Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Religion - Not a Site for Violence

(This is a revised form of my response to a blog. Nothing original is these random reflections, but I still choose to post them, braving charges of mouthing platitudes and tinkering around with truisms. I do this ’cos we live in times when clichés need to be stated, defamiliarised. Familiarity breeds contempt, and when great truths are contemptuously dismissed as clichés, they need to be reinstated. Truth never becomes irrelevant simply because they are hackneyed. So here I go - - )

All religions are expressions of man’s search for the infinite. This search in not done in an ethereal vacuum - but down here, on the earth, on the ground, on the soil of our day to day life.

The first step towards the realization of the infinite is purging the mind of negative emotions and filling it with love - love of mankind.

If we negotiate our way through the peripherals of religions, we will arrive at the great truth that the core values of all religions are the same. There is no space in this core for violence and inequity. They are gross elements that adulterate the magnificent endeavour of mortals to reach out towards eternity. They can never be part of any religion, part of this search for the infinite. The presence of these elements with the label of religion attached to them can be ascribed to flawed interpretation and practice of religion.

A violent Christian should relinquish the label ‘Christian’. So should believers of other religions. The greatest disservice to religious teachers/teachings is to inflict injury on fellow human beings in the name of religion. Christians did it for a long period of time. The leaders have apologized several times for the crimes against humanity in the name of religion.

Indians too proselytized. Buddhism spread in the eastern part of Asia through the agency of Buddhist monks who took upon themselves the task of spreading the great man’s teachings. But how peacefully this religion was disseminated! Not a drop of blood was shed in the process. Buddha’s insistence on ahimsa was adhered to with great passion by his messengers.

Hinduism did not have a history of violence in the name of religion. Our ancestors were the ideal practitioners of religion. Religion was practiced as it truly should be – as a way of life. Hinduism was a way of life.

Alas! Those were glorious days. Hindus achieved long time back what followers of other religions are still striving to achieve. But, sadly, instead of perpetuating the great tradition of being model practitioners of religion, Hindus are now making the mistakes committed by the followers of other religions, mistakes which the rational and enlightened among the other religions are trying to rectify. What an irony!

And what a great disservice to Hinduism and to our proud, glorious tradition.


  1. Teacher,
    A sense of insecurity is where it all starts.
    When there was no so called Hinduism, Adi Shankara felt insecurity with the influx of religions like Buddism and Jainism in Kerala.
    This lead to a massive movement that brought Hinduism as a religion.
    Jain and Buddist temples were converted to Hindu temples. Their traditions were imbibed into Hinduism.These two religions were fought tooth and nail and finally they were uprooted from Kerala.

    This sense of insecurity has been there for ages.Its Utopian to think otherwise.


  2. Nice Post! I was planning a blog-post on similar lines. I think there has to be an end to religion based feuds. It is deeply affecting our socirty and life.

  3. Reply to what you asked :
    Teacher-that is pretty evident in every line. Headmistress style alle ezhuth :)

    Teacher ennum teacher aanu, retire aayalum :)


  4. one thing that surprises me is
    the feeling of insecurity one feels when one's religion is threatened...why? your religion(even though you maybe born into it) is only as strong as your conviction is...so if your conviction is strong your religion shoulnt feel threatened,come what may..right?do i need to put down another to feel good about yours?
    who cares about MF Hussain's paintings or the Davinci code?If im a true Hindu/true christian do i need to care about an artist's rendition ?coz that is it after all..someone else sees it some other way..
    which gets me to the point that we are not the true beleivers.....the sense of insecurity arises from lack of conviction and those are easily fuelled.......

  5. @ N Narayan & renu
    you couldnt b more right.
    sense of insecurity reg religion-an issue worth looking at.
    renu, like u said, if all is well with u & ur God, it matters v little what anyone else says, does. religion is a v personal thing-and
    -Nikhil N-when u institutionalise it, it becomes less & less personal.Reg Adi Shankara-i wouldnt question his motives. true, he reinstated hinduism but he was motivated by his conviction - his belief that this expansive, all encompassing religion called hinduism shouldnt give way to another for want of mystics and dedicated teachers. he is a reformer who believed that he had in his custody TRUTH in the purest form available to man.
    it's more than politics.

  6. Good post. Sense of insecurity is carefully cutivated by those who want to gain political power and money using religion. They want to portray that the religion is under attack and only they the communalists can protect it.It is the same for communalists of all religions. So Bush is needed for Bin Laden and vice versa. Bajrang Dal needs Lashkar and vice versa.
    All these communalists are only after political power and money. They actually do not care much about religion.For them religion is the vehicle that will take them to their goal.

