Many consider religion as the ultimate. There has been bloodshed, blind faith and violence when it comes to religion, rather, defending religion. But religion is only a stepping stone, not the goal. The goals can be many – salvation, mukti or eternal bliss, to be a good human being.
Temples and gods help the seeker to achieve one of these goals. But many of us are stuck on the steps, forgetting to climb further. Many mistake the step to be the goal.
One should remember that in the early Vedic period, there were no gods. Nature was worshipped because nature helped sustain life. After that came codification of rules that converted a chaotic living to an orderly one. As a logical extension came advice, not rules, to help people to have compassion, love and kindness. That is where the spiritual journey began.
It is like the space probes. To reach outer space, you need high-powered rockets, boosters etc. But on the way, all these rockets and boosters are discarded and the probe is unattached and alone in the silence and beauty of outer space where the sky has no colour, the stars are brighter and mysteries and truth unfold.
That is how our journey should be. Religion, rituals and gods are rockets and boosters for you to attain spirituality. And once you attain spirituality, you will not need temples and gods. The god in you manifests. You become kind, compassionate, discard anger and jealousy, possessiveness and ego. You learn to let go and radiate love and bliss like the Buddha. The Buddha was seen as a living god, but he did not claim to be a god himself. He went beyond caste, rituals, gods and temples to attain Nirvana.
Religion should help us reflect on how we can better our lives. Belief in Gods helps us in polishing ourselves to bring out the gem in us.
As the Buddha said: learn how to meditate, think and starve. It is only then that our lives would be centred on love – love for God which translates to love for our fellow beings. We become more patient, more tolerant, more compassionate to others. The grief of others will move you, the bliss you see in others would motivate you further.
Same was the case with Guru Gobind Singh who shunned rituals and superstitions and preached respect for women, and considered everyone equal. The Guru’s overall message was that one should look upon all persons as deserving of kind treatment, having a license to lead a peaceful and dignified existence. These virtues propagated by the Guru are precisely the beliefs the world needs today.
He inspired many to look beyond their own limited vision. As human beings, we tend to ‘take’. But when we become spiritual, the Guru said we ‘give’ rather than ‘take’. That is precisely what he always did.
When we experience the supreme in us, we also see the same supreme in all people and all life forms. We realise that everyone carries the God within them.
This takes us to an elevated vision; we then develop love and respect for all forms of life.