The role of religion

The Upanishads say that knowledge is the nectar of the Divine. The primary goal and purpose of knowledge is to provide continual inspiration so we may live correctly with the right perspective and with unwavering faith. Blessed are the lives of those who have attained knowledge. The final goal of formal education is also the attainment of knowledge. Learning, scholarship, and initiation are nothing but different ways of referring to righteous knowledge. There is nothing left to attain after the attainment of righteous knowledge. How should we imbibe righteous knowledge? How should we deepen and further extend it? The following section attempts to address these questions.


A deep conviction in a Higher Being deters us from straying onto the wrong path. It also propels the journey of our inner self in the right direction. For those who believe God to be all powerful and absolutely just, there is no cover beneath which to hide their wrong actions. It may be possible to sidestep the punishments of the state justice system, but there is no escaping divine justice. Those who believe this tenet to be true will be shielded from the wrong path and they will continually strive to receive divine grace by way of righteous actions. Theism is a surefire way to happiness and peace, both in our personal and social lives. Everyone must try to deeply establish a theistic faith in their heart and mind. No matter how busy our lives may be, we must spend at least fifteen minutes meditating on the all powerful and just God, and earnestly pray that we may be inspired to think and act righteously. We must do this twice daily, once upon waking up and once before going to sleep. Every single person must do at least this daily prayer. [ . . . ]


We must read and reflect on spiritual insights every day. Spiritual literature provides the indispensable motivation to continually recreate and mould our lives. Reading is an essential aspect of practice and it deserves a permanent time slot in our daily routine. The presence of good thoughts suppresses the bad. Finding good company may be difficult, however, reading, offers a way to be in the company of great spiritual thinkers, even after they have passed away. No one should deprive themselves of this important benefit. Those who can not read should arrange for others to read to them.


The Hindu religion prescribes many rituals to be performed at various stages of life and at various times of the year. The purpose is to instill spiritual values. The energy and enthusiasm pervading these family celebrations provides a fertile environment for us to learn and adopt the tenets of a righteous life. An announcement of the resolution to follow the tenets, in the witness of the Divine Powers, is an integral step in all Hindu rituals. Inspirations abound in the steps of rituals such as conception, pregnancy, naming, the child’s first solids, the start of formal education, initiation to a spiritual path, marriage, and the preparation for renunciation of worldly attachments. When performed with devotion, these rituals have a profound effect on everyone in attendance. [ . . . ]


Holy days help to establish the broader values of society in the same way that rituals help to establish personal and familial values. Every holy day has its own ideals and its own message. Proper celebration of Holy days serves to remind us of our social duties and ideals and it also energizes and encourages us to fulfill these ideals. Holidays should be celebrated with the larger community. Their execution and planning should enthuse and attract general participation. The community should gather. The wise and elderly should explain the underlying messages of the familial and social values. And whenever possible, there should be some real application and enactment of the message. [ . . . ]


Everyone should celebrate their birthday with friends and family, bestowing good wishes on them. The celebration should be small and simple, with time afforded to reflecting on one’s current life and resolving to infuse the remaining years with more righteousness. Others should wish the same for us. We should make every birthday an occasion to deepen the practice of living with integrity.


A movement of resolutions must be re-kindled, so that we all may learn to be resolute beings. The most important teaching of this practice is for us to realize the importance of setting boundaries and schedules that are necessary both for everyday life and for spiritual progress. Of course, we must resolve to follow our schedules and disciplines with deep conviction. These resolutions should span every aspect of our lives ranging from those that effect what we eat, how we express physical intimacy, how we earn and spend our money, how much we give to charity, as well as resolutions that concern our daily activities such as exercise, waking time, sleeping time, and daily meditation. A crucial aspect of resolutions is to uproot unhealthy habits and make way for stronger and more powerful expression of our spiritual selves. Each of us must learn the art of spiritual living in which we are able to exercise self-control.


Temples should be the centers for communicating ethical and social values. The space dedicated to places of worship should be used to conduct programs such as night schools, literacy programs, devotional singing, spiritual discourses, communal celebrations of festivals and rituals, dispensation of medicine, yoga, and communal fasting. Those who consider themselves the followers of a temple or church should donate their time and volunteer to organize and run its social programs. Serving the community is no less important of an offering than one’s daily prayers. Those in charge should solicit participation and donations toward temple programs that serve the community and not just the statue of the deity.


We must make efforts to revive the tradition whereby those who are done fulfilling their familial responsibilities, who are in retirement, or who have enough for their financial security, dedicate themselves to serving the wider community. [ . . . ] From the perspective of creating a New Era, it is essential that we revive this noble tradition.


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