We often hear the phrase “Practising Hindu,” “Practising Christian” or “Practising Muslim” to describe a person who visits the temple, church or mosque regularly and prays there to the God that he or she believes in.

Hindu religious practices include devotion (bhakti), worship (puja), sacrificial rites (yajna), meditation and yoga. A practising Christian goes to church to attend holy Mass at least once a week, and prays regularly at home. He also donates a percentage of his income to the poor.

Followers of Islam are called Muslims. The word Islam means “submission to the will of God.” The five pillars or tenets of Islam are faith, prayers, alms, fasting and pilgrimage. A practising Muslim prays five times a day and adheres to the other tenets of Islam.

Oswald Pereira

Born in a Christian family, I was a regular churchgoer as a youngster. I also prayed devoutly at home, alone, and along with my family members. That made me a good, practising Christian lad. So strong was my faith and assimilation of Christ’s teachings that I scored the highest marks in religion in class.

As I grew up and came face-to-face with the fanaticism in the church and the claim to exclusivity of Christianity ꟷ Christ is the only way to heaven ꟷ my faith fell by the wayside. My attendance at church plummeted and, soon, I joined the ranks of non-practising Christians.

Non-attendance at church was considered a grievous betrayal of faith. I came to bear the unholy tag of “sinner,” who would burn in the fires of hell. I felt rather unsettled in life, as my “holy” friends, relatives and siblings, settled down in “holy matrimony,” ꟷ the reward for being “practising Christians.”

Of course, there were some evangelical souls of the fairer sex, who offered to “reform” me and repair my faith so that I returned to the ritual of weekly mass in Church and became a practising Christian again ꟷ fully fit to be a good husband.

Fortunately or unfortunately, that was not to be … I ended up marrying a girl out of the Christian faith in a civil ceremony, ringing the death knell of me ever being a practising Christian. In fact, according to Church dogma ꟷ and so did devout, practising Christians pronounce ꟷ I was “living in sin,” as my marriage was considered “illegitimate”  by the Church.

The church, however, did not persecute me. Priests in holy robes or cassocks continued to be my friends. The pastor, head of the St. Mary’s Church in Noida, where I live, came visiting every second day, until he went away to do a doctorate in theology, in addition to the 12 years he had already spent in studying the scriptures in the seminary. He never mentioned religion to me or attempted to bring me back to the practising Christian fold.

One day, after seeking my consent, he had the nuns of the nearby Assisi Convent School, with some other Christian men and women, come over to celebrate Mass at our home. The nuns, I felt, were not walking but floating in the air, looking so beatific and joyful.

One of them, who seemed to be the head or “Mother Superior,” quietly presented me a copy of the New Testament without uttering a word. There was no talk of church or returning to it.

Till this day, I continue to be a non-practising Christian. I have tried to be spiritual without being religious. There’s been some progress on the first aspect. But the road to spirituality is a long journey.

I believe everyone has the right to practise his or her religion ꟷ or to not practise it.

Every community has the right to build their own places of worship. But the moment we claim that our temple, church or mosque, is better or the best one, and the others are not as good, we cease to be practising Hindus, Christians or Muslims.

The simple Truth is that one God resides everywhere, whether in a temple, a church or a mosque.

God has the same smile for a Hindu, Christian, a Muslim or person of any other faith.  His Light shines on each one of them, now and through eternity.

The most important thing for us to do in our present state of living is to first practise becoming true human beings ꟷ then the practise of our religion, will bring us Ananda or bliss that we all deserve as real children of God.

Oswald Pereira, a senior journalist, has also written eight books, including The Newsroom Mafia, Chaddi Buddies, The Krishna-Christ Connexion, How to Create Miracles in Our Daily Life and Crime Patrol: The Most Thrilling Stories. Oswald is a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda, and practises Kriya Yoga.

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