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Has religion been successful? Is religion of any value?
Author Acharya Prashant
Acharya Prashant
14 min
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Questioner (Q): In the previous question, you said that religion is essentially needed in spirituality, but in the name of religion Hindus fight with Muslims, Muslims fight with Hindus. So, why is religion needed?

Acharya Prashant (AP): The recorder you are speaking into will get saturated with your voice soon, why not throw it away? The dress that you are wearing will get spoiled very soon, why wear it at all? The specs that you are holding, won’t be there forever. They get dirty, they get broken; why use them?

Religion is not the Truth, religion is an enabler. Except for Truth, everything is ephemeral. Except for Truth, everything costs something. Except for Truth, everything has its limitations. So, religion has its limitations, but you have to carefully weigh the limitations against the benefits. If there were no religion, would you still sit in front of me here, like an obedient girl?

Tell me, what is it that makes you sit here obediently? Why are you calling me ‘Acharya Ji’? I am Prashant. And why must I be a guru? If you’re 30, I am 40. Look at me as a man. That’s what Prakriti has trained you to do, has it not? A 30-year-old is not supposed to look at a 40-year-old as a guru or something; you’re a body, I am a body. What makes you be disciplined? Is it fear? I hope it is not. What makes you look wide-eyed at me? What makes you try to understand? Is it your animal origins? No. No animal seeks to understand, they only seek to get some food.

You’re not getting it, are you? Alright, some of you are volunteers; many of you have never been paid a single paisa by the foundation. Why are you still here? Tell me. Why? Don’t you see the role of religion in this? But for religion, who would teach you that this is valuable? Akhil (one of the listeners) worked for 10 years in a management consulting firm; did they teach you that the Guru Granth Sahib is valuable? How is he sitting there then? And mind you, he is not earning a single penny out of being here. Did they teach that to you in your engineering or management course? Why is he sitting here? And he’s not a kid, his beard is about to turn grey.

We have taken so many things for granted. You go out and you help your neighbor and you think, “Oh, this is essential human nature.” No, this is not essential human nature. This is the effect of religion on man. But, we are ungrateful, we do not acknowledge that. Don’t you see that even tribal societies have their own versions of religion? Religion is so central to civilization even tribals need religions. Their religions are different, but they do have religions.

Without religion, there can be no civilization, man will remain a beast.

Q: But, I have not come to you by knowing your religion.

AP: You did not consciously know the religious basis of your actions, but as I said, “Religion is in the air.” And that’s the beauty of religion. Once it becomes the cultural norm, you do not have to be formally indoctrinated in it. It’s something that you then breathe in. The kid just looks at the mother and the grandmother and the neighbors and the uncles and the father, and he gets educated in religion. So, even if the kid has never read the Geeta or the Bible or the Quran, still he is versed in the fundamental principles. He may not specifically or formally know which verse of the Geeta is his behavior coming from, but surely the Geeta is impacting his behavior because the Geeta is in the air.

It was an Englishman who commented, he said, “Even the illiterate farmers of India are deeply spiritual.” Religion is in India’s soil. So, even if somebody has not known a single word from the scriptures, he’s still religious.

There are 25 festivals in a month, how will you not be religious? Three days every week you are fasting, how will you not be religious? And you do not know why exactly are you fasting, you are just saying, “Oh, today is Monday, so I have to fast.” But, that has taught you something. That has taught you that there is something higher than the body’s need for food, so you have to fast. You do not know why you are fasting, but this much has become known to you that once you pick up the fast, you cannot break it. Monday means Monday; you’ll not have food, you’ll not have water. So, it has been proven to you that you have to go beyond the body without the principle being stated to you officially or formally or in an academic way. Just because you pick it up from the air, does not mean that you will continue picking it up when it disappears from the air. And the kind of attitudes that are prevailing in the world today with respect to religion, they are conspiring to remove religion even from the air.

Yes, religion is still there in the air of distant godforsaken villages, the places you call as the interiors. There religion is still in the soil, in the air, but if you’ll ask me, “Is religion in the air of an advanced shopping mall?”, I’ll say, it is still there, but just as the carbon content is rising, particle content is rising in the air, similarly, irreligiousness is rising in the air and religion is on the decline.

Just because we find that even without formal religious education people are still behaving nicely, so we think that if religion is removed totally altogether, people will still continue to behave nicely. It’s a great myth, remove religion altogether and you’ll have nothing but beasts roaming the surface of this earth because there is nothing, I repeat, in man’s body or brain that encourages him or empowers him to behave in a saintly way. There is nothing at all.

If you take a man’s kid and leave him in the jungle without any contact with civilization for many many years, what do you expect to find, a creature full of insight, love, understanding, compassion? I hope we do not conduct that experiment upon anyone; one life would be lost forever, irretrievably. I’ve said this many a time, tonight I repeat this – only religion turns the beast into a human being. The human being is not born from the mother’s womb, the human beast is born from the mother’s womb. The human 'beast' is turned into the human 'being' by religion. No religion, no human being. And we already have a lot of beasts.

