1. All religions have two components:
* Beliefs/rituals/mythology: all religions differ from one another in this regard,
* Desirable behaviour or ethics of life: all religions display similar approach.
A COMMON MYTH–‘ONLY WE REPRESENT TRUE GOD! IT HELPS IN NUMBERS!’
2. The unrest, violence in human society over religious issues, stems from two factors:
*Each religion believes it is the sole franchisee of God’s religion and that God has conveyed His message directly through the messengers or directly in some cases, only to their religion.
*Religions are also managed like corporates these days. which implies: more number of followers more resources; this results in conflict of interest and resultant clashes.
3. Each religion has its quota of irrational beliefs, which is faithfully accepted by its followers but taken with a pinch of salt, by followers of other religions. Mahatma Gandhi rightly said, let us tolerate irrationality in all religions, as long as it is not immoral and is not forced on others and let us not comment adversely on irrational beliefs of other religions.
ZERO TOLERANCE TO CRITICISM AND CARICATURES
4. All religions have zero tolerance over criticism on rituals, scriptures; some religions have less tolerance, some comparatively more. Caricatures, critical comments on God, His representatives or scriptures often invite harsh retaliations through ‘fatwa’ or social boycott. This view clashes with freedom of speech; but it is compromised and results in great risk to the lives of critics from extremists.
5. Ten Commandments are the best guidelines to live a noble life. All religions have similar guidelines, in this regard.
*We must admire Christianity for translating Bible into hundreds of local languages; a language, the followers can comprehend. Other religions will sure gain a lot, to emulate the idea.
*However, the belief that Christ has paid for the sins of all Christians 2000 years ago, when he was crucified for no fault of his, is seen as flawed, irrational by non-Christians. But this belief, need not be debated, better leave it and let Christians believe in it. Let us not insist on proving others wrong, if we are at variance. Let us concentrate on what is similar in our religions and use it to cement the bonds of humanity.
*The belief in day of judgement may not be rational and the ritual of burial after death in occidental religions could have been due to natural/geographical compulsions in the area, where desert land was in plenty and vegetation scarce. But to get into discussion that concept of rebirth is less irrational and cremation is a better option is not desirable and is counter-productive.
6. Islam propagates one God, who never takes birth as human-being.It asks its followers to apprise non-believers(Kafirs), of this truth. It is a belief, but as long as it is not forced on others, we must not bother about it. Unfortunately, fundamentalists insist on forcing others to accept it, although Koran says ‘apprise others of the truth, but do not enforce it on others’. This is a common corporate practice in all religions, where all missionaries, in good faith, insist on others to follow their religion’s path, as they believe it is better. We got to learn that there are multiple solutions for any problem, and all equally right.
*Islam forbids statue worship; a common feature in oriental religions. Let us look at it in another perspective; we remember our old relations, parents who have departed, with their photographs,which helps us to remember. Similarly, statues and photographs help us to comprehend better, a formless God. However to think that the lifeless stone sculptor as God is wrong; but that still does not allow anybody to ill treat the irrational believers.
7. It encourages debates and discussions over commonly accepted customs; unlike other religions, where the followers can not question the scriptures.Its salient features:
SUFFERING ALL AROUND
*It talks of omnipresent grief among all human-beings, for various reasons:
First, we are unhappy when we are unable to live life as per our traditional up bringing;
Second, nothing is permanent in life, it is a dynamic field, circumstances change over time: nations, individuals prosperous now will be weak, poor in future and
Third, conventional griefs: poor health, getting old and death.
But there is a solution to our griefs, if we understand cause and effect in every occurrence.
LEADERS, ORGANISATIONS AND PRINCIPLES.
*Another concept in Buddhism is systematic understanding of life:
First, have a teacher, guru, who guides you,
There after move on to loyalty to the organisation and not to an individual,
And then graduate to obedience of principles, for principles of life are supreme, and not an organisation or an individual.
8. It has its own quota of irrational beliefs; but it has a wonderful book Gita, to explain laws of life and how one should live life:
WORK TO BUILD UP YOUR EXPERTISE, DON’T CHASE MONEY
*We work so that we earn for our hard work. Gita advocates: we should all work, without expecting rewards, which please our senses.We should work, as there is no better alternative. There are three types of people:
First, those who are willing to work, if adequately rewarded,
Second, those not willing to work, lazy and contented in their lot
And third, the ideal, they want to work for it is their nature and they are not mad after rewards.
*Gita lists good and bad qualities and we can evaluate ourselves:
There are 26 Godly qualities listed in Gita. Some of these are: fearlessness, truthfulness, non-violence, balanced view of life, forgiveness, to do self-duty, no revenge, controlled 5 senses, kindness to others, a spirit of sacrifice, patience, humility, no temptations, no back-biting, no anger, no restlessness to do everything and good reading.
Among the demonic qualities are: desire, anger, greed, attachment, ego and snob behaviour.
MY CULTURE, MY RELIGION, MY COUNTRY
We all believe, my way of thinking, my people, my family, my language, my culture, my religion and my country are the best. It means, we are most suitable to control the resources of the world and to redistribute for good of
GOD COMES DOWN TO EARTH, YES OR NO!
*Hinduism accepts that God adopts human-body, as and when necessitated in the world, to fight injustice. A belief strongly contested by Islam, Sikhism, but not by Christianity, who believe Christ, the son of God got into human form to help humanity. But these differences in beliefs are irrelevant in our daily living; except that fundamentalists exploit these differences to generate violence.
9. It insists that God never adopts physical body; it conveys His message through its messengers. It believes in: accepting the will of God, honest living, remembering God by reciting scriptures, sharing the earnings with society, service to community, holy congregation and taking meals together, sitting together irrespective of social status.
*It advocates high ideals such as, we are all one, same God is in all of us; a utopian idea; which is still not fully understood, and if understood, seldom implemented by Sikhs. Sikhs too are divided into small groups who marry within their subgroup only.
*Sikhs like others believe in selective obedience of religious teaching, where ever it suits. Sikhs do not smoke as religion forbids, but enjoy drinks and drugs which are forbidden too and are fighting a losing battle against it
STEPS TO RECONCILE DIFFERENCES AMONG RELIGIONS.
10. Religious violence is due to lack of understanding of own religion as well as other religions; not many of us understand the language of religious scriptures,for example Sanskrit or Arabic languages. Surprisingly even educated people depend upon religious preachers to understand their own religion, thus religious sentiments are exploited by a minority, of religious teachers who are hard liners. Our education system must have comparative unbiased study of all religions, without commenting which one is better.
11.Let us make a beginning, by sorting out intra-religion issues, only there after sort out inter-religion issues. There are clashes between Protestants and Roman Catholics, Sunnis and Shias all over the world. Let us begin by sorting out intra-religion differences and then sort out bigger issues of inter-religion differences in beliefs.