SEARCH INTO NEW RELIGIOUS MOVEMENTS, (NRMs) CULTS, SECTS, ETC
What are they? Why have they come about? For whom? What role do they play? Why search? Inquisitiveness is the eternal spring of human psyche and it is through this stream that flows from the spring that traces of ignorance are washed away one by one as Phenella writes in “The Unwritten Comedy”.
“To be ignorant of many things is expected
To know you are ignorant of many things is the beginning of wisdom.
To know a category of things of which you are ignorant is the beginning of learning.
To know the details of that category of things of which you are ignorant is to no longer be ignorant.”
All the N.R.M.s, Cults, etc. are the offshoots of that great, wonderful complicated subject called Religion.
As a fact of history, Religion is inescapable and it is profoundly influential in any culture or society because
beyond its rituals and pompous paraphernalia, beyond its creeds, beyond its myriad forms, it has been in spirit and in truth a great binding power. That in fact is the literal meaning of the word Religion from the Latin Relig(are) : To tie, to fasten. Re-RE +LIG=Bind , tie. That is binding the Part with the Whole. Integration of
the individual Self with the Universal Self; perception of the presence of Universal Self in all forms of life.
What is Religion in reality? How it is perceived and practised? What are its many facets? Once I set on the task of finding answers to the various aspects of Religion. In my search to find out why despite the all embracing cover and almost immortal existence and unquestioned appeal of Religion, still, many NRMs, Cults,
have cropped up. And that too, diverting individuals from the mainstream religions which have withstood the test of time.
In my search, the literature on Religion was infinitely vast because the subject matter is INFINITY, which every one attempts to grasp with specialized finite skills. Besides trying to intellectually pursue religion is like drinking sea water to quench the thirst. The more we drink the more we become thirsty. The subject does not fit into any specific definitions as it deals with science of life and art of living based on the belief in an undeniable, undefiable, and not so easily definable SUPREME POWER as the main maker and mover of all life. So any definition would risk the criticism of deft commissions/admissions and daft omissions; to write
Eclectically about Religion is not an easy task, any attempt to provide a full picture risks superficiality, and
any over selective and simplified version would be viewed as parochial due to the blinkered vision and tinkered perception.
However, selection is inevitable. Even to make a selection I had to swim through the Ocean of Nectar ranging from metaphysical Masterpieces, marvels of mysticisms, treasury of ancient rituals and practices ranging from meaningless mumbo-jumbos to meaningful mantras, picture cards for propaganda to philosophical treatises, translations of various scriptures, wonderful commentaries and interpretations like those of Rene Guenon, FRITHJOF SCHUON and Swami Ranganathananda, etc., explanations to intrinsic aspects of life by such divine souls like Shri Aurobindo, Shri Ramana Maharishi, Shri Ramakrishna Paramahimsa, Swami Vivekananda , The Mother, J. Krishnamurthy, etc;extraordinary, brilliant and penetrative studies into the inner meanings and significance of ancient mysteries by H.P .BLAVATSKY whose theosophical movement is perhaps the best source for all patient intellectual seekers of religious truth, i.e the realization of divinity in every one, every thing and every where (as a famous writer once mentioned that H.P.Blavatsky by making an unbiased survey of history and penetrative understanding of the evolutionary World spirit had an amazing ability to help us help ourselves; Robert Ballous ‘Bible of the World , WHITALL N.PERRY’S A Treasury of traditional wisdom’, LIN YU TANG’s ‘The Wisdom of China and India’, etc.Besides these, I had to wade through a maze of enormous materials about many hermits, saints, founders, adepts, reformers, shamans, patriarchs, scholars, miracle stories, etc,. and, of course , the whole lot of literature on many N.R.Ms., Cults, Sects, etc, I have always followed an advice “We must not feel at the end of our life that we were ignorant about
Alternatives.” At the outset, I made it clear that in my search my study is merely exploratory, undogmatic, open-minded, deeply passionate, perceptive to the appeals of rationalization, but, in due course, I became sensitive to the deeper stirrings and movements that are beyond and beneath bland rationalization.
I can say with conviction that the selection has not been easy, intellectual perceptions tended to become
barriers but I have enjoyed and accept happily and humbly, as even the great Poet Shakespeare once said “I have bought golden opinions from all sorts of people”.
Based on these golden opinions and my limited perceptions, observations, deductions and induction I am
going to attempt to define what is Religion and its many-faceted marvels and why are there still so many N.R.M.s, Cults, Sects, etc, and their importance. Omissions have been, in addition to the above-referred reasons, due to the necessity to focus on some aspects to the exclusion of the rest.
One thing which I have learnt very clearly in this whole process is that Religion cannot be easily understood, much less properly evaluated, if there is no passion for it , and compassion towards its followers. As Honore De Balzac says “All humanity is passion, without passion religion, history, novels, art would be ineffectual “.And R.C.Wells in ‘Asking them Questions” writes “In this death and life game of high stakes, God
has already, as it were declared what are trumps. They are not Clubs (Sheer blind force) Diamonds (the power of wealth ) or even Spades (dogged hard work and ingenuity) but Hearts (heartfelt feelings, passion packed actions). As for compassion one of the earliest Hindu scriptures Brihadaranyaka Upanishad provides the first Dadas in History.That is Prejapathi (Lord of Creatures) says to Gods, Demons and Men “Da Da Da”:
Da for DAMYATA [restrain yourself]
Da for DATTA [give]
Da for DAYADHVAM [be compassionate]
Besides, as religion concerns about the intrinsic values and aspects of life and the Universe no one can either resort to allowing criticism and dry logical intellectualization [as do the Philosophers] or can any one blinker his vision with uncritical love [as do the Theologians].
Aristotle used to say “all philosophy begins in wonder”. But I some times wonder whether philosophy has ever begun at all to perceive religion in the proper perspective, i.e. with passion for it, and compassion towards its followers. As the 14th Dalai Lama says “Compassion is the real essence of religion.”
Philosophy and /science must basically accept the undeniable fact that life and universe are continuous processes involving constant movements and changes. Hence they manifest infinite variety and delicious diversity, and consequently, defy patterned, prepared, and patented idle analyses or empirical evaluations which work better with static phenomenon. As Heraclitus says while explaining that the Universe was in a state of flex ‘You never step into the same river twice’.
