What’s the Point?
What is the point of practicing a religion if that practice does not give us the strength to control our desires, ego and anger? What is the point of all those prestigious degrees and name tags, if they do not give us good manners and the self-control to manage our own tongue and emotions?
I was brought up in a family that practiced Hinduism. My dad was invited to many devotional gatherings to sing bhajans, these are Indian devotional songs. Both in Kenya where I was born, and London where I grew up, these love songs to God formed a background music in my life. Dad has a good voice, (some people think), and he also plays the harmonium well. In fact, we could probably create a mini Philharmonic Orchestra with all the musical instruments we have in our family house; we have three sets of tablas, two harmoniums, a guitar, smaller instruments such as tambourines and I don’t know the names of the other instruments!
Living in an extended family, my father felt it is his duty to sit with all the small grandchildren. His aim was to get them playing something or the other whilst he sang away to his heart’s content. I doubt my nieces or nephews understood a word of the songs he sang, but it was a great Sunday afternoon activity for the kids and everyone felt useful in Dad’s band, even if they were out of tune and missed the chorus lines!
My parents tried very hard to infuse in us a sense of morality, fairness and justice. They encouraged in us a much more universal and deeper wisdom through spirituality. That’s why when my parents came across the Raja Yoga meditation they immediately leapt right into it. I was pretty small, but I could hear my father telling others that he felt that he now understood what he was singing about in his songs! Wah! After all those years of singing his heart out! Both my parents felt they found what they were truly seeking through meditation; that inner peace of mind and connection with God.
As they embarked on their spiritual journey, so did all of us, the children. I always consider myself to be very lucky that I grew up being more spiritual than religious. I was always encouraged to listen to my inner voice and never asked to do anything which was simply a ritual. I wanted to do everything with understanding. My parents encouraged us to question and think for ourselves, to always make our own decisions. I found all these to be healthy habits for our spiritual growth.
This is where I come full circle back to where I started. What is the point of religion if it does not teach us love and respect? There is that wonderful saying from Mother Teresa: ‘Helping hands are better than Praying Lips.’ What is the point of all the religious wisdom of the world, if it does not help us to tame our anger and ego and show some compassion? It is better to be a good human without any labels, than all the pomp and show. Good actions always speak louder.
Religion itself does not just include a belief in some super being that we call the Divine, but also having respect for that which is sacred. If we see this from a spiritual perspective, then the point and purpose would be one of re-alignment, with the aim of putting things, basically our thinking, back into balance. So what has happened? How have we moved so far from the original point and purpose of religion? How have we moved away from the Divine and the sacred?
Surely common sense says we need to practice something that gives us a sense of inner power. It is not just a matter of ‘doing’ all the externals and rituals, of just pleasing ourselves with a task accomplished, such as going to the church, temple or praying five times a day. Or learning psychology, science and engineering, if we do not apply those results in our own life. Do we not need to do some inner work, some inner cleaning of our consciousness? Don’t we need to practice using virtues?
Spirituality and the gentle art of meditation does exactly that. It brings us back to ourselves and asks us to look at ourselves within the mirror of our own heart. I say heart and not mind, because spirituality is not a thinking business, it is a heart business. We need to develop our heart, that love and intuitive feeling. We need to invest in our heart, and have love and compassion for all living beings and for Mother Earth. Love is a ‘being’ business, not a doing business.
Spirituality teaches us to love not only ourselves, but to love and appreciate other souls too. Not to fall, so low as to lose our self-respect… and also not to fly so high as to dis-regard and dis-respect the feelings of others. To master every moment of life with love, kindness and compassion. This is the only way forward for us to survive as humanity. Spirituality leads us back to the light and out of the darkness of ignorance and forgetfulness.
It’s Time… to get back to the point! We are not here to become trapped in rituals and outward displays of devotion, but to get back to the heart, back to the love and back to the virtues. That is our purpose in being here.
© ‘It’s Time…’ by Aruna Ladva, BK Publications London, UK