Came across a very interesting article on Huffington Post: Why doesn’t Asia have Religion?
It is a point that is important to make and so difficult to do so in the current world, which has been contaminated by the very idea of religion as the only sacrosanct way to God. Within the Hindu society, it is even more important to make such a point, because Hinduism is NOT a religion as well. Spiritual pursuit in India has been called Sanatan Dharma – or the Eternal Law.
Thomas DuBois says it well:
Having spent the past 10 years writing and teaching on Asian religions, I now have something to confess:
Asia does not have religion.
“But what,” you may ask, “about that college class I took on ‘world religions?’ We learned about Hinduism, Confucianism, Daoism and Shinto. Half the class was about Asia.”
Between you and me, I hate that class. I hated it as a student, because I thought it didn’t make sense. I hate it even more as a professor, because I know it doesn’t make sense.
While reading through the article I was heartened by his basic understanding of the difference.
Think about the religions the Western world knows best: Judaism, Christianity and Islam. Whatever the differences that separate them, these three religions all share a great deal in common. Each one, for instance, is centered on a text — a holy and inviolate scripture. For Jews, Christians and Muslims, the sacred text is never wrong — although man’s interpretation of it often is. Based on this knowledge, it would seem sensible to assume that religion and scripture are inseparable. But in fact, the central role of scripture, like much of what we assume about “religion” as a concept, is uniquely Western.
The same applies to the rules about how religion functions in society.
He draws upon a very contemporary popular culture show – The Simpsons – to bring home the point.
As always, one needs travel no further than “The Simpsons” for a good example. When Lisa’s quest for religious identity (driven by her dissatisfaction with the fictitious Presbylutheran congregation) led her to embrace Buddhism, she promptly shouted the epiphany, “I’m a Buddhist!” out her bedroom window. In doing so, she was actually echoing a classic Christian metaphor of religious belonging — the lightning-bolt conversion of Paul of Tarsus. Lisa may have been a Buddhist, but she became one in a very Christian way.
I think the last line is very telling and significant in its import.
Many in India and abroad try to differentiate between Hinduism and other religions, but my view is that it is a useless exercise. For, the moment we talk about Hinduism in the paradigm of Religion; we have taken the entire discussion to the other turf. The very admittance that Hinduism is a religion is half the battle lost in the entire effort to differentiate between the two constructs!
Why is it important to differentiate between Religion and what goes on in Eastern Spirituality.
Because the future of mankind is predicated on it. Religion as a construct is the most damning concept constructed by man. Even more damning was that it uprooted the primacy of Spirituality and Mysticism as the prime mover of Divine pursuits.
From Seeking, the world went to Beliefs. And, beliefs have no benchmark. Because belief is about constructing hierarchies; while seeking doesn’t care for such things. How do you say I am a better believer than someone else? Except being more fanatic and passionate.. and aggressive?
Is Rush Limbaugh more Christ like than Dalai Lama? It is an important question, that the believers will mess up on.
That is why if the world has to survive, Religion as a concept has to be put in the place where it belongs – Garbage bins!