So philosophy cannot sandwich religious perception between reductionism [which attempts to generalize, homogenize, and ultimately simplify into a rule or principle the complexities of reality] and heuristicism [which prepares a theoretical or ideological explanations as the key to unlock the doors of perception] because religious values which concern life and universe, if at all, we can compress them into any generalization, are either personal or psychological [innate] or extra-personal [socially and culturally molded]-either traditional culture, i.e. emanating from present trends] or supra-personal [metaphysical] or mystical or spiritual or at times a clear harmonious combination or a clumsy mixture or a compromised compound of some or all of these.
Even these are at best broad outlines and not necessarily the whole gamut of categories of perceiving
religious values. I have just followed a philosophical principle of William of OCKHAM that ‘one must not multiply classes and categories unnecessarily’.
First and foremost to accept the reality of religious values we must accept diversity because it is about the science of life and universe, and the art of living; then, penetrate and try to savor the underlying unity in the form of Divinity – the greatest Scientist who has created life and the Universe and the greatest Artist who constantly injects spirit and movement into life and universe.
The greatness of our species and our spirit is in its enormous variety. Idiotic indoctrinations, incorrigible wars, illegitimate force, none of these can obliterate the fact of variety of humanity. Variety is the spice of life; variations are the science of life or sine qua non for existence.
We all speak differently, think differently, look differently, act and react differently. So differences are inevitable factors of religious values. Once we realize this, then we would cease to foster illusory and ill-conceived notions of uniformity, stop attempting to homogenize cultures, etc, ‘We need to respect the difference in others as we dare to be different from others.’
‘We are all co-pilgrims in life’s journey- Inward and Outward [exploring reality in a variety of ways through a variety of conceptual schemes]. The journey has to be both ways. All of us need to learn the trick of inducing inner expansion to overcome the tedium and distress of the routine life’. ‘Convert our loneliness into aloneness and make an inward journey towards absolute aloneness. Even Carl Gustav also felt that ‘God is within us as a psychological reality’. And as Miroslav Holub says ‘Wisdom is the understanding of the self and of the World- One cannot disregard either ‘. Our destination is the same even as our source is the same. As Swami Vivekananda says in his speech “THE ABSOLUTE AND MANIFESTATION” in London in 1896 “If you seek a Universal Religion which can apply to every one, that religion must not be composed of only the parts, but must always be their sum total and include all degrees of religious development……and the book from which to learn religion is your own mind and heart.
John Hick in his book ‘An interpretation of Religion’ speaks of the “transcendent being perceived through different and distinctive cultural lenses and he is convinced that there is a Real behind the different religious traditions, that is to say that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, the Holy Trinity, Allah, Vishnu, Brahma, Dharmakaya, Nirvana, Sunyala, Zen and the Tao all represent the way of affirming the same ultimate.”
For, The Ultimate Truth, which religions and all other outfits must strive to establish, is what PLOTINUS has said several centuries ago ‘Try to bring back the God in us to the divine in All. Some people have done it in a very simple way and made even the hard-core atheists to realize it as did Charles Boyle, the fourth Earl of Orrery, of Southern Ireland in 18th Century. Having heard of Kepler’s famous discovery of the Laws of Planetary Motion and Newton’s work on gravitation, Lord Orrery had a working model of the solar system built inside his Castle. It was an extraordinary dynamic and up-to-date piece of clock work with orbital hoops and a brass Sun in the Centre plus smaller globes representing Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn slowly revolving around it, even a Moon circling the earth and the 4 little ones going around Jupiter.
He had an atheist friend with materialistic outlooks who felt that the Universe was just a moving system, blindly and automatically maintaining itself without consciousness, mind or intelligence of any kind. He visited
Orrery’s Castle saw the model, and asked him ‘Where did you get this and who made it?’. Knowing his friend as atheist, Lord Orrery said ‘No one made it, it just happened.’ The atheist repeatedly pestered him to the point
of frustration as to who made it. At last, Lord Orrery said “I am going to offer you a bargain. I will promise to tell you truly who made the infinitely bigger, more wonderful and more beautiful real Sun and Planets as there in the Heavens’. The atheist for the first time began to wonder whether the Universe could really have made itself, or possibly be running all the time automatically and unguided by the slightest twinge of intelligence. And this was the origin of Orrery Theorem which says: ‘If the model of any natural system requires intelligence for its creation and its working, the real natural system requires at least as much intelligence for its own creation and working’.
Thus, not even any atheist can escape from accepting the importance of “THE SUPREME POWER” because it is intrinsically and inextricably linked with life. There is an often quoted interesting anecdote attributed to an atheist who in his death bed said “God, if You are there, save my Soul if I have one”. If you study carefully all the writings of atheist, we would perceive that they were only reacting to the excess of importance given to superficiality or superficial importance given to essential matter or at times reacted due to their inflated ego which was unwilling to accept anything beyond the realm of reason. Even Bertrand Russel writes in his autobiography the need for “preserving the seriousness of religious attitudes and its habit of asking ultimate questions”.
In fact there were many philosophical theologists who penetrated deeper into the truth and expounded the significance of the Supreme Being or God: many great spiritual souls who realized this truth and manifested the significance of Supreme Being of God. These are available as ready made capsules for our disturbed and doubting minds. Still, the fact is, The Ultimate Truth can be, and is, perceived at various levels, each slightly but significantly differing in content, concept, and context as Paul Brunton says in his work “The Secret Palm” “God is HIS OWN BEST INTERPRETER . Find the God in your own heart and you will understand by direct intuition what all great Souls have been trying to tell you by the tortuous method of using words”, and says that “Your over self is the Divinity within You”.
Sri Aurobindo also writes in his essays on the Gita, in the Chapter titled “The Core of Gita’s meanings” “The clue to the whole reality of life must be sought in ……..an unknown something above the mentality and morality of human creature”.
