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Religion and Fanaticism
A person expresses particular tendencies in his or her behaviour on the basis of growth of his brain-mind complex reflecting a particular kind of consciousness. Aspiration of many people, for example love or hate, etc., finds its complete expression in one individual at a particular evolutionary stage or phase. When hatred, or a similar base aspiration, is manifested, we see birth of a fascist, a fundamentalist, or an extremely wicked person.
However, when a person embodies values like spiritual wisdom, purity of heart, qualities of universal love and altruism, we call him a saint or a sage. Sometimes such a person contributes to the welfare of humanity in such a great measure that he is referred to as God -the founder of a religion. Such examples are Sri Krishna, Jesus Christ, Lord Buddha, Mahavir, Guru Nanak, Sri Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo, and many more. The list is unending; we encounter such great souls in every religion of every continent and in every era.
These great souls have intuitive knowledge of oneness of human race. Their intuition is based on their experience or realization and conforms to rationality and reason. They speak from the experience of realization of Divinity acquired after transcending the limitations of body-mind complex. They have the direct knowledge of Reality. Millions of followers of these saints intellectually and emotionally grasp their message of love and compassion; but cannot claim to have experienced these values as direct knowledge. They believe in what the saints say.
In course of time, the message of these seers and prophets gets diluted in the minds of the masses. Although, the great souls lose no chance of telling the masses that all paths lead to the same God, that love and compassion towards all fellow-beings is the basis of religion, the masses think that their own prophet and religion alone is correct.
"Is there one universal philosophy? Not yet. Each religion brings out its own doctrines and insists upon them as being the only true ones. And not only does it do that, but also it thinks that he who does not believe in them must go to some horrible place. Some will even draw the sword to compel others to believe as they do. This is not through wickedness, but through a particular disease of human brain called fanaticism. They are very sincere, these fanatics, the most sincere of human beings; but they are quite as irresponsible as other lunatics in the world. This disease of fanaticism is one of the most dangerous of all diseases. All the wickedness of human nature is roused by it. Anger is stirred up, nerves are high strung, and human being becomes like tigers."
Thus faith turns into fanaticism. The communal frenzy erupts and religious wars are fought with ensuing mass destruction and chaos. There is no doubt that more blood is shed on religious wars and persecution than on any other cause. But this is no fault of an individual. It is the evolutionary weakness. It is not a crafty design of one individual, or one particular religion. Our inability to convert faith into the knowledge of direct perception (of the truths as preached by the religious seers) is responsible for this. The mammal in us is still strong; we have as yet failed to evolve as complete human beings.
(The modern scientific brain perceives this as a fault of religion alone and, therefore, prophets like Karl Marx are also born to teach us different ways of social revolution or reform.)
'Jal', 'water', 'aqua', 'pani' all mean the same thing. But, no! - one sticks to jal, the other to pani, the third to water and so on. 'My clock alone shows the correct time', everyone claims! We vehemently attack different communal organizations because of the same reason. We fail to understand that there is some truth in every religion and sect.
"Is God's Book finished? Or is revelation still going on? It is a marvelous Book--these spiritual revelations of the world. The Bible, the Vedas, the Koran, and all other sacred books are but so many pages, and infinite number of pages remain yet to be unfolded. I shall leave my heart open for all of them."
However, every religion, sect, or path degenerates in course of time. This is because of the inability of the followers to sustain the teachings of the great founder of that religion. Common people lack the conviction of realization of that great founder prophet. Can one accept prevalent life style of Christians, or of Hindus, or Sikhs, or Muslims as faultless? Does it conform to the preachings of their respective founder soul? No. To find fault with only one community, therefore, will be unjust.
Our duty is to be sympathetic to every religious sect, and with patience we should work out the reform with the best possible means. New wave of religious revival is bound to set in. Hatred and bigotry, persecution and aspersions, criticism and derogation will be of no avail. This is applicable to political parties as well as every religious sect in Hindu or Muslim organizations.
"Sectarianism, bigotry, and its horrible descendent fanaticism, have long possessed this beautiful earth. They have filled the earth with violence, drenched it often and often with human blood, destroyed civilization and sent whole nations to despair. Had it not for these horrible demons, human society would be far more advanced than it is now. But their time is come; and I fervently hope that the bell that tolled this morning in honour of this convention may be death-knell of all fanaticism, of all persecutions with the sword or with the pen, and of all uncharitable feelings between persons wending their way to the same goal."
Actually, deliberate cultivation of prayerful attitude of love, respect, and universal brotherhood is required to elevate our own consciousness that will express the quality of human dignity and freedom.
"When we begin life, we think that our fate will be something extraordinary, and nothing can make us disbelieve that. But when we grow old, we think differently. So with religions. In their early stages, when they spread a little, they get the idea that they can change the minds of the whole human race in a few years, and go on killing and massacring to make converts by force; then they fail, and begin to understand better."
Without reading a single word of religious scripture (from the scientific point of view) people start claiming to be pro, anti, or non-religious! 'Their faith, however, is less in God than their own concepts of God.' This human tragedy has no parallel in history. A bit of cool-head, reasoning, and respect to what other has to say should reduce communal tension in our society. As the literate, wise men, and educated leaders behave so will the masses follow them. One should not only tolerate other religions but should now be willing to accept them with all the faults and shortcomings therein.
"Fanatics cannot work, they waste three-fourths of their energy. It is the level headed calm practical man who works."
(Note: The quotations are from the Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda)
c s shah