It’s silly to divide people on the basis of religion and community, says OSWALD PEREIRA

God created us as intelligent human beings, capable of making good, informed choices. But somehow our intelligence seems to go for a toss when it comes to our religion and community.

Perfectly sane and intelligent men and women seem to become opposites of their true nature, appearing almost silly when talking about their religion or community. Fortunately, God is a kind, compassionate and benign Supreme Being, with a great sense of humour; He laughs indulgently at our follies giving us many chances to return to our true Self.

What makes the situation paradoxical is that our great contemporary gurus and teachers, too, lose their intelligence when preaching on religion. I vividly recall the day in my teens when Father Joseph Pereira, whom I adored, and saw God in him, suddenly declared in my school catechism class, ‘The only way to heaven is through Christ.’

Father, who looked so confident, uttered these words with such finality that the whole catechism class, seemed to have swallowed his declaration, hook, line and sinker, like trapped fish in the ocean.

Paramhansa Yogananda: You may follow any religion; but what is most important is establishing kinship with God.

The fanaticism in the Catholic church drove me away to seek God elsewhere in a less dogmatic milieu. But after searching for several decades, it seems the same old story, the same old silly lines ― I am better than you; we are better; our religion is the superhighway to God; we have the eternal religion, embracing all religions, but our religion, which is part of the eternal religion, is better than yours.

There’s a lot of talk about universalism, oneness and equality of religions, but in reality and practice, it’s a never ending story of one-upmanship.

It is silly when a fanatical Christian refers to a non-Christian as a ‘pagan.’ But it’s equally silly when a fanatical Hindu says that she or he is born in the faith because of ‘good karma’ and would continue to be born so, forever. I have had the ‘silly’ fortune of actually coming across such individuals in both faiths ― with silly superiority complexes of their own religions.

The result of all this silliness is the mixing of religion with politics ― and recently, the mixing of religion with sports. It was a sad day when the name of the Supreme Lord Rama ― who is above religion and narrow parochialism ― was chanted in the World Cup final between India and Australia. Not only was the noble sport of cricket made a matter of national pride, but also a religious cause.

The way the minority Muslim community is targeted is, however, not silly. It’s a shame. Hey, guys, they are not different, but like any other Indian, in thinking and upbringing. The Mughal rulers have long gone. They have not left behind their legacy of palaces and riches to the Muslims in India. They are not by any silly stretch of imagination related to those Mughal rulers.

In like manner, Christians don’t owe allegiance to any queen or king of England. The British didn’t leave behind any of their loot to Christians.

(Pic courtesy: PTI)

Christians and Muslims are like any other Indian, working honestly and hard for a living. I personally know so many Muslims in the bureaucracy, journalism, teaching, corporate jobs, as vice presidents in banks, CEOs of companies, and so on. They are good people.

We all saw on television how the dozen rat miners, dug through the debris in the last 14 meters of the tunnel to rescue the 41 trapped miners in Uttarakhand. The first to reach the miners was Munna Qureshi.

Seven of the rat miners happened to be Muslims. That was a mere coincidence. This is how, we should look at the event, and avoid giving it a colour of religion.

Our birth as Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs, Buddhists, Jains, Parsis, and so on, is a mere coincidence.

It’s not karma. If you believe otherwise, then you are giving karma a silly name.

Oswald Pereira

The great sage and yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda,  puts the issue in perspective when he says: “A person may be Christian or Jewish, Buddhist or Hindu, Muslim or Zoroastrian; he may proclaim that Jesus Christ is the only way, or Buddha, or Mohammed—as indeed, millions of believers do. He may insist that this ritual, or that place of worship, bestows salvation. But it all comes down to what he is, in himself.”

He concludes, “The masters don’t tell people, ‘You will be saved by the religion you follow, outwardly.’ They tell them, ‘You will be saved by what you do, personally, to establish your kinship with 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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