However, all levels of perception of Ultimate Truth may not be of same importance but definitely are of some importance. We must remember one thing that even if every one cannot do great things, any one can do small things in great ways. The fact being they are all at different stages of consciousness in our understanding of our world. Even as per Upanishads the concept of Religion is infinite, taking in every aspect of human life , based on the synthesis of all experience and a wide range which includes all things that are inter-related or influencing or influenced by man, God, earth, time, space eternity, and, in short ,everything conceivable in physical and metaphysical realms. As Robert Ernest Hume, a great translator of Upanishads writes “The earnestness of the search for truth is one of the delightful and commendable features of the Upanishads”. And the Upanishads insist repeatedly that every individual must make his own efforts to search for the spiritual truth. Our wisdom grows by doubting and refusing to passively accept ready-made belief-systems, ideologies, and putting the right questions on all existing doctrines. Religion must never be a closed book; it must offer fresh quest, fresh realizations from fresh perspectives. Sankaracharya expresses well in “Viveka Chudamani” Page: 54 “The true form of Reality should be known through one’s own BODHACAKSU, clear eye of understanding and not through (the proxy of ) a Scholar :the true form of the (full) moon should be known by means of one’s own eyes only; how it can be known by proxy?’.
Various Religions, NRMs, Sects, Cults, are waves of one sea, the ultimate reality has no shape and therefore approachable and approached through a variety of ways.
Rig Veda, the oldest scripture 1:164:46 observes “One (God) exists; Sages call (Him) by various names”
If we are to make an unbiased view of certain NRMs, Cults, etc, we will only pity that only due to lack of numbers and finance that they have not become fullfledged religions, while viewing some others we realise that they are irrelevant to the time-tested religious values and principles.
Whatever they are, the fact is they are there, they all have sprung up due to various reasons, searches and seekings but these Mushroom of NRMs , cults, etc. do establish one inherent fact that religious perceptions is a “do -it –yourself project”. This is the main reason why definition of religions vary from those which are metaphysical, philosophical, mythical, tempting in appeal, rich in content but poor in application, resourceful in revenue spinning, apparently abstract and so on. Here are some of the definitions from the galaxy of bright stars.
Swami Vivekananda says, “Religion deals with the truths of metaphysical world.”
Manly P. Hall says, “Religion is idealism in action and idealization of action”.
Robert N.Bellah in “TOKUGAWA RELIGION” writes, “By Religion, I mean, man’s attitude and actions with respect to his ultimate concern.”
Some scholars of the Century like Freud, James, Western Labarre, Alice Kehoe, etc, have termed religion as a mere biological phenomena.
Whitehead says, “Religion is the art and theory of the internal life of man”.
Prof. Ian G. Barbour says, “Religion broadly defined is total life-orientation in response to what is deemed worthy of ultimate concern and devotion”.
Prof. C. A. Campbell says “Religion is a belief in the Reality of a super-natural being or beings endowed with transcendent power and worth”.
Durkheim in his work ‘The elementary forms of religious life writes, “Religion is a set of beliefs and practices which unite into a single community all those who adhere to them ……Religion must be the origin of all Institutions”.
Girard says, “There is no culture without Religion”.
W.Windelband in his work ‘an introduction to Philosophy’ writes, “Religion is the secret mystery marking the limits of our nature and knowledge”. Yes. Knowledge is always limited. In fact Gampopa said, “A Philosophy comprehensive enough to embrace the whole of knowledge is indispensable.” But unfortunately till date, nowhere anyone could bring forth such a Philosophy nor will it be ever possible because knowledge is never whole and complete.
J. Krishnamurthy says, “Religion is the feeling of sacredness, of compassion, of love” and “the Religious mind is the mind that has entered into the unknown”.
Bhagawan Shri Rajneesh has said, “Religiousness has to arise within your heart as an individual offering of love and fragrance to the cosmos and if you are full of religiousness, the whole existence simultaneously becomes full of godliness.”
Shelly the great poet writes, “Religion pervades intensely the whole frame of society and is according to the temper of the mind which it inhabits, a passion, a persuasion, an excuse, a refuge, never a check”.
Danish thinker Herald Hoffding in his work ‘The Philosophy of Religion’ writes, “The characteristics axiom of religion is the conservation of value in life and therefore religion is based on ethical values.” This is a pointer to the fact that we cannot preserve humanity without religiousness and religiosity without humaneness. Besides these various definitions, historians have traced the activities of religious beliefs in past events, the Apologists have put forward reasoned defense of their particular religious beliefs, and the Phenomenalogists have traced the pattern of common characteristics in various religions.
But however voluminous the available documents, accumulated experiences, effective doctrinaire reductionism and homogenizing syncreticism, numerous attempts to refine and redefine it, religion does not offer any single simple definition or method of functioning , and it is rightly so, because it concerns the science of life, and art of living. That is why despite such a wide ranging area of coverage, still, there are so many NRMs , sects, etc which fulfill the unfulfilled task of religion, either giving extra focus on certain areas of life or bringing in new areas of human interest and involvement.
As in any other domain of human activity, religion too needs to be constantly rejuvenated or updated to satisfy the growing perceptions in newer perspectives, satisfy the needs and wants of human beings both at personal and social levels. Every staunch religionist needs to remember what Dr.Richard C. Hertz has said, “Religious truth is not fixed. No religion has a sole priority on truth”. Wherever religions fail to satisfy human spirit on these scores, NRMS, Sects, Cult, etc, have cropped up.
Normally the discussions on religion delve deep into the past where it has undoubtedly enormous treasures to offer or drive into desired future- the inevitable and noble concern of human race; but what is required for the institution of religion is to get more people involved in it to perceive the distinct present, and present to it clarification for its skepticisms; for its scientific temperament; for its spiritual urge. When religions fail on these accounts, NRMs, sects, cults, etc, spring up.
The unavoidable, unfortunate and unforgiveable reality of life is, regardless of how well or whatever we have done, it will be what we have left undone that is going to be highlighted. Religion is no exception to this rule, NRMs, sects, and cults do highlight what established religions have left undone and they offer to do it. That is why they are of immense value to humanity.
What have been the core activities of /concerns/ concepts of religions or phenomena that make up religion? Here I am excluding all tall claims and the details of various rituals, practices, forms of worship which are all significant in their own way but which are beyond the scope of present discussion. However, some observations and due mention will be made about them in general.
