Sadly, these days, Many have come to hate the very word, ‘Religion.’ That is Unfortunate. But of course there are Many who Misuse ‘Religion’ for their own Ends. Many use it to Make Money! Many others use it for the heady wine called ‘Power.’
I offer You a sort of a Primer on Religion…
People have come to think of Religion as some set of rules,
- as things to be done,
- or things that are done,
- or even things that are ‘Supposed’ to be done!
Here is what You will get if You order an OMELETTE in most Tamilian, small, roadside restaurants!
Not only that, they have horrible names like, ‘Aap aayil,’ which should stand for the Soft Boiled Egg. But in actuality, just about Nobody eats Soft boiled Eggs in Tamil Nadu!
- If something is Called an Omelette, it is Not necessarily one,
- What is Called a ‘HOTEL’ in INDIA is Actually a RESTAURANT according to the Dictionary, and similarly,
What Many People think of as religion is NOT Really Religion, in its Real Sense.
THE ABOVE EXAMPLES SHOULD BE ENOUGH TO PROVE THAT THERE CAN BE MUCH DIFFERENCE BETWEEN WHAT PEOPLE THINK, AND THE REAL THING.
Let me give some Concrete examples of these Misunderstandings, all from Christianity, and catholicism, at that.
1. For the ‘Easter’ midnight mass, there are supposed to be 9 readings from the lectionary (the book of readings). …Here I am, who writes 700 to 1000 word articles on Blog, but who likes posts of Smaaaal length! Getting the Time, Passion and Desire, and in my case, the sheer Energy, to go through lengthy essays becomes a challenge. And I am Sure I am not alone in this.
In such a situation, it is expected that ‘catholics’ would really ‘Listen’ to all the 9 readings, and then pay full attention to whatever the priest feels inspired to say. This after all the ceremonies of Lighting the New Fire, and Listening to the ‘Praise’ of what that fire represents. True, even Adults fall over each other competing to light their candles from ‘The Candle.’ But is that Religion?
Are not catholic pastors (just to change the word!) told to clam up in 10 minutes or so! After all, catholics have NOT yet developed the same Love for the Bible as members of the Other churches!
…Nowadays, the laity (the people) get a chance to read out(!) an ‘Introduction’ to the readings. Dark becomes the brow of the fellow who did not get his chance before the mike!
In all the above, Absolute Form, and NO Heart, I would say!
So, when a particular parish priest wanted to reduce the number of readings, and asked the laity to leave out the ‘introductions,’ a proper Ruckus took place there!
Reading and Hearing all the 9 readings prescribed for the Easter midnight mass, or the 3 on Sundays, does Not make one Religious.
2. Here We have some Juicy examples from North India. Let me give two, both to do with practices with the burial of the dead.
In a particular ‘belt’ of the North, they sprinkle ‘Puffed Rice’ on the way to cemetery. Here We have some puffed rice below. Such an Important item, too! Handy, to say the least.
And there, after the readings, the burial and the blessings are over, they dutifully leave a pot with some milk, with a small hole at its bottom, to strengthen the departed soul on his further journeys!
Among the other things left there is what is called a Winnowing Basket! What would the poor soul do, in case he finds some grains of paddy or wheat, and if he does not have one of these most important and useful items! …Below We see a woman using the basket in the proper way. The wind blows away the chaff.
3. Now an example from South India, particularly Tamil Nadu, which is a very traditional ‘citadel’ of catholicism, whatever they understand of it! Continuing with the Burial/Funeral ‘Traditions,’ I found some people Passing their Children over and across the Grave of a Newly Buried person! I did not have a ‘Cell phone’ in those days, and the Net has not yielded any Results for pictures of this.
‘Seeing’ these things practiced, like, Scattering Puffed rice on the way, Leaving Milk and Other items on the Grave, Passing Children over the Grave, etc, one can start thinking that ‘Religious Rites’ are being practiced, or that that is Religion.
We can call these ‘Left-overs’ from the Early Mindsets of our Ancestors. These Are actual and present practices of those who follow Animist religions. Many of these usages have crept into Other, Established religions. They are Not part of what is Held or Taught in Established religions. But the Surprising thing is that those who are supposed to ‘Teach’ keep Real Quiet on such conventions, often Condoling them as ‘culture.’
But the Real issue is that there is the Real Danger of people leaving en-masse if such practices are objected to by the Religious Heads. That does not happen because This does not happen, to speak in the language of P.G.Wodehouse!
So what are the ‘priests,’ etc, supposed to do? Allow people to practice these things? The thing is, if We are taking the case of Christianity, We will see that neither Christ, nor His Disciples Taught these things. On the contrary, both these Disciples and the Bible itself Actually condemn many such customs.
After all, religion is Not like some Street game that the Children play, Conveniently changing rules if it suits them, (and if that is Possible, of course, – you have to be Big for that!).
(Photo Not mine! And I hope what is written is the reference).
When I was a Youth, around the areas where I lived, Chess was played like that. The possibility of moving Your Pawn two houses the first time if You wished, the ‘en passant,’ even Castling, were not accepted. It was not just an Ignorance of the game. It was the Rule of the Street!
If somebody wants to have a ‘Village Science’ kind of an Understanding of Religion, it cannot be helped. And Many are proceeding on just those lines. But the Idea of Religion has Developed now.
[This post is the first in a series under the category of Religion. We shall see What Religion IS in the next. To go to it You can click here.]