A man who was suffering from a grave disease was brought to a highly established doctor. The doctor had treated many with similar ailments and he immediately wrote a prescription. The doctor told the patient that if he followed strictly to his prescription, he would be well in no time!
Filled with gratitude, the man thanked the doctor profusely and returned home.
However, instead of following the doctor’s prescribed medication, the man placed a figurine of the doctor on an altar. He began to pray to this figurine fervently, day and night, asking that his disease be cured. He even took out the prescription and chanted it 3 times a day, each time making 108 rounds around the doctor’s figurine.
The man was certain that with his efforts, he was going to be cured.
When his neighbors visited and saw that he was still gravely ill, they suggested for him to visit another doctor. This man flatly refused. He argued that his doctor’s prescription was the best, and continued his daily ritual.
Eventually the man passed away. Up till his death bed, he had not taken any of his doctor’s prescribed medication.
After reading this story shared by S.N Goenka during Vipassana, you might think “What a crazy man this is! He deserved his sorry ending.” What we do not realize is that many people are behaving just like this man in their religious beliefs!
Our Religious Irrationality
All religions advocate love, compassion, brotherhood and forbearance. They advise on proper moral conduct and refrain from actions that harm or deceive others. These are their prescriptions – Purify your mind and actions; Do virtuous actions; Refrain from harming others.
Yet instead of following these prescriptions, we build figurines of Gods and Goddesses and put them on pedestals. We create rituals tand abide strictly to them, believing that everyone should follow suit. We get into heated arguments when others question our rituals and beliefs and are quick to criticise others’ rituals and beliefs.
If only we can truly see ourselves and how irrational our actions are!
The Purpose of Religion
Please do not get me wrong. I am completely for religion and its moral teachings. In fact, it is hugely beneficial for a person to be religious, to be inspired by a noble person or teachings.
Take a Buddhist for instance. This is a person who lives by the teachings of Buddha. Buddha, known for his indiscriminate love and compassion, served others his whole life. It is a wonderful thing to be a Buddhist as one strives to imbibe these very qualities of Buddha.
However, if the Buddhist does not show or exhibit a trace of love and compassion, always hoarding and never giving, what is the point of claiming that he is a Buddhist? What is the point of going to temples? There is absolutely no use.
The same is true for a Christian. To take refuge in Jesus Christ who is such a saintly person is beautiful. Even when Jesus was crucified, he was pleading to God not to punish those that harm him for those people were ignorant. Anyone who claims to be a Christian should be inspired by such magnanimity and love and develop the same qualities in himself.
Personally, I do not subscribe to any one religion but respect all religion that advocate noble teachings. Vipassana has helped me to be mindful and prioritize a religion’s teachings before its rituals. I have found it extremely inspirational to remind myself of the noble qualities that I am striving to develop.