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Religion: Exploration of the spiritual mind (Part-1)


The underlying principle of religion is to regard Nature’s mysterious power and phenomena as the absolute Master. As a result, fear, holiness, reliance, attachment, and respect arise. 

By Sanjoo Thangjam

The doctrine and bible of a worldwide religion are usually established by a recognized founder and the founder’s own teachings and practices, eventually leading to the formation of the order. The teaching is beyond nations and extends to the entire mankind. Therefore, religion is worldwide and common to all peoples.

Apart from promoting the welfare of people with love, religion emphasizes the cultivation and exploration of the spiritual mind through individual practice. 
Examples are Buddhism, Christianity, and Islamism. With this kind of religion, people can believe with their own free will and follow the doctrines, rites, and commandments of their religious organization.

A) What is a Religion?

The underlying principle of religion is to regard Nature’s mysterious power and phenomena as the absolute Master. As a result, fear, holiness, reliance, attachment, and respect arise. Then come worship, praying, sermons, and other rites. People establish precepts and commandments as the standard of their daily lives, in order to live at ease and to perfect personalities. Thus a variety of religions are created.

B) Classification of Religion

Although there are many kinds of religions in the world, they can be classified into two main categories, namely individual psychological religion and group social religion. Individual psychological religion refers to the religious belief and experience of an individual. Regardless of the individual state of belief or affiliation to any religious body, believers actively preach by their devotion and insight. Religious organizations are formed by uniting believers of the same revelation.

Group social religion can be further classified into three sub-categories according to the history of the development of religions. Primitive religion is also known as clan religion. This includes the ancient religions and uncivilized social religions, such as the worship of nature, worship of demons, worship of totem, and worship of witchcraft.

National religion is also known as culture religion. It refers to religions popular only within certain regions of a nation or the whole nation. Examples are Shintoism in Japan, Hinduism in India, Judaism in Israel, Taoism and Confucianism in China. They are closely related to the local traditions and social systems of the regions.

Religion can also be categorized by the object of belief. There are four kinds:

Polytheism – Towards the later stage of the primitive society, people developed affection or fear of nature, leading them to spiritualize the sun and moon, star and sky, wind and rain, thunder and lightning, mountain and rock, tree and forest, river and sea, lake and swamp and so on. In time, spirits, demons, ancestors, heroes, etc. became the objects of worship in these religions.

Monotheism – As different from polytheism, monotheists believe one and only one god in their religion, and the god created and masters the universe. Examples are Christianity and Islamism.

Pantheism – It emphasizes the explanation of philosophical theories. Pantheists believe all phenomena of the universe follow an internal principle. This principle is deified and known as the God of Law, and is universally existent. “Brahman” (or “Brahmin”), stipulated in Upanisad in ancient India, is a God of Law. “Brahman” exists in personal self as well, and this is the basis of the highest ideal – “the unity of Brahman and self”.

Atheism – Those religions that God is not the object of worship. Just like Materialism in philosophy, they deny the existence of spiritual power.

(C) Comparing Buddhism with other Religions

The theme of religion is god. Although each religion has its own meaning of god, in general god is regarded as the creator of the universe, supreme beings, master of mankind in the world, and so on in all god-worship religions. Buddhism is not a blind follower in spiritual power.

Buddhism rejects superstition and sorcery. It leans on a profound philosophical theory and scientific experiment. In other words, based on the logical theories and verification by intensive practices, the Buddhists look forward to achieving the mutual responses of practice and theory, so that the mind and phenomena, the law, and wisdom unite and merge as one entity.

Buddhism absolutely denies that god creates all, that god masters mankind, that all belong to God, that all should obey god, etc. If God creates and masters all, it severely violates the principle of “God loves all people”, and it eliminates the principle of cause and effect on the doings of human beings.

There is another main difference between Buddhism and other religions. Generally, the follower of a religion is always the disciple or just a follower, no matter how sincere s/he believes and how devoted s/he is. It is impossible for the followers to become gods. In contrast, the Buddha regards Buddhist nature as latent in all sentient beings.

The Buddha teaches that all beings with Buddhist nature can be Buddhas. It is only because they are hindered by illusions that they are unable to reveal their own self-nature.

Therefore, the method of cultivation in Buddhism is to eradicate all illusions, so as to understand the self-mind, see the self-nature, and certify the fruition of Buddha.

In Buddhism, the mind is the theme. We seek help from ourselves, not the external power. It is said, once one doesn’t kill, one is a Buddha. In other religions, one feels oneself inferior and seeks help from spiritual power. Buddhists worship the statues because they respect the Buddha’s great characters of both compassion and wisdom.

It is like a respect to teacher and his teachings, not praying for something. At the same time, worshipping Buddha is a method to concentrate one’s mind and eliminate all trivial and false thoughts. It is a method of cultivation. This is perhaps the greatest difference in concepts between Buddhism and other religions.

Moreover, Buddhism uses scientific experiments to deny the religions of narrow scope and to certify the religions with philosophical theories. Though Buddhism is said to be a religion, its philosophical theories are beyond the scope of religion. Other religions stress belief and practice only, but Buddhism also stresses on understanding and certification. Therefore, Buddhism meets with other religions, however other religions cannot amalgamate Buddhism. It is a fact without dispute. (To be continued)

(Sanjoo Thangjam is a columnist based in Imphal)

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