Every religion aims to provide aids for followers to connect with SELF. The discovery of the SELF brings about realization. Though it appears to be very easy, the mind plays havoc in distracting us from achieving this goal. Most religions provide the declaration of the absolute truth and supplement it with the ways and means for moving towards it through some actions. As the person gets more and more away from the truth or the declaration, the religion provides for even more worldly level suggestions. This has resulted in every religion adopting a number of philosophical explanations (reasoning) and related behaviours or practices, in an attempt to accommodate the multitudes who may want to walk its way. It was expected that based on the personal inclination people would pick and chose combinations of behaviours or practices to aid the intellect in using the philosophical portions to realize the declaration.
But most often people get stuck with the behaviours or practices and lose the intent behind them. For example the spirit behind fasting or pranayama is lost in the process of actually skipping meals and controlling breath. If one could look at the available variations and associated reasons within just these two – one would easily get swayed by the sheer number of methods available. When the spirit is lost the activity does not elevate the person and hence the philosophical portions always remain just an intellectually stimulating experience.
Irrespective of the level at which this happens, the loss is the same.
Hence every religious practitioner should understand the spirit behind the various practices by making genuine self enquiry. Once the use of the practice has helped reach a certain level, the person must let go and pick up the next level of practices. As one progresses from the physical plane more and more to the subtler planes, he or she is bound to feel the drop in level of activity. Ironically as one moves higher, the lack of activity in the practice could be so daunting that people drop back to the level of more activity driven world.
This constant indulgence in activities reduces the importance and time spent in reflecting on the spirit behind the actions. Very often when one (for that matter even a child) wants to understand the spirit behind a religious practice it is dismissed as waste of time or as sacrilegious. The unintended consequence of this is that a person remains stuck in the web of practice.
This is best captured by the anguish expressed by Swami Vivekananda that Religion in our country is getting confined to the kitchen. The reason why we are unable to see what religion stands for in its intent is because we are unable to look beyond the practices! Till we do this – religions will seem to differ from each other in their practice and their purpose!