Unless we have a clear picture of these concerns, we cannot be clear about what extra concerns or extra-ordinary concerns that NRMs , sects, cults, etc, have offered to make men come to them; for, one thing we must accept without bias is that NRMs, sects, cults, etc, are not mere aesthetic fancies or arbitrary projections invented just to promote any single individual, or are they arbitrary jumble of loose specialities , or mere entertainment meant to take us away from the dull rigmarole of dour activity. Though they may embody dreams of which we are not conscious and hopes that we cannot bear to give up. After all we are the only species on earth with a kind of cognitive over-drive associated with or legacy as a hunting primate and therefore our cerebral cortex has developed its own schemes of unending adventures, adventures in physical activities, emotional relationships, psychological and intellectual perceptions and spiritual seekings, etc, NRMs,cults and sects, etc are the result of these unending adventures in life and attempts by human beings to grasp the meaning of life as well as to add meaning to life .
Of the major concerns/concepts or what constitutes religion, the first and most important thing is divinity termed generally as God, the Supreme Power, the Universal Spirit, the Inner-self, etc. and bearing several names, forms, attributes and ubiquitously and always present . But still how to find God? Where to find God? And in case if we know God already, personally, what to do? How to treat God? What to tell him? How to respond if He asks us something? There are lots of such naïve, nice, naturally inquisitive questions that always rush forward in the mind of every one of us.
Who can find God? Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa provides the simple answer. “Any one who longs for God with all his heart, and cries for God like a lost child for its mother will find God”. What to do if we find God? Well, the spiritually experienced souls have said that once you find God, you cease to do anything because you cease to have anything to do. When you find God, you are one with God and therefore there is no more the ‘You’ and the God – the duality ceases.
Ordinarily on an intellectual level, as for as God is concerned, as Frederick C, Copleston says ‘First-Order religious language is to talk to God rather than talk about God.
How does an ordinary man, the common man as well as the intellectually evolved modern man whose skepticism takes various avatars as Scientists, Economists, Psychologists, Philosophers, etc, know God?
“A little Philosophy inclineth a man to atheism;
Depth in philosophy brings a man to God.”
For each of the intellectual specialist, his mastery over a specific aspect of life clouds his deeper perception and makes him defy and deny everything beyond the ken of knowledge oriented perceptions. All these intelligent people must, along with the common folks understand the presence of the supreme power in the following things: - Because these intelligent peoples’ empiricisms have not been able to unravel the mysterious factor that goes into the construction of everything from microdust to the giant star.
The energy that our body gets from decomposition of food is very low; in fact our life is run by the energy we get from the source of greater life (the supreme power).
While commenting of Dr. Karagulla’s book “Break-though to creating”, Dr.Edward Aubert writes “It seems that we live in a vast ocean of interlacing energies. These energies move in and out of our individual fields in a manner analogous to the process of breathing. Each person appears to have his own method of selecting energy; some do it predominantly through intellectual stimulation, others through emotional excitation. Depression and self-centredness greatly diminish the individual’s access to the cosmic energy supply”. William James too says “The visible world is a part of more spiritual universe from which it draws its chief significance; union or harmonious relation with that higher universe is our true end”. “From the one life formless and Uncreate, proceeds the Universe of lives” says H. P.Blavatsky.
Even Kena Upanishad defines God not as any image or individual but as:
‘That power which is not produced by speech
but by which speech is produced’.
‘That power which is not seen by the eye
but by which the mind is made to understand.’
‘That power which is not seen by the eye
but by which eye is made to see’.
‘That power which is not heard by the ears
but by which ears are made to hear’.
‘That power which is not moved by the life currents
but by which life current is moved, know thou that power alone to be Brahma (the Ultimate Reality) and not this or that you worship’.
Nature is the World of symbolism, a rich hieroglyphic book; everything visible conceals an invisible mystery and the last mystery of all is God.
Brahman (the Supreme Power) literally means “The Immensity that which is all and beyond all”. “Unity in its true meaning is that God should be realized as the one Power which animates and dominates all things which are but the manifestations of its energy”.
This means then that the supreme power being all, and beyond all, is also the inherent harmony and unifying force of life current beneath all life. Some enlightened Scientists like Albert Einstein have realized this.
He says, “I believe in God who reveals himself in the harmony of what exists”. How else can we explain the fact that all electrons in an Atom revolve in fixed orbits, especially because in each atom there are several orbits and in each orbit there are several electron and this pattern is universal. How else can we explain the nearly 30 billion cells in each body and every cell containing 46 chromosomes and each chromosome containing several genes and every cell contains the complete blue-print of the body. How else can we explain the work of the pea-sized pituitary gland at the lower brain which produces 9 different hormones, one by one, according to the requirement of the body and stops its production once the requirement is met. The gland collects the required ions from the blood stream and synthesizes them into required hormones and dispatches them into the blood stream to be to the required part of the body and once its function is over, the hormone is eliminated from the body by other glands, For example, when the body of a female becomes suited for reproduction, her pituitary gland produces the hormone FSH, and spurts enough of it into the bloodstream to cause development of one Ovule and then stops its production for 4 weeks, or for about 46 weeks, if she has conceived. When the Ovum matures, the Pituitary produces another Hormone, LH to burst its follicle. When the Fetus is ripe to be delivered the Pituitary produces the hormone OXYTOCIN to contract the womb to push out the baby and continues its production till the enlarged womb shrinks to its normal size when delivery approaches , the same Pituitary produces the hormone PROLACTIN to cause production of milk in her breasts. When the lips of the Baby touch her nipple, the Pituitary produces the hormone OXYTOCIN to contract her milk glands to ensure flow of milk into the ducts leading to the nipple and stops its production when the baby stops suckling.
How else can we explain why only one out of the millions of Ovules present in the Ovaries of women chosen every month to mature for fertilization. How else can we explain why only one out of the millions of sperms is made to unite with the Ovum?
How else can we explain the small seed carrying precisely all the details of a big tree in a highly condensed form.
This is perhaps what Bhagavat Gita Chapter 10:8 declares “God is a creator of everything, and from Him everything functions”.