  7. You wouldnt believe it. If asked choose between the 2 - forced conversion or killing of innocent humans, which was worse - many would cling to choice 1 and claim choice 2 as result of choice 1!
    It drives me insane when I cant drive home a simple point like that to people my age! I mean its not like they are a generation too old and deep rooted in beliefs to accept what was really happening and how should it be perceived!

    I always like to believe in "the good hearts" of human beings, but I really dont see how I could have any hope at all. Noone would even listen to reason.

  8. Nice post but I do differ with you slightly. Most people want to view religion based on their own personal beliefs (religious and non religious). You obviously believe that a violent Christian should relinquish the lable "Christian".

    Unfortunately all religious texts including the Bible, Koran or the Vedas are full of texts that encourage the believer to commit violent acts against the non-believers or the infedels. So a person who follows the Bible word for word can be a Christian and a violent person. Same for other religions.

  9. @ hari

    i'm afraid i have to differ from you on this. Being a christian, i can speak with some authority only on the Bible. Am sure all religious pundits will tell you the same about the other scriptures.

    Christianity is a religion founded on the teachings of Christ ie, that which is recorded in the 4 gospels - of matthew , mark, luke and john. CHRIST DOES NOT COMPROMISE ON THE ISSUE OF VIOLENCE. you probably have the Old Testament in mind when you associate violence with xianity. Christ qualifies the teachings of the Old testament when he says : THIS NEW COMMANDMENT I GIVE YOU-LOVE ONE ANOTHER AS I HAVE LOVED YOU.
    The Bible consists of Old Testament and New Testament. tHE Old Testament is the history of the evolution of a certain people to prepare them for mandatory practice of nonviolence as a way of life.
    look at it like this. in the early books of the Bible (Old Testament), we have the Ten Commandments which is a comprehennsive set of norms on nonviolence and a peaceful social coexistence. from that point onwards, the Old testament talks of the way the Israelites tried to conform to the 10 laws, and failed often to be punished by God, but were rewarded when they obeyed the commandments.
    The new Testament begins with the lineage of Christ, his birth and teachings. That is the basis of Christianity. Like i said Christ absolutely refuses to provide for violence in his philosophy.

    Tho i am not in a position to talk about any other religious scriptures, this i know. When Buddha preached total ahimsa, he too was speaking to a evolved people who were already exposed to the concept of ahimsa through Hinduism.

  10. In my opinion Bible is the word of god and not just the New Testament. The Old Testament lays the foundation for teaching found in the New Testament. But to say that the teachings are for mandatory practice of nonviolence as a way of life would strictly be an interpretation and obviously not the only one.

    Considering Christianity as a religion based on the Teaching of Christ found in the 4 gospels only is a valid interpretation but not the only interpretation. Evangalical Christians freely quote from the Old Testament when convenient.

    Violent messages are also found in the New Testament. Matthew 10:34-45 says the following: "Do not think that I have come to send peace on Earth. I did not come to send peace, but a sword. I am sent to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law"

    Luke 19:26-27 says the following: "I tell you that to everyone who has, more will be given, but as for the one who has nothing, even what he has will be taken away. But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them-bring them here and kill them in front of me".

    Ofcouse the New Testament itself is not a stand alone document. Anywhere from 4% to 25% of the verses (depending on how its counted) is copied from the Old Testament.

  11. @ hari
    'In my opinion Bible is the word of god and not just the New Testament'
    i stand by what i said earlier. Christianity in the off shoot and reinterpretation of judaism, based exclusively on the teachings of Christ which put in context the ten commandments.
    'Evangalical Christians freely quote from the Old Testament when convenient'
    agreed. all christians do that. inevitable, considering that the old testament forms the context within which christianity needs to be interpreted.
    The 2 quotations that you have given form the most oft misinterpreted and quoted out of context quotations of christ:-). if read it in context, they are not propogation of violence or unfair practice.
    Matt 10: 34-45 predicts exactly what happened after christianity spread like wild fire after christ's death. many of those who converted to christianity from among jews and all european and asian nations were disowned from their families and persecuted severely by traditionalists and authorities. This is the sword that Christ talks about.
    The Luke quote is from a parable -a situation from real life - an allegory, if you like.'everyone who has' is the servant to whom talents(money) was entrusted and who did business with it and increased the amount."the one who has nothing" is the one who kept the talent safe without investing it and returned it to the master as it is. it is the human responsibility to improve oneself spiritually that is the issue here. The last line refers to the people who wanted to usurp the master who was being honoured by the king.
    christ uses a lot of real life situations to make his teachings comprehensible to the people.
    sorry, i dont mean to use my blog space for preaching - each one is free to interpret as he pleases. but the popularity of these two quotes have never ceased to amuse me. so i thought i'll give my take.


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