Common Aspects in Different Religions
By Late L. Krishna Murti
- Part of Life
Every living being is always trying to get as much happiness as possible. It tries to avoid misery. It fears death. A human being is no exception to this. But, despite his great intellectual and other capabilities denied to other forms of life,he is not as happy as he desires or deserves to be. In the acquisision of material comforts he has to competewith his fellow beings. Competition takes all ugly forms of misery and danger. Material comforts alone do not give happiness.Man’s own greed, anger, fear, jelousy etc act as his internal enimies. In addition to this, fear of death and the unknown vaccum after death sufficiently torment his soul. So he is in constant need of internal and external harmony for an enduring happiness. Dharma means harmony and the English word harmony is derived from the sanskrit word “Dharma”. The idea of Dharma has been develop red by the man from time immemorial and it has taken different forms called religions at different places of the world and in different times and circumstances. The moral part of Dharma is meant for regulating the outward or social aspect and the spiritual part the inner aspect. Inner harmony alone can bring about outer harmony. Therefore the most important common aspect of different religions is their purpose of developing internal harmony and through it the external harmony. For this pupose every religion consists of the following parts:-
- Philosophy (2) Mythology (3) Rituals
(4) Morals and (5) Customs
- Social Life, State and its laws
Historically the institution of State has developed from the moral and custustomary aspects of the religion. Some people think that the State has nothing to do with religion and that people should not be allowed to practice it collectively. The power of religion lies in conviction, faith and devotion. Taking away the State from religion deprives it of the above power and respect for its laws diminishes. Fear of law alone cannot fulfill the objects of the State. Therefore the original idea that disrespect towards law is a sin requires to be revived. Though the so called different religions in a State may maintain their outward difference in other respects, every religion should immediately take in the Constitution, the State and its laws as its own part and promote conviction, faith, respect and devotion towards them.
Culture pertains to items 3, 4 and 5 collectively and is their outer shape in the form of social customs and traditions. Without good culture there is no religion, no Government and no happiness. Though the outwaardform of culture namely the forms of custom, traditions, language and imagery may vary from religion to religion there several fundamental aspects common to all religions as detailed below under headings 4,5 and 6. Phylosophy and mythology may howeveer vary from religion to religion.
- God, Sin, Virtue, Hell, Heaven
The above ideas are common to all religions, though the details about these may vary according to the particular philosophy and mythology pertaining each religion. Every religion has got a detailed code of conduct based upon the above ideas and this is called Achara Dharma. This code prescribes duties and prohibitions and failure to do the duty or doing a prohibited thing amounts to a sin and doing what is recommended amounts to virtue. Sin leads to hell and virtue leads to heaven. Sin can be got rid of by repentence, resolution not to repeat it and an expiatory ritiual, all put together. Achara Dharma and Prayashcitta Dharma make Vyavahara Dharma ie the law, strong and useful. That is why they are made the body gaurds of Vyavahara Dharmain every Dharma Sastra.
- Five fundamental ritiuals
- Worship of God, the manner of which vary from religion to religion
- aquiring religious knowledge,worshipping the founders of
the religion and propagation of religious knowledge,
- worshipping the souls of the dead ancestors (varying from religion to religion)
- serving the guest and
- helping the other forms of life
are common to all religions.
- Human Values
These are very important common aspects of different r human values to be followed by religions. The following is the gist of 2 verses of Yagnavalka Smruthi enumerating the human values to be followed by all human beings:-
- Ahimsa ie non violence towards all creatures to the extent possible, truth, non-stealing, bodily, mental and financial purity, control of senses, charity or helping others, compassion, and forbearance are the values to be practiced by all human beings.
- Every person should conduct himself in such a way as would befit according to his age, intelligence, wealth, power of speech, position, education, birth, and occupation. In doing so he should behave honestly and without jealousy.
The above human values are invariably prescribed by all religions.
- Religious Texts and their interpretation
Whether a particular action is
Religious or irreligious should not be decided by a gross application of the religious text but should be determined carefully by taking into account the circumstances, the text and the object of text. This is called the subtle Dharma. This is very necessary to avoid injustice and to prevent resentment and consequential disintegration of the religion and enmity. This is a general aspect applicable to all religions but unfortunately ignored frequently resulting in troubles attributed wrongly to religion itself. Proper interpretation of the religious texts and their proper application to different religious texts and their proper application to different circumstances is very important to prevent decay of any religion, as otherwise the purpose of the religion namely promotion of happiness will fail.
Manu Smruthi says that a religious injunction which does not promote happiness in society should be discarded. It also says that Dharma should be logical and agreeable to conscience and heart. One Manthra of Rig Veda says that the “word” or “speech” should be purified by passing it through the
fine mind i.e. logic, conscience and compassion like passing the flour through the sieve and that such word or speech makes enemies also friends.
- Birth and Maintenance of religions
Great souls, sometimes with supernatural powers establish new religions or rejuvinate the existing religions. The priestly class is meant for its upkeeping and maintenance. Manu Smruthi says that the Brahmana is elaborately the qualities and duties of a Brahmana to safeguard the religion from misuse or decay. Similar provisions exist in all religions. A Brahmana should possess both learning (Vidya) and austerity (Thapas). Such priests alone can resist temptation, act as examples to others and protect the religion from misuse by power and fame mongers. In Mahabharatha the Brahmans are described as the lights in the dark world.
- Religion and Groupism
Religion is not groupism. As a matter of fact it should guard against the tendency of goupism and power politics which are responsible for rivalry and wars.
- Present world and universal outlook
Differences in certain aspects of different religions are but natural and inevitable. Tendency to destroy them is harmful. But in the present world wherein due to scientific advancement, nations have come very close to each other, the leaders of all religions should give up fanaticism and see unity of all religions in their diversity. What difficulty is there in seeing the same principle in the Brahma tatwa of Hinduism Love of Christianity and brotherhood of Islam.