If God or the supreme power is the cause for such excellent and essential harmony and religion by its very etymology means binding together of the part with the whole; and the higher form of spiritualism indicates that godliness is binding of the inner self with the supreme or universal self, even the literal meaning of yoga is joining together of mind with Ultimate Reality and one who does this is a Yogi. We can even coin an acronym for a Yogi as,
O ught to
Why then are there so many differences among and within religions? It is because “The Universal living spirit is expressed and enjoyed in specific conceptual idiom according to the level of conscious perception and the philosophical, cultural and social environment of the individual and that is why there are so many ways of
describing the divinity and so many forms of approaching the divinity.” The differences in religion have to be understood in this light.
Religion is understood better by synthesis than by analysis; religions grow better by syncretism than by antagonism. As D.J.Mercier, the Archbishop of Malines has said even “Sound Philosophy sets out from analysis and terminates in synthesis”. Regarding differences men of vision have explained and warned repeatedly knowing well that the common man with his limited perception and the fanatic by limiting his perception may engage in petty fights and arguments over differences.
Roman Philosopher Cicero laid down some 2000 years ago six mistakes of men, the sixth of which reads as, “Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do”. (From Encyclopedia of 7700 illustrations).
Mircea Eliade writes “All authentic religious experience implies a desperate effort to disclose the foundation of things, the Ultimate Reality.”
Krishna vouches to Arjuna “In whatsoever way men may resort to Me, even so, do I bless them in every way, the path men follow reaches Me, indeed, Ultimately”.
A Mantra in Katha Upanishad says “The same rainwater which falls on the mountain top appears to be different when it runs down the mountain from all sides. Likewise, people think religion to be different and keep following them differently.”
Religious wisdom is the awareness of the oneness of all existence. It was also to make all of us get this wisdom, or veer us away from the attention to these differences, and make us understand the underlying harmonizing factors that many NRMs, cults and sects have come into being.
While some NRMs , sects, cults, etc, concentrated on improving personal and social aspects of living , there are some that concentrated on spiritual life which is the most important aspect of religion and this spirituality is, unfortunately very often never brought within the purview of religious activities and things. The word ‘Spiritual’ comes from the Latin word ‘Spiritus’ meaning ‘breath’ or ‘wind’, it is indeed invisible and intangible, non-rational (not irrational), that is beyond conceptualizations or logical vindications. It is dynamic active energy, and fortunately it cannot be assigned different labels and hence cannot be abused or misused like the other aspects of religious life. “The essence of religion is the way of life that elevates one to an attitude of spirituality in every facet of one’s life”. Hegelian idealism maintained that Reality is one and recognized that the World is the manifestation of a spiritual principle.
Rudolf Christoph Eucken, German Nobel prize-winner for literature maintained that “Religion as the spiritual activity must pervade all activity”.
British Philosopher Edward Caird writes in his work “THE EVOLUTION OF RELIGION”, “Every rational being is a religious being” and maintains that “Religion is a conscious relation to God and God is the absolute spiritual principle which is the unity beneath all differences”.
Arnold Joseph Toynbee the great historian writes “that the essence of higher religions consists in their recognition of a spiritual power higher than man himself in the universe”.
Spirituality is a truly liberating force in the life of mankind.
‘Spiritual life is neither contradictory nor competitive nor necessarily complementary to conventional morality and therefore it cannot be reduced to ethics. Spiritual life manifests the fact that divinity reaches much deeper into human life than religious institutions claim.’
MONTAGUE A . MACHELL says “Spiritual living expressed in brotherhood is the one means of directing World thinking towards World progress in shared aspiration and effort”.
Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says that “Spirituality cannot be comprehended by ordinary intelligence”.
Swami Vivekananda while talking about the validity of religion in his lecture on “Unity the goal of Religion’ says “Take religion from human society and what will remain? Nothing but a forest of brutes ….man enjoys his spiritual nature even more than his rational nature”.
Dr.S.Radhakrishnan writes “Spiritual Religion is based on a firm belief in absolute and eternal values as the most real things in the universe, a confidence that these values are knowable by man by a whole-hearted consecration of he intellect, will, and affections to the great quest, a complete indifference to the current valuations of tribes, races, and nations and devotion to the ideal of a world community. They are the common possession of great religions”.
Lippmann writes “In an age when custom is dissolved and authority is broken the religion of the spirit is not merely a possible way of life. In principle, it is the only way which transcends the difficulties”.
Plotinus believed that the Ultimate truth or reality is spiritual in nature, that it is knowable and this reality is one.
Wescott writes, “Religion in its completeness is the harmony of Philosophy, ethics, and art blended into one by a spiritual force by a consecration at once personal and absolute. The direction of philosophy is theoretic and its end is the truth. The direction of ethics is practical and its end is the good, the direction of art is representative and its end is the beautiful. Religion includes these several ends, but adds to them that in which they find their consummation, the holy”.
“Religious understanding is the intellectual perception of ontic values in spiritual terms”.
If Religion, especially the spiritual aspect is that important, why is it not taught? This leads us to the domain of religious education. What it can be? It cannot be a mere exercise of reading scriptures, or giving socio-moral lessons, it has to go beyond these; it has to begin with imparting knowledge about various religions; help to critically assess their tenets without any bias ; inculcate social and cultural values for betterment of human life and above all impart spiritual knowledge . Is education necessary for religion too? The answer is a definite yes. As Confucius says “To preach to people who are not ready- that is a waste of time. But not to preach to the people who are ready, that is a waste of human beings”.
Learning is to the mind what eating is to the body. We always need to learn, life itself is a constant process of learning and adjusting. As even Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa says, “As long as I live, so long as I learn”.Srimad Bhagavatham Chapter 11:12 “Nothing is more purifying than knowledge.” Bertrand Russel says “Good life is one guided by knowledge and inspired by love”.
The American Philosopher William Earnest Hocking while talking about a Universal and concrete world faith, stresses that it is made possible more through a process of mutual learnings and assimilations among the World’s Religions concerning the best in each of them than by mere superficial syncretism. As Florice Tanner in “The Mystery Teachings in World Religions” writes, “The perception of unity in great variety broadens us, as we recognize common values, the plan of Universal brotherhood comes nearer”. In this context, it would be incomplete if I fail to mention the INTER – FAITH LITANY which was presented on the fiftieth anniversary of the United Nations by Mrs. Denis Gross of the Circle For Peace.
AN INTERFAITH LITANY
We thank you, God………………..
For our Muslim brothers and sisters, for their commitment to
Prayer and faithfulness in worship.
