Once, a Guru fed up with a cat walking up and down, distracting his pupils, asked them to tie it up and continued teaching. Since the cat lived thereabouts, this eventually became a daily ritual. The tale goes on to say that, even after that particular cat died, the pupils found another to tie up whenever the Guru was teaching. The Guru asked that the cat be tied up, so he could teach without any distractions. Obviously, the pupils thought, the Guru wanted a cat tied up whenever he was teaching. This ability, we possess, to imbibe the superficiality and discard the essence, is maybe, a part of the evolutionary process, fine-tuned by generations of hegemony.
I recently read the book, “Divine Evil” by Nora Roberts. What caught my attention was the oxymoron in the title. How could something divine be evil? When I finished the book, I had to agree that the title was apt. The story is about dabblers in the left-hand-path, about how people can interpret almost anything to suit their own twisted purpose, about how people justify evil in the name of rituals supposedly for the good of society in general and themselves in particular.
So, what is the left-hand-path as opposed to the right-hand path? I’ll use the color value scale to explain this. If you observe the color value scale, you will notice that all colors become completely white, on gradually adding white to it or completely black on gradually adding black to it. The followers of the right-hand-path adhere to ethics and have a specific moral code. They are somewhere near the white on the color value scale. The followers of the left-hand-path embrace personal anarchism and rituals that involve Satan-worship, blood-shed… They are somewhere near the black of the color value scale. You can put people like Mother Teresa on the white and those fanatical groups that seek to oppress people in the name of religion, on the black of the color scale. The rest of humanity, the atheists, the scientists, the philosophers, the theologians, the agnostics and the believers all have their places somewhere in between based not on their religious affiliations, but on why they really do, the things they do. Let’s take soldiers for instance. There are those who hate killing but kill to protect, and kill, only if they absolutely have to. Killing is a heavy weight on their souls. We’ll call them the white knights. Then again, there are those who enjoy the sense of power taking lives gives them. To these, killing is a pleasure. We’ll call them the dark knights. History is replete with examples of both the white and the dark knights. Both are licensed to kill. While it is a heavy burden to some, it is a pleasure to others. A left-hand-right-hand-path of sorts.
Over the centuries, countless atrocities have been committed in the name of religion. Religion and politics were always interlinked. During the middle ages, internecine or mutual slaughter, in the name of holy wars, was the order of the day. Sadly, this is still true in some parts of the world. On the positive side, religion and politics are slowly drifting towards a divorce of sorts. Some religious leaders have expressed concern, that people are slowly afflicted by amnesia about God, that secularization is slowly taking hold of the world. Is there a reason for this amnesia? Is a secular world more dreadful than the state of affairs today?
An Einstein quote comes to mind. “A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way, if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” Considering the theories of hell and damnation that have been put forth to keep people in line, is it any wonder that God and religion have taken the backseat in the lives of today’s youth?
In most parts of the world today, people are no longer persecuted for questioning blind faith and rituals that are long past their use by date. Mother Teresa’s service to humanity transcends religion. There are countless others out there engaged in selfless service either to make life better for others or to leave this world a better place for the future generations.
With cultural hegemony in its death throes, can’t we create an enabling global society that permits growth and development? Can’t we let go of antiquated ideas that are detrimental to personal growth and the evolving of a secular world? Can’t we do this and still retain the essential flavors of our individual faiths?