Holistic Living - Ritual-Reason-Religion
by Life Positive
Many questions arise: Aren't ritualists dogmatic, rationalists argumentative, and religionists communal? Can reason prune rituals to branch out into religion? Do rituals purify? Can reason make you wiser? Does religion lead to spiritual maturity, endless peace and power? Each R by itself can no doubt be a cause for concern or suspicion, but, as links in a chain, they form the acts and facts of faith. Rituals are born of man's adoration for that unseen power underlying the mystery of life.
Each religion prescribes its own set of practices, as means of adoration or appeasement. Worship encourages humility and surrender, resulting in chitta shuddhi (purification of consciousness), which is essential for inner growth. Traditional acts of faith are integral to religious belief. They are patterned into the cultural fabric of a region and period. In some cultures they grow to such proportions that the real significance is lost (as in the case of Vedic rituals).
In recent times, many tedious practices have been reduced to instant formulas by priests. It is necessary to trim the frills and remove the accretions that accumulate over time. To remain meaningful and also to serve the purpose of self-discipline and purification, rituals must evolve with changing times. Several progressive societies reject rituals outright, dismissing them as superstitious mumbo-jumbo. Yet others usher in a revival of ancient practices, as seen in the return of vaastu shastra principles. Rituals in themselves are not harmful, what is important is the attitude and the intent of the performer.
And this brings us to the second R of spiritual growth—Reason. Belief supported by reason and experience culminates in realisation. When we understand that the law of karma is simply the cause and effect principle, we realise the reasonableness of leading an ethical life. Faith strengthened by reason can transform emotion into devotion. Emotions invariably mature in the realm of reason. Instead of questioning the suitabi-lity of rituals, we must concentrate on ethical excellence. Over-dependence on reason can erode faith and result in an ego build-up. A fine balance is, therefore, required.
For when we reason out things, we gather information. And when we use this information, we become knowledgeable. How we use this knowledge is called wisdom, the way of jnana yoga. You have to go beyond the senses and knowledge to comprehend spiritual truth; with the help of reasoning, we seek within. And reason, enriched by discrimination, intuition, inspiration and revelation grows into truth consciousness, finally widening into cosmic consciousness.
According to Paramahansa Yogananda, "If you work all the time, you become mechanical and lose Him in preoccupation with your duties and if you seek Him only through discriminative thought you lose Him in the labyrinths of endless reasoning; and if you cultivate only devotion for God your development may become merely emotional. But meditation combines and balances all these approaches." This takes us to the third R-Religion, that ancient art of living, that secret formula underlying this ever-changing world. Religion is the blueprint for a purposeful life. It assimilates and accommodates various influences.
Religious tenets must be such that they have universal validity and perennial significance. All religions have a spiritual goal and aim at human welfare. Why, then, has religion been the cause of so many conflicts, human suffering and exploitation? What makes it such a potent tool for priests and politicians? A force both binding and divisive?
For many, religion today signifies just a Sunday morning ritual or an annual pilgrimage. For others, religion is a symbol of social identification. Worse, many people who flaunt religion and their spiritual superiority are often those who lead a life of over-indulgence and degeneration. Modern 'rituals' like bribery and hypocrisy thrive. Seized by world weariness, T.S. Eliot once asked: "Where is the life we have lost in living?" Let us now simplify our lost lives with sincere enthusiasm and compassion. For it is only when we reach out to others with a kind word, a helping hand, a friendly eye, that we live in religion, moment to moment.
Dr. Meenakshi Bana, India
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