understanding capacity of people, different belief systems present different philosophies to answer the questions, “Who am I? What is this world? What is my relationship with this world?” Based on that, different systems present different things as the goal. Some belief systems present “eternal life with a Supreme Being after death” as the goal. Some belief systems present “enjoyment of various pleasures in a different place after death” as the goal. Some systems present “deliverance from the eternal cycle of birth and death” as the goal. Some systems present “recognition, here and now, of one’s own eternal nature as pure Consciousness” as the goal. Based on the various philosophies and goals, different practices to reach the goal are presented.
As the philosophies are different, the goals are different and the practices are different, there is no way that they can accept each other. The only commonality between the various religions are the seven points that are given. When these seven points are accepted as the real goal and way of all religions, different religions can peacefully co-exist in a mutually acceptable and mutually strengthening way.
This is what I understand by Sri Ramakrishna’s famous words, “Yatho math thatho path” – “As may opinions, so many ways”.