For our Sikh brothers and sisters, for their warm hospitality
And public witness to their faith.
And For our Bahai Sisters and Brothers, for genuine openness
And an overriding desire for unity.
For our Buddhist Bothers and Sisters, for their peace
And relinquishing of self.
And For our Christian Brothers and Sisters, for their message
And love and practice of forgiveness.
For our Jewish Sisters and Brothers , for their enriching symbols
Of worship and cherishing of tradition.
For our Hindu Sisters and Brothers for their kindly dispositions
And open hearted acceptance of others.
For our Jain Brothers and Sisters for their deep respect for life
And practice of non-violence.
For our Zorastrian Sisters and Brothers for their stress on
Personal honestly and striving for harmony.
For our sisters and brothers of indigenous traditions,
For their reverence for nature.
For all these of every faith and every tradition, we thank you and praise you, God………..for their variety and richness of spiritualities, for their common quest for truth, their yearning after love, their commitment to justice and longing for peace. God help us all, inspire us and ever unite us. Amen.
Even if we observe carefully even the concept of TRINITY exists in all major religions with different forms and names.
Christianity Father Son Holy Spirit/Ghost.
Druidic Taulec Fen Mollec.
Egyptian Amun-ra Horus Osiris – Isis
Hebrew Kepher Binah Chochmah.
Hindu Shiva Vishnu Brahma.
Phoenician Anu Ea Bel.
Zorastrian Ashavahista Vohuman Ahuramazda.
It is a religious education, appreciation and understanding on these lines that can bring about a real inter-religious amity and understanding, this must be the mission of great religions as well as Arnold Toyabee
notes in his work ‘An Historian’s approach to Religion’, “The missions of higher religions are not competitive;
They are complementary. We can believe in our religion without having to feel that it is the sole repository of truth.” Varying spiritual capabilities, competences and comprehension offer a wide range of means and methods from which the individual is at liberty to choose and realize his divine link”. A Chinese proverb says “The broad-minded see the truth in different religions, the narrow minded see only the differences” .Swami Nikhilananda writes “Different faiths are necessary to suit the diversity of human temperaments. Some men are emotional, some rational, some introspective, some active, some like to contemplate on abstract ideas, some wish to worship through concrete symbols. If there were only one religious discipline there would be no hope for those who did not respond to it……….the greater the number of religions, the more chances people will have to satisfy their spiritual hunger……..religion will not have fulfilled its mission until every man has evolved his own religion, revealing to him his unique relationship with his Creator ……the Universal religion in the form of God- consciousness runs through all faiths, whether primitive, ethical or highly mystical”. Importance of religious education, understanding and outlook on these lines is so essential ; that Carl Gustav Jung the great Psychoanalyst noted in his work ‘Modern man in search of a soul’, “that for most of his patients, especially those above 35 years, the greatest problem was not finding a religious outlook in life. He felt religion to be health-giving”.
Having gone through the important aspects of religion like, God, spirituality and importance of religious education, we need to go through the other important aspects of religion like faith and belief. Basically how belief and faith are formed is rather intrigue. But how it operates and what it offers is clear. It offers to the individual a sense of security who gradually develops a conviction based on such a belief or faith. A sense of security is essential to all conscious life, the conviction based on a secured faith almost becomes a second nature, and rules all aspects of the individual’s life, in fact, it overrules every attempt that is made to overrule it. Be it the simplicity of the sacred Islamic mono-theism or the complex freedom of Mahayana Buddhism , one thing is clear the believers are completely right.
There are, of course, other vast areas like morality, myths, symbols, mantras, and so on which form a very important part religion, but due to want of space and limited scope of this essay, I am not dealing with any of them but would just like to quote what Mr.Kernning a German Mystic has said while replying to the criticism of the significance of the mantras by German Rationalists. “Whoever has a great love for an art or science not only finds delight in the results, but their very names have a sort of magic power with him. Whoever feels a love for another person is moved whenever he thinks of that person or repeats the name of that person. The gambler in spite of all the arguments against its infatuation made by others, and often, indeed, by himself, always beholds dice and cards before his eyes. The drunkard only needs, in order to be made thirsty, to hear the name of wine. The miser lives the vision of his ducats and dollars, the ambitious man upon the insignia of fame and the Plaudits of the multitude, the Courtier upon his orders and titles, and in all these cases, not only are the things themselves concerned, but the names have become idolized. Now suppose that one should, instead of swimming in the depths, fill spirit and soul with exalted and divine ideas and names, can other than most beneficial results follow? Indeed, could a person be genuine Christian, without the life of Christ and even his name, becoming animate in spirit and soul? Therefore, there is no non-sensical or unreasonable practice in this; on the contrary, every one should be made aware of this simple method, which is founded upon human nature and is confirmed by experience, that we may attain the means of enabling this nature, of directing his energies towards the highest end of his life and reaching this end with certainty.”
NRMs , cults and sects have thus evolved to fulfill several functions left undone by Religion to realize the full potential of a human being, explore all possible avenues to link human beings with divinity; to cater to certain social requirements which are specific to certain environments and times; to satisfy some group psychological needs; to satisfy certain necessities created by the misuse and abuse of Religion; to create amity and brother-hood among religions, etc.
For example, inter-religious faith and interest in other religions started as a strong movement during the peak of religious conflict i.e. Reformation.
It came about through the efforts of humanist Erasmus who started a sect known as DOMUS CHARITATIS or family of love around 1540 A.D. It has members from both Catholic and Protestants from all over Europe and each came to the group with their own set of beliefs and definition of what constituted Religion, but the family of love emphasized on the practice of spiritualism. Gradually there was an evident and effective manifestation of tolerance. This inspired many humanists to become members, from then on various attempts, groupings, organizations have evolved to emphasize the importance of accepting different religions, beliefs, religious dominations as valid revelations of spiritual truth. In 1893 A.D. there was a popular conference in the form of World Parliament of Religions in which the great Indian seer Swami Vivekananda not only carried the message of the Great Saint and Mystic Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa “That a mystical experience at the heart of every religious discipline was essentially the same” but also conveyed the essence of the Vedas which expound the necessity to adopt , adapt, assimilate and accept truth unmindful of the authorship or authority or source from which it emanates (Vedas are probably the oldest and the first manifestation of exposition of human endeavours and explorations into the Kingdom of Divine Spirit culled out from various forms of beliefs, different ways of perceptions of Reality without any single authority or author’.
