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Humanity- The Greatest Religion
[Contributed By Sonam Shyam]

Human birth is very rare, says Acharya Shankara. This rare human birth is termed as a gateway to realize God. The most important gift humans possess is the intellect. This intellect makes a man think of something which is imperishable, and realizing which a man is liberated from the cycle of birth and death. Therefore, for thousands of years religions have cropped up to guide man towards the Absolute. Let us examine the role of humanism in realization of God.

We have seen that it is the intellect, which makes humans superior. But in spite of possessing intellect, the bulk of the humanity doesn't use it properly since the senses rule the mind. When the senses overpower the mind certain negative qualities are manifested. Pride, ego, anger, jealousy, cruelty, etc. are some of the negative qualities. We find that people who are full of such qualities are also engaged in 'spiritual' pursuits. The question, which arises straight away, is whether worshipping God would make us good human beings or whether we should first become good human beings so as to qualify to worship God.

We shall examine both the cases. First we take the case of a person with negative qualities engaged in religious activities. As Gita mentions, persons who are proud, arrogant, egoistic, jealous etc. are rajasik in temperament. Typical rajasik aspirant engages in a number of rituals. His nature of worship is full of pomp and show. We find in various places of worship such people coming with big 'presents' for God, and even the priests would at times give them priority. These people mostly worship God to attain materialistic success, which they are very much entitled to do. But the problem arises when some of them develop a false notion that ritualistic worship would give them the license to do whatever they like, and they can get away with most hideous acts under the religious garb. Lord Krishna describes such men in Chapter16 verse 18 of the Bhagavad-Gita, "Self-conceited, haughty, filled with pride and intoxication of wealth, they perform sacrifices which are so in name only, with ostentation and regardless of the injunctions".

Since these people have got preconceived notions about religion, they hardly entertain other viewpoints. Therefore, chances of eliminating negative qualities through religion are slender for them. But there is always hope. If these people make conscious effort to overcome negative qualities under guidance of a realized soul - Spiritual Teacher or Guru - then they can improve. As lord Krishna declares in chapter 9 Verse 30 of Gita," Even if a man of very bad conduct worships Me with one pointed devotion, he is to be considered verily good, for he has resolved rightly". The sage Valmiki is a classic example of this since he, under the guidance of Narada, became a realized soul after being a robber in his early life.

On the other hand, there are no such problems for man who is a good human being. Let us now look at the case of a man who was agnostic, and yet was a great human being. The man in question is Gautama Buddha, who was described as the greatest Karma and Jnana Yogi by Swami Vivekananda. Buddha was a man who preached 'humanity' as the greatest religion. He declared that there is no need for us to bother about existence of God, when we have not even become good human beings. He preached love, compassion, and equality in the real sense of the word. Gautama Buddha showed us that man could become perfect without even believing in the existence of God. 'Worship of man as God' was also the gospel of Shri Ramakrishna and later it became the motto of Ramakrishna Mission under the guidance of Swami Vivekananda.

It is also necessary to look into what the Scriptures say about noble qualities in a human being. Shri Krishna in Book 11 Chapter12, of Srimad Bhagavatam, mentions the first requisites of spiritual life as 'doing no injury, truthfulness, honesty, modesty, patience, fearlessness, austerity, sacrifice etc.' These qualities among others are a must to begin spiritual journey in the right earnest. Shri Krishna again touches upon human values quite beautifully in Chapter 6 Verse 32 of the Gita, "O Arjuna, he who looks on all as his own self, perceiving the delight and sufferings of others as his own, such a yogi is deemed the highest of all."

Therefore, as we have seen, it is difficult to eliminate negative qualities while pursuing religion, but it is easier to attain perfection if we start pursuing religion after getting rid of negative qualities. Of course there is salvation for all, since we are all moving towards the same goal, but the journey becomes much easier and less tedious if we develop humane qualities. We are searching for God without much success, but if we can develop love, compassion and unselfishness, we would immediately feel a divine spark in ourselves.
Contributed By: Sonam Shyam

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