There are a lot of families where the air is really not religious and when they grow up, they are dry people. They just don’t understand a lot of things. It is almost as if their faculty to understand has shriveled, almost died down. Just by spending a few minutes with someone, I can tell whether or not the fellow is coming from a religious background. The eyes have it. If you’re coming from a background where there was very little religiosity, your face will be very animal-like or android-like.

If there is no religion, man is either animal or android. Have you not seen android babies these days? You call them cute. Or android youngsters? Look at the face of a Kabir Saheb or Baba Bulleshah and then look at the face of most youngsters of today, you’ll find something missing. You will not be able to put your finger on it. What is missing in the face of today’s youngsters or what is extra in the face of a Bulleshah? It is a certain religiosity. It’s fascinating just to look at faces, specifically the eyes. The eyes have it.

When I say ‘animal’, I mean he would be driven by his basic tendencies. When I say android, I mean to say he will or he might have a powerfully developed intellect, but neither do your basic tendencies nor your intellect define your humanness. Your humanness is defined by your heart and it is religion that brings the Heart to you. Androids are top-heavy, animals are bottom-heavy, you could say crotch heavy; but both of them bypass the heart. One operates from the top floor, the other operates from the basement; the human being operates from the center that is heart, and if you don’t have religion, you will have the android and the animal, but you will not have the human being, the one with heart. And it’s not as if the android and the animal are mutually exclusive, if you look at people, they are sometimes top-heavy and sometimes crotch-heavy and after a point, the top and the crotch start collaborating with each other. So, you use the top to fulfill the crotch.

Neither top nor bottom, be centered. Intellect is the top, animal instincts are the bottom, religiousness is to be centered here (indicating the heart) neither here (indicating the head) nor there (indicating lower part of body).

Q: You just talked about religious values being in the air, can’t that be a product of trial and error? As in, like you teach religious code of conducts to somebody and that becomes just a wrought memorization process for the person. You just mentioned about the scientist, the scientist is in a laboratory. Science cannot teach them to be jealous or not. We have fought two world wars; humans have fought two world wars even in presence of religion.

AP: So say, “Only two world wars, because religion is present.”

Q: They fought the war, despite religion being present.

AP: So, only two world wars, otherwise you will have a world war three times a day. Look at the way we are, so eager to pick fights on every trivial issue. Is it not a magical thing that we have had only two world wars till now? Please, before you complain, “Oh! We have had two world wars”, look at your face. You’re always fighting a world war within yourself. Are you not?

Man is so eager to occupy and consume the entire world, sometimes in the name of colonial expansion and sometimes in the name of tourism. How is it that there has been no major war in the last half a century? When somebody says, “You know, I have visited 125 countries”, is that very different from saying, “My forces have occupied 125 countries”? Is it out of love for those 125 countries that he has visited them? He does not love even his motherland, how will he love 125 countries? But, when a conqueror has a territorial lust, then you call it warmongering. When the so-called civilized tourist visits this place and that place and that place, then you say, “Oh, he is just an innocent wanderer. What else is he doing?”

We are probably still in dark about our dark tendencies. We do not know who we are. We probably have too high an opinion about ourselves. We just do not know who we are. Kindly drop all fantastic images that you might have of yourself. Man is evil incarnate; remove religion and nothing but the Satan remains. Man has tendencies of the beast and intentions of the devil. So, praise your stars that you have had only two world wars till now. Praise the ones who came down from the stars to give you religion.

Remember the answer I gave in the last session when Nimisha (one of the listeners) asked about the declining values in the youth of today? I said the same thing, why do you think that the youth must be principled and civilized? The fault does not lie with the youth, the fault lies with your misplaced expectations. By looking at one Vivekanand, you start imagining or dreaming or expecting that all youth can be like Vivekanand. And in this lies your ingratitude and disrespect towards Vivekanand. You do not know what kind of an impossibility a Vivekanand is. You do not appreciate him, so you feel that anybody and everybody can be a Vivekanand.

You do not know the colossal height of the Himalayas, so you start feeling that the little bit of mud you have gathered in your lawn must be able to have some snow on its peak. And then you complain, you say, “The Himalayas have so much snow on their peaks. I too have raised this little mound, five kilograms of earth I dug up. And then this hill I have created all of 24 inches height, but I do not see any snow on its peak.” You do not see any snow on its peak because you do not have respect for the glory of the Himalayas. You do not know what it takes to have your peaks crowned with snow; you feel that the crown is cheap. The snow crown does not come cheap, it requires the height of a giant. You do not respect the giant.

Human beings are all like those little mounds, those little heaps of earth on ground. The religious teachers, the Gurus, have been like the mighty Everest, but we keep comparing ourselves to them and feel disappointed when we do not find snow in our hair. Try being a Guru Nanak Dev or a Swami Vivekanand for one day; try living their life for one day, and then you will realize who we are. One hour? Please, somebody take the bait. For one hour try living as the Guru, and then you will realize how impossible a Guru is. And then you will realize where you would have been without the Gurus.

It’s become a fad to curse religion and to say, “Oh, all religions are outdated and we do not need to even read the ancient scriptures.” It’s become a fashionable thing. It is the vilest kind of ingratitude that deserves the most severe kind of punishment. And the punishment is forthcoming; man is suffering. Is there love in the animal world? Is there love in the android world? Go find out where love comes from.

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