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Vedantic Wednesday: How well do you know your religion?

I can track back my interest in spirituality to my formative years. Like most other people I got acquainted to the culture of the ecosystem in which I was brought up.  During the course of my upbringing I was exposed in bits and pieces to various facets of the Hindu religion. As I grew up and started getting involved in limited proportions to chanting of vedic hymns and routine practices, I began to accept that my understanding that following these gives me the security of being a devout and religious person. So for a long time I was under the impression that spirituality meant practice of the religion’s code of conduct.  Hence following it brought acknowledgement to my association with the Hindu religion.

Over a period of time practicing the suggested code of conduct and some experiences increased my curiosity, which led to my questioning if I really understood what I was doing.  Being naturally inclined to books for information and knowledge, I started digging into religion and spirituality. What surprised me most was much of spirituality and religion was philosophy. As I was reading various books on these subjects, the doubts received greater affirmation. There was something intriguing about what I heard about Hinduism from many senior and aged people. I also attended discourses and tried to meet up people who have taken up religion more seriously.  What I was being told about religion at a routine level and what it actually intended to achieve, I found was very different. And understanding this difference I felt was very important in a person’s evolution.

Some of the definitive clarifications I have received till date that have created an impact in my thinking are:

  1. ‘Hinduism’ is not an Indian word – it was what foreign conquerors who came to India termed us or rather our way of living as.
  2. The aboriginal (native) people were guided by certain broad guidelines for living, which had nothing to do with religion as it is known today. This set of guidelines was called Sanatana Dharma
  3. The non-changing part of the basic knowledge was split from that which changes with reference to context. The Vedas formed the non-changing parts of this knowledge base. They state the basic truths as discovered by the greatest enlightened masters. For a more detailed look at what the vedic literature contains please refer to http://rajshankar.wordpress.com/2012/01/18/vedantic-wednesdays-structuring-of-vedas-technical-and-spiritual/
  4. The changing part of the knowledge base was the flexibility given to people based on various factors and situations including but not limited to occupation. Thus the changing part of knowledge base was characterised by flexibility and over the generations has adapted itself to suit the needs of the current state of civilization
  5. For convenient and effective way of running society, people were divided into four broad groups with each one having defined responsibilities on behalf of everybody else. This division for the greater good, after many rounds of degeneration has today resulted in what is called the caste system. The basic fundamental reason why this exists is because division is being seen as a way of personal benefit.

There are many more learnings which I continue to pick up as I meet more learned people, and also read much deeper texts.  But beyond all these interesting trivia, what I have come to fundamentally believe is that spirituality is a way to SELF realization.  All religions and their core texts aid a person in reaching this exalted state. Any other use of religion is not its true intended purpose.

It is time people begin to first clarify, search and find for themselves what ‘Religion’ actually means. And how spirituality can help an individual grow in whatever is their current choice of religion.  Therefore, what is of greater importance is the understanding of the core intent of a religion rather than the choice of the religion itself.

Religions across the gamut is only the means to an end called SELF realization. All religions in their nascent form have been designed to serve this and only this purpose. It is we who in all our ignorance and short sightedness perceive religion as an end by itself!

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