Religious Dogma – 2

By P.R. Sarkar

(13 April 1988, Kolkata) – In the hoary past, groups were created amongst human beings on the basis of their group psychology and group supremacy. Group leaders enjoyed much freedom in that social order. These ancient people had to increase their numbers, because constant clashes between the different groups caused many deaths. Fights were as numerous as sticks and stones. A group queen or clan mother was the head of the community, like a queen ant in an ant hill or a queen bee in a bee hive. A woman had the status of a group queen because women were revered for their child producing capacity. Consequently, the social order at that time was matriarchal and matrilineal.

Later people started phallus worship. In that undeveloped stage of society, people gave great importance to the phallus because they thought that phallus worship would increase their numbers. Many ancient civilizations, including the Mayan civilization, practiced phallus worship. Phallus worship continued after the advent of Shiva about seven thousand years ago, and even today people still worship Shiva in the symbolic form of a phallus.

The Rudimental Cause of Religious Dogma

Still later, people started worshipping effigies and idols. Then Jainism and Buddhism emerged, resulting in the creation of different deities and the construction of religious temples. When Jainism and Buddhism became influential, phallus worship, Shiva worship, Jainism and Buddhism were blended together. Subsequently, a priesthood commenced. After some time many new deities were created, which represented different orders of Jain and Buddhist worship and reflected parochial interests. As soon as parochialism emerged, different kinds of dogma arose – whenever parochialism takes hold, dogma thrives. This was the rudimental cause of religious dogma. Since ordinary people had no alternative but to resort to religious dogma, they started to fiercely exploit each other.

Religious dogma gave new meaning to the concept of life after death. People were taught that they were poor because they had committed sinful acts in their past lives, and that they were rich because their past deeds were virtuous. Such teachings blocked any revolt against social disparity. Do you see how dangerous religious dogma was, and how dangerous it still is today? If you analyse each and every aspect of life which has been infected by religious dogma, you will find that the advocates of dogma are always motivated by the psychology of exploitation.

Once a priest noticed that a so-called low caste villager had grown a large eggplant which he imagined would make a delicious meal. He told the villager that although it was auspicious to worship Satya Narayana with eggplant, he would not ask for the eggplant because the villager lacked devotion. Out of fear the villager pleaded with the priest to take the eggplant and use it in his worship. With a show of reluctance, the priest eventually accepted the offer. Through this devious ploy, the priest achieved his objective.

Should one dogma be replaced by another dogma of the same order or of another order? Should a dogma of a positive order be replaced by a dogma of a positive order or by a dogma of a negative order? A dogma is an illogical, irrational sentiment. All dogma must be replaced by non-dogma. Gautam Buddha said that anger should be overcome by sweetness, miserliness by generosity, falsehood by truthfulness, hatred by love and sorrow by happiness. If we adopt the same approach, does this mean replacing a negative dogma with a positive dogma? No, because these attributes are mental propensities, not dogma. All negative mental propensities should be replaced by positive mental propensities, as Buddha advocated. This is the proper approach.

Shankaracarya did not follow this process. Rather, he replaced Buddhist dogma with Paoráńic dogma. Buddhist Tara became Paoráńic Tara. In those days people who were called Cakravarty used to sit on Bhaeravi Cakra and practice Buddhist Tantra. Shankaracarya made the Cakravarty community Brahmins. Buddhist mantras were in Pali, but the Cakravarty community did not know Saḿskrta which was the basis of Pali. Consequently, they were declared lower caste Brahmins than the Brahmins who knew Saḿskrta. As a result of Shankaracarya’s influence, the Buddhist deity Lokesvari prevalent in north and east India 1500 years ago became Lokesvari Vishnu in the Paoráńic religion. So, Shankaracarya committed a fundamental folly. He replaced Buddhist dogma with Paoráńic dogma.

All human beings want to lead a secure, harmonious life, and have the opportunity to express themselves and progress. However, religious dogma goes against these fundamental human aspirations. Some priests, for example, say that if women dance their feet will become useless, therefore they should not dance. This is dogma. Other priests force people to worship particular deities out of fear. People are told that if they do not worship the prescribed deity, then a calamity will befall their families, and the deity will even take revenge on them. But can a deity really take revenge, just like bad people do? If it can, how can it be a deity? This is all dogma.

Women are considered second class citizens in each and every religion. If equal status is given to women, it will be very difficult to exploit them. So to avoid this happening, women are kept oppressed. The exploitation of women has been continuing for centuries. Some religions say that if the husband is virtuous the wife is benefited, so the wife does not have to do anything herself. Other religions say that men can go to heaven, but women have to remain standing at heavens gate. All this is dogma. Intelligent people know that nobody can share the virtues or vices of others. Everybody has to move with their own saḿskaras or reactions to past actions.

Ism and Neohumanism

As I have said, a collection of dogma is called an “ism.” Where there is no logic and reason, dogma arises, whatever form it may take. Isms go beyond their small periphery when they are permeated by feelings for humanity – and not only humanity, but feelings for all living beings. The gigantic dinosaurs of the past and the tiny ants of today have the same existential value. Whatever human beings do in this world must be done for all creatures, including the largest animals and the tiniest insects.

You have to utilize all your skills to elevate all creation. You have to think for all, plan for all and act for all. From the Absolute perspective there is no difference between one person and another, between human beings and animals and between living beings and non-living beings. You cannot draw a line of distinction between movable and immovable objects.
Any narrow ism may be transformed into universalism and accepted by all only when all physical barriers, psychic hindrances and spiritual impediments have been removed from the periphery of that ism. This is a new idea which I have explained in the book The Liberation of Intellect – Neohumanism. The term “Neohumanism” has been used in that book keeping this new idea in mind.

Not even a branch of a tree is useless – it has feelings of pleasure and pain. We should only cut the branch of a tree when it is absolutely necessary. Just as you have the right to live, so do others. The lives of others’ are as important to them as your life is to you; the life of another person is as important to him or her as my life is to me. You should keep this idea in your mind when you think of others.

Similarly, the life of a goat is as important to it as my life is to me. During religious festivals many innocent goats are killed and offered as sacrifices to various deities. The remaining goats are made to chew on leaves as they watch in wide-eyed fear, knowing that they will shortly meet the same fate. Now, put yourself in the same situation. Imagine that you, along with some others, have been captured by a few demons. Then, as you are fed rice and pulse, the demons begin systematically slaughter you all, one after another. The horrified reaction that will arise in your mind as you wait to be butchered is the same reaction as that experienced by the captive goats. If people still want to kill innocent goats in their religious sacrifices after realizing the cruelty of this practice, tragically, there is nothing that anyone can say to them.

Hypocrites’ Dogma

Hypocrites’ dogma, rather than indirect dogma, is behind all such religious practices. Many people follow dogma because a specific injunction is written in the scriptures, or because a particular practice was followed by their ancestors, etc. In these cases, people follow dogma unknowingly. However, there are also many instances when people follow dogma knowingly.

When people know that a teaching or practice is a dogma and yet they still follow it, this is called hypocrites dogma. For example, when people sacrifice a goat or buffalo in a religious festival while chanting “Divine goddess, divine goddess!” before a deity, they know that the animal is an irreplaceable part of creation, but still they slaughter it. This is hypocrites’ dogma. If a man kills his brother before his mother, will it please his mother? No, it cannot. The difference between these two examples is that the deity is unable to do anything to stop the slaughter, while the mother is quite capable of taking the necessary action. Otherwise, the deity would certainly interfere and stop the cruel, useless sacrifice.

Mon tomáre bhram gelaná
Kali kemana tái ceye dekhlená
Jagatke kháoáchen je má
Diye kata khádya nána
–Ramprasad

[Oh mind! You are not free from your mistakes. You are not yet aware of the true nature of the Divine Mother. Would you feed the Divine Mother, who is feeding nutritious food to the entire universe, with dried rice and cooked gram? Would you decorate the Divine Mother, who is decorating the world with costly jewels, with imitation ornaments?]

During the Durga Puja festival in India, some images are decorated with clay and tinsel ornaments which are known as d́áker gahaná. Ramprasad says, “O mind, worship your Iśt́a or spiritual goal with holy chants mixed with devotion. It is useless to perform worship with gaudy ornaments and showy ostentation, because the Divine Mother does not accept bribes from anyone.”

Hypocrites’ dogma is embraced knowingly by those with vested interests, although most people follow dogma unknowingly. Ordinary people are told by their priests, “You should not do this or that because it is a sin and is forbidden by the scriptures. If you do not follow the path that we have suggested, your family will be ruined.” If rational people challenge these illogical ideas, a priest may retort that he had a dream in which the Divine Mother appeared before him and said many things to justify his position. This is all hypocrites’ dogma.

Dogma and the Vedas

The Vedas have been the source of a great many religious dogma. The teachings of the Vedas can be divided into two main parts – Karma Kanda or the portion dealing with action, and Jin’ána Kanda or the portions dealing with knowledge. The Jin’ána Kanda can also be divided into two parts – the Árnyaka and the Upaniśad. Let us discuss the Jin’ána Kanda first.

In the Vedic era, there was a social rule which stipulated that after reaching 50 years of age people should retire from family life, live in the forest and serve society with their intellect. This stage of life was called Vánaprastha. Retired people went into villages only to beg for food. The rest of the time they lived in the forest. The discourses and teachings of these retired people were collected and preserved as the Árnyaka portion of the Jin’ána Kanda.

The Upaniśad comprises those teachings which dealt directly with Parama Puruśa or Supreme Consciousness and Para Jin’ána or Spiritual Knowledge. “Upa” means near, “ni” means closely and “śad” means to sit. So Upaniśad means that which leads us close to the Supreme Entity. Spiritual aspirants should be concerned with the relevant portions of the Jin’ána Kanda.

The Karma Kanda is also divided into two parts – Mantra and Brahmańa. Mantra means the invocations related to religious beliefs and rituals, and Brahmańa means the rules and regulations to be followed when performing such invocations. Brahmańa, as originally used in the Vedas, did not mean a high caste Hindu, but gradually the meaning of the word changed.
Most of the people in the Vedic age drank excessive amounts of fermented juice, called somarasa, and ate meat, including beef. After the advent of Shiva, in the time of the Yajurveda, people were encouraged to rear cows to produce milk and to discontinue eating meat. Nevertheless, many people in the Vaedic age were alcoholics, and even those who performed religious rituals had great difficulty carrying out their duties properly.

Consequently, a custom was introduced which made it compulsory for priests to wear a deer skin across their shoulders, called upavita. This clearly identified the priest so that he would not be served alcohol while conducting religious ceremonies. Gradually, over the course of time, the deer skin was transformed into a thread. Today this thread is the symbol of the Brahmin caste in Hindu society.

In the Vedic age, delicious foods like ghee or clarified butter, high quality rice and vegetables, as well as expensive cloth, were offered as a part of religious rituals. At funerals, these items were offered in the name of the dead person in the belief that the departed soul would enjoy them in the afterlife.

During this age, people also distorted the meaning of the Gáyattrii Mantra of the Vedas. The Gáyattrii Mantra got its name because it is based on the Gáyattrii rhythm in music. The inner meaning of the Savitr Rk is, “Oh Lord, lead me along the path of righteousness.” However, some priests spread the idea that the Gáyattrii Mantra was to be used for worshipping the Gáyattrii deity. These priests collected money from ordinary, innocent people to worship the Gáyattrii deity. They even taught ordinary people that if they bowed their heads only once a day before the Gáyattrii deity, this will take them a step closer to heaven. The Gáyattrii Mantra is not in any way related to the Gáyattrii deity.

On the one hand, the Jin’ána Kanda taught that when a person died, the body decomposes and returns to the five fundamental factors of creation. On the other hand, the Karma Kanda taught that delicious food and cloth should be offered when someone died, so that the deceased person could enjoy these things in their afterlife. The Karma Kanda is full of many baseless and misleading instructions.

Some misguided people advocate a bloodless, armed revolution based on the Vedas. But, is it possible to have a bloodless, armed revolution? Moreover, how is it possible to bring about a revolution based on the Vedas when the Vedas themselves are full of dogma?

The terms shástra, shastra and astra have different meanings. Shástra means scripture. The rules and regulations stated in the scriptures are intended to demarcate the dos and don’ts of human behaviour by appealing to human psychology and intellect. For example, some scriptures say that if you consume alcohol it will be detrimental to your health. Through such warnings, the scriptures try to give guidance to people. Shastra means the effort to control people by physical force like slapping, pushing or pinching, etc. That is, in shastra there is physical contact and every possibility of shedding blood. Astra means to control or dominate others by using a weapon like a stick, knife, gun, etc. Here bloodshed will almost always happen. Thus shástra takes an indirect approach, while both shastra and astra take the direct approach. So shastra viplava and astra viplava are both forms of physical revolution. Viplava means revolution in Saḿskrta. These forms of revolution cannot be bloodless. If some people advocate a bloodless, armed revolution, it means that they are trying to fool the public.

In the Vedas, little distinction is made amongst people based on caste, but a large part of the Vedas divide people into different races. That is, the Vedas are full of racial sentiments. For example, the Aryans are described as white and are considered superior to the other races. They are termed deities or Sura. The non-Aryans are described as black and are considered inferior to the Aryans. They are termed demons, Danavas or Asuras. The Vedas are full of inequities. Any attempt the establish equality based on the Vedas will be totally false and misleading.

In the past many unpsychological ideas were imposed on the toiling masses and women. If we examine Indian history, we can see that exploited people took the shelter of Jainism and Buddhism, and later of Islam. This occurred because they did not want 33 to live in an oppressive atmosphere, because they felt suffocated in such an environment.

Today some people advocate Vedic revolution, but how can there be a revolution based on the Vedas when the Vedas themselves are full of dogma? In the past it was the practice in India that if a woman heard the recitation of the Vedas even by accident, molten lead was poured into her ears. This was done because if women were not suppressed they could not be easily exploited and ordered about to do menial work, like maid servants. Today women have started a collective movement to oppose their oppression and exploitation.

In the Vedic age, people were oppressed and felt suffocated by the imposition of dogma. They got their first experience of freedom during the life of Buddha, because he was the first to start a crusade against Vedic dogma. This was the reason why Buddhism was accepted by the masses immediately and spread rapidly.

In the Vedic era, the Aryans used to steal food grains and animals from the non-Aryans to perform their sacrifices and rituals (yajin’as). In retaliation, groups of non-Aryans used to attack the Aryans to recover their possessions while they were performing their rituals. These attacks were grossly distorted in the Vedas, which gives the impression that the Aryans were good while the non-Aryans were evil. In fact, the non-Aryans were forced to attack the Aryans to recover their food to ensure their survival. Did the non-Aryans do anything bad? No, they did the right thing.

The Vedas contain various shlokas which advise people not to show malice to others, and not be cruel or unjust. For example, máhiḿsi means not to show malice to others, while saḿgacchadhvam means let all people move together. These shlokas are proof that malice and inequality existed amongst different groups of people in those days, otherwise what was the need of propagating such ideas?

Those who advocate Vedic revolution today want to return the to the ancient past. There is no concept of revolution in the Vedas. Rather, the teachings of the Vedas imply counterrevolution because they support injustice and racism. The teachings of Buddha and Jain contained the first revolutionary ideas because they opposed Vedic inequality, although the teachings of Buddha are more rational than those of Mahaviira Jain.

Why have Buddhism and Jainism not stood the test of time? Both these religions suffer from two main defects which have undermined their popularity. Gaotam Buddha failed to propound any clear idea about God and the ultimate goal of human life, and he did not try to build a human society based on his teachings. Mahaviira Jain, first of all, gave too much stress to nirgrantha vada or going about naked. Primitive people did not wear clothes, but they began to cover their bodies due to changing climatic conditions. After they grew accustomed to covering their bodies, they began to feel ashamed if they went about without clothes. Hence, Mahaviira’s philosophy of nirgrantha vada never gained mass support.

Secondly, he placed too much emphasis on forgiveness and mercy. He taught people to forgive their worst enemies, even if they were as deadly as scorpions and snakes. As a result of this teaching, people lost the will to fight against the enemies of society. So, although the teachings of Buddha and Mahaviira Jain were not based on dogma and did not deliberately mislead people, they failed in the course of time because they were not sufficiently comprehensive and well-balanced.

Prańavo dhanu sharohyátmá Brahma tallakśyamucyate
Apramattena veddhavyaḿ sharavat tanmayo bhavet.
“Prańava or spiritual cult is like a bow, Jiivátma or unit consciousness is like an arrow, and Brahma is like the target. While hitting the target, one should be as concentrated as an arrow. The archer must hit the target without the least wavering.”

The Saḿskrta word matta is derived from the root verb mad, which means “to consume drugs that cause people to lose their sense.” Smoking tobacco is not included in this category. But if one takes hashish, opium, wine etc., one’s nerves will become weak, causing drowsiness and eventually senselessness. Another category of drugs causes excessive excitement in people, making them rant and rave uncontrollably. As a result, they lose the capacity to discriminate between good and bad. Both categories of drugs are called mad. Vanity is also a kind of mad. Due to vanity, people may lose their common sense.

Matta means something which is not entirely bad, but contains both good and bad, while pramatta means something which is completely bad – bad from beginning to end. Pramatta totally destroys human faculties. Rational people should not accept anything which goes against human psychology and is ultravires to cardinal human principles. The theory of communism propounded by Karl Marx is an example of pramatta. Communism has been an unmitigated disaster for human beings. It is full of defects, and bad from beginning to end. It has caused the degeneration of human society.

Rich, selfish people sometimes suppress the poorer sections of society by binding them with illogical ideas in order to accumulate greater wealth or enjoy more luxury. The caste system in India has been used to exploit people in this way. In the past, for example, high caste people propagated the idea that it was