Human Soul always has that unquenchable thirst for free exchange of spiritual experience. This is evident from Christianity as well, as even the terms liturgy, mystery, epiphany were adapted from
ELEUSIONIAN mystery cult. St.Paul interacted with the Gentiles of Asia, Minor, Greece and Rome.
Sir Francis Younghusband founded the World Congress of Faiths in 1936 to promote inter-faith research.
There were and are many more such Organizations to promote dialogue and understanding of the ways of different faiths and religions. As the Temple of Understanding, founded by Mrs.Judith Hollister in 1960.
The World Fellowship of faiths found in 1924.
The World Thanksgiving founded by Peter Stewart in 1976.
The World Inter-Faith Association started by Dr.Jacques Fisher etc.
It was his urge for free exchange of spiritual experience which made Swami Vivekananda speak about a Universal Religion which he declared “Will be infinite like the God it will preach, ….it will have no place for persecution or intolerance in its polity, which will recognize divinity in every man and woman and whose whole scope, whose whole force will be centered in aiding humanity to realize its own true divine nature.”
While talking about attempts and suggestions for universal religion we cannot overlook what Haridas
Choudhuri has written excellently in his book, ‘Modern man’s Religion’. He lays down the positive essence of universal or cosmic religion in the form of 10 categorical imperatives of higher spiritual fulfillment.
1. Love that Supreme Being who is One without a second and whom different religions call by different names.
2. Respect the founders of all great religions as equally divine personalities, as messengers of the increasing purpose of history.
3. Love all humanity as the visible manifestation of the Supreme, regardless of colour, creed, race, and Nationality.
4. Tolerance and try to understand different viewpoints, even the viewpoints of enemies, heretics, atheists, and agnostics.
5. Know thyself, realize the full potential of your existence, and offer your best in the service of society.
6. Follow the middle path, practice moderation and steer clear opposite extreme.
7. Love Nature as the viable language of the Supreme and intelligently follow Her guidance.
8. Recognize truth wherever you find it , drawing spiritual nourishment from all available sources the World over.
9. Cultivate devotion to higher values, and function as a creative channel thereof.
10. Participate in the evolutionary being of the World in conscious Union with the Eternal.
It was again to fulfill the many vital needs of the 19th Century that the great Baha U’allah thought about unity, brotherhood, universal education, global language and a world government, etc. His one-world social consciousness and organization envisage:
1. Unity of all Religions;
2. Oneness of the human race;
3. Independent investigation of truth;
4. Religion must be the cause of Unity;
5. Freedom from prejudices of all kinds- National, Political , Racial, Religious and Class.
6. Equality of Men and Women.
7. Universal education.
8. Reconciliation of science and religion.
9. A universal Auxiliary language.
10. Solution of the economic problem.
11. A universal tribunal for settlement of international problems.
12. World peace, etc.
And in this century, we have such wide-ranging NRMs , Cults and Sects. For example, one to project environmental and ecological concerns as the Multi-Faith Canterbury Pilgrimage in 1989 wherein over 100 pilgrims from many faiths and environmental organizations took part and this was organized by World-Wide Fund for Nature and International Consultancy on Religion, education and culture. The Duke of Edinburgh mentioned that it was to remind that, “We are partners with all life on earth and joint beneficiaries of God’s Gifts of the life-giving air, water and soil.”
Brahmakumaris otherwise called the Brahmakumaris’ World Spiritual University (BKWSU) was founded in 1937 in Karachi by Dada Leghraj (1877-1969), a Wealthy Diamond Merchant, who at the age of 60 received a number of visions. It is reported one day there was a voice that spoke through him and said “I am the Blissful Self, I am Shiva, I am Shiva, I am the Luminous self, I am Shiva, I am Shiva.. The Brahmakumaris believe that “Shiva, God of Supreme Soul, had entered the body of Dada……….to begin the task of creation of a new World order”. It has its headquarters on Mount Abu in Rajasthan. Brahmakumaris are doing an excellent service by teaching meditation to all sorts of people, especially disturbed people in prisons. They have also taught meditation to the Members of the parliament in Great Britain, to Police Cadets, to School Children, in London. Their main programme in Meditation is, “To understand the mind and then harness its hidden powers.”
Their Raja yoga leaflet reads as follows:
“Each of us has a Third Eye, often called the Eye of Wisdom or Inner Vision and as the Meditation gently opens this Eye it brings rest and coolness to the Mind, clarity to the Intellect and complete self-control. But above all, there arises an overwhelming sense of peace……..you regain control of your own circumstances and direction of your energies. This means you become much less open to stress and illness.
Meditation as in Raja yoga is not a rejection of the world, it is the preparation for life, in the World. The detachment taught brings an objectivity that makes activity constantly positive”.
Ananda Marga founded in Bihar , in India, in 1955 by Shri Shri Ananda Murthi. The core philosophy of Ananda Marga (Path of Bliss) is, “A synthesis of traditional tantric and yogic practices with social aspect which includes social service and social reforms…….our actions must never be undertaken with thought of hatred or anger.”
Members practice meditation, or yoga, follow rules relating to food, fasting, conduct, posture, service etc.
New Age Movement:
This includes a very wide range of movements with several individuals belonging to numerous groups each endeavoring to explore new ideas and experiences. And also those who have associated themselves with this movement out of disenchantment with traditional religions and philosophical options. The groups that are included in this are from believers in Witchcraft, Shamanism, New Paganism, Satanism, etc. especially in the World of Medicines their systems include acupuncture, aroma therapy, electro crystal therapy, herbal remedies, alchemy , the Alexander technique , lymphatic irrigation therapy, radionics and many more healing therapies.
The common beliefs and attitudes that glue and help us to identify the New Ages are their belief that:
1. Humanity is at the dawn of new form of consciousness.
2. Radical spiritual change.
3. Spirtual awareness, Cosmic consciousness, exploration, etc.
4. Holistic approach.
5. Respect for ecological issues.
6. Importance to evolution especially spiritual aspect than mere biological or material one.
8. Organic forming.
9. Home-spun Textiles.
10 .Conviction that small is beautiful.
11. Environment friendly life style.
12. Importance to feminism, etc.
13. Encouragement of self-expression through dance, drama, poetry, and some more arts and crafts.
14. Embracing shamanistic beliefs.
15. No authorization leadership.
16. Variety of spiritual ways of grasping cosmic energy.
Founded by Sir George King in 1919.
The essence of his movement is “direct cooperation with Higher Cosmic forces, elevated spiritual beings who have the welfare of mankind at heart and who are directly assisting him at crucial time, as indeed they have done through history”.
The teachings of the Aetherius Society are received from Cosmic Masters from other Planets through…His Eminence Sir George King, while he is in Positive Yogic Samadhic trance.
THE CENTRESNETWORK; Founded by WERNER ERHARD (1935);
The essence of this movement is “The participation in the Forum take you beyond a mere understanding of being, beyond even an occasional, unpredictable experience of being, and provides you with direct access to the domain of being itself. This is the magic of the forum. Out of the forum , you bring this magic to all areas of life – to your relationships with your family, friends, and associates , to enjoyment of life, to your thinking, communicating and acting, to your recreation and to your work.
The London Church of Christ : Founded in1982 by Douglas Arthur and James Lloyd. It is also known as the Birmingham Church of Christ.
Jesus Fellowship Church: Founded by Noel Stanton “ It upholds the doctrine of the trinity and the full divinity of the Lord Jesus Christ”.
International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) : Founded in 1966 by his Divine Grace A.C.Bhakthivedanta Swami Prabhupada. It has a wide network of followers especially in the U.S. and U.K.
MSIA – Pronounced Messiah (Movement of Spiritual Inner Awareness): Founded by John Roger Hinkins in 1934 . The core principles of this movement are, “We work with heartfelt energies; awakening the heart; the way you can experience more of the heartfelt energy is by becoming more involved and more active in your life….this energy will move past your mind, emotions and ego until it comes to the very center that we call Love, or God, or Heart, or Spirit , or whatever term you want to call. In awakening the heartfelt energies, you can’t help but discover your own self-worth, your own self-love , your own magnificience. You don’t have to die to discover the Christ. You can move into that which is your own spiritual inner awareness and move upwards through the levels of your own consciousness until you find that which is the Christ within you….”
Divine Light Mission: Founded in 1930s by Shri Hans Ji Maharaj later on adopted the name of ELAN VITAL in 1980s. In the words of Maharaji, “We can be happy in this life. You don’t have to wait. There can be that joy, there can be that love, there can be that experience . It is not a way of life , it is not a way of thinking. It is not a philosophy …….I am talking about an experience that is continually happening. The true enjoyment of just being a human being – you can enjoy that simple fact now.
To know how to appreciate knowledge, you need to know how to appreciate life…..”
ETERNAL FLAME FOUNDATION :
Started by Charles Paul Brown, Berna Deane Brown and Janees Russell Strole in the 1930s. This movement has some interesting tips to positive motivation of physical health and longevity.
EMISSARIES OF DIVINE LIFE:
Founded by Lloyd Meeker in the 1930s. It is an association of individuals of many countries whose primary interest is to coordinate accurately with the way of life works in all aspects of daily experience.
Human Potential Movement and Trans-Personal Psychology:
Started in the 1970s in U.K. It emphasizes on personal responsibility, cooperation, spiritualism, transpersonal psychology, etc.
ECKANKAR: This movement started by John Paul Tuitchell in the 1960s. It is actually considered as an advanced form of Surat Shabda Yoga which concentrates on physical techniques and the spiritual exercises that enable the soul to travel beyond the physical limitations of the body to the higher realms of formless All-embracing infinity.
Church o Scientology: Founded om1954 based on the work of L. RON HUBBARD titled, ‘Dianetics; The Modern Science of Mental Health’. As per the booklet issued by the Church of Scientology, “Scientology is the study of ……the very basic knowledge about man and about life that is vital for each person to have if he is to be happy and accomplish those things he sets out to do. The application of Scientology principles can improve a person’s confidence, intelligence, abilities, and skills…..Scientology steers the individual out of the problems and seeming restrictions of every day life to a point where he can gain higher levels of spiritual freedom.
Children of God: A popular movement started by David Brandt.
Nichren Shoshu Buddhism: Founded in 1930 under the name of ‘SOKA KYOIKU GAKKAI’ by Tsunesaburo Makiguchi and Josei Toda and became very popular in Japan especially in the post-war period. This movement itself is from a sect founded in 13th century Japanese Buddhism by a Monk Nichiren Daishonin(1222-1282) who believed that the Lotus Sutra contained the quintessence of Buddha’s message.
RAELIANS: Started by Claude Vorilhon in France in the early 1970s.
RAJNEESHISM: Based on the teachings of the great visionary Bhagavan Shri Rajneesh, it stressed the importance of meditation and expounded the various techniques scientifically and spiritually.
SAHAJA YOGA: A movement started in the early 1970s by Her Holiness Mataji Nirmaladevi Srivatsava.
SHRI CHINMOY KUMAR GHOSE: Almost a cult, it is named after the spiritual Master Chinmoy Kumar Ghose who started a movement of serious meditation in the late 1960s and early 1970s, in brief, Shri Chinmoy’s own words, “Meditation is not an escape. Meditation is acceptance of life in its totality with a view to transforming it for the highest manifestation of the divine truth here on earth. When I pray, I talk, and God listens. When I meditate , God talks, and I listen”.
SUMMIT LIGHT HOUSE: Founded in 1958 by Mark L.Prophet in Washington.
TRANSCENDENTAL MEDITATION (T.M.): Started in the early 1960s by the great Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and this movement has helped millions all over the World.
UNIFICATION CHURCH: Started by Reverent Sun Myung Moon in 1954.
There are many other Movements, Cults, Sects, etc, like ARICA, EMIN, EXEGESIS and many more. In fact the exact number of NRMs, Cults, and Sects runs into several thousands each with its own vision, mission and perception of the Ultimate Reality. There may be some shortcomings in some of these, some abuse and some misuse, etc, but let us remember one thing. That no field of activity which aims and claims to grasp the Ultimate Truth is infallible and can claim to be the ultimate in perception and perfection.