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Amidst Sanatan Dharma talk, why religions are necessary in spite of their limitation

By NS Venkataraman* 

Kanchi Paramacharya, Bhagwan Sri Ramana Maharshi were amongst the great saints who lived in India and who highlighted the fact that basic approach of all religions are essentially the same and there is really no particular conflict between them, though the rituals and day today practices differ from one religion to another. The saints hailed Sanatana Dharma, evolved by ancient Indian philosophers, as the ultimate universal message to promote human harmony and decisively improve the standard and quality of one’s life. It was stressed that Sanatana Dharma is relevant for all people all over the world for all time to come.
Unfortunately, a few lazy thinkers in Tamil Nadu have recently questioned the Sanatana Dharma, which has caused considerable anxiety amongst the deep thinkers. The fear is that such poorly informed criticism will lead to a counter productive chain reaction, where the non believers (who seem to imagine that they are intellectuals ) would be emboldened to question the concept of religion itself and raise issues about the “unanswered questions about human life” in the religious texts.

The thought process and evolution of religions

It is believed that Hindu religion has no one founder but instead it has been evolved by a fusion of various beliefs. Other religions have been founded by deep thinkers. The concepts and guidelines provided in different religions have been evolved and fine tuned over several generations and the process still continues.
Over thousands of years, deep thinkers have been pondering about the origin and end of human life and other creatures, It has not been found possible to find an explanation for the origin and end process till now, that would be convincing for human intellect “Wonder of life” still remains unresolved.
Sanatana Dharma, the glorious Hindu philosophy refers to this unanswered question on origin and end of life and state “neither the beginning nor the end”. This amount to leaving the question to the wisdom of individual to conclude.
In such scenario, deep thinkers, several centuries back, must have come to the conclusion that there must be a creator (Almighty) without which, world could not have happened. It was a conclusion that must have been arrived based on “ cause and effect theory”.
This view has prompted the deep thinkers to evolve their own philosophy, which resulted in religions evolving.
All religions agree that the world has been created by the creator (God ). While the different religions refer to God by different names, the referred entity is only the same. The basic tenets of all religions is that everyone should surrender to God from beginning of life process to the end without questioning the concept or the existence of God and without any element of doubt. Essentially, all religions stress that any questioning of this idea of God would lead the individuals nowhere. The religions say that the human intellect should be subordinated to intuition and inward realization to awaken the mind to realise God. Such approach is the focus and essential aspect in all religions.

Prayer as the pathway for life process

As the evolution of thought process continued, deep thinkers and founders of religions must have come to the conclusion that the best option and available course is to device an ideal way of life for humans, that would enable them to lead the life process with peace of mind and with harmony with nature and other humans and creatures.
While insisting on placing faith on God, all religions lay down procedures for way of living, that would enable humanity to live peacefully and with harmony.
To help the devotees to focus the mind on God and to enable the individual to introspect, prayers have been devised such as Gayatri Mantra in Hindu religion, which is said to have been coined by sage Viswamithra thousands of years ago. Gayatri mantra is a prayer of illumination to open the mind, so that the more light and lofty thoughts enter the mind. Several millions of people during thousands of years in the past have recited this holy mantra and claimed sort of mental calmness to some extent. Gayatri mantra has stood the test of time and this holy mantra is the ultimate proof that sustained prayer will elevate the thought process and lead to purity in mental state.

Sanatana Dharma - A way for ideal life

Sanatana Dharma is a concept and pathway for life evolved by ancient Hindu saints, which does not distinguish between humans, animals and other creatures and does not make difference between individual human beings in anyway based on caste, creed, sex and affluence. This universal philosophy lays stress on compassion, love, avoidance of hate feelings and violent thoughts and several other positive attributes.
Sanatana Dharma is aimed at entire humanity and has no limits or frontier. The concept of Sanatana Dharma is the elimination of all the conflicts in the mindset. While some may distinguish between one religion from another, Sanatana Dharma sets no such limits.
Such guidelines for human lives enunciated by Sanatana Dharma can be adhered to only by constant prayer and introspection. The great Indian philosophers like Adi Sankara, Ramanuja, Madhvacharya spoke about Jeevatma and Paramatma and called for deep introspection by prayer and meditation, which is a pointer to link inner self and outer self, that would lead to establish a pathway for humans to the mental state of Godliness. This state is described in Hindu religion as Anandha, “a feeling of bliss”, that should be the ultimate objective that humans can achieve and should achieve. After achieving this mental bliss, the humans need to seek no further. This is the end in itself.

Why religion necessary inspite of limitations?

Over the last thousands of years, millions of men and women who have come and gone have been accepting the advice provided by the religions, which have been founded by over thousands of years by different deep thinkers,
While religions certainly help the humanity in leading a peaceful life, the fact is that none of the religions go beyond this and explain with level of clarity as to how the world has happened and what is the origin and end of human lives and that of animals and other creatures.
To explain away the question on origin and end of life, several postulates are mentioned by religious enthusiasts over the years such as hell, heaven, fate, rebirth, miracle and so on. Most people accept such mention since no better explanation have been advanced and nobody could come out of the ignorance about origin and end of life and nobody really knows where the people will go after passing away and from where they come into the life process.
In this context, devotees pray God to provide them relief from sufferings or bless them to get some opportunities. Whether such prayers are answered or not, the devotees certainly get a sense of relief by such surrender and prayer and reconcile themselves thinking that Almighty knows the best. This is all that matters for the praying devotees.
Obviously, the doctrine of religions have limitation. However, such limitation should not give an impression that the religions should be viewed negatively. Only lazy thinkers will think on these lines.
In spite of the limitation, religions lay down guidelines (such as Sanatana Dharma) for living peacefully in the world and have prescribed prayers and images of God to enable individuals to focus and introspect on the real conditions of vacuum in the life process. Therefore, religions have necessary place in human life.
It is true that the basic negativism in human mind such as prone to violence, self-centredness, greed have not been wiped out by the religions, as the advocacy of religions have not adequately penetrated in the minds of several people. War and hatred continue unabated, in view of the stupid feelings, greed and self centred attitude. Nevertheless, one should think as to what would be the world like in the absence of religions.
Those with negative mindset towards religions are not right, as in the absence of religions the world would be a much more chaotic and violent zone than what it is today.
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*Trustee, Nandini Voice For The Deprived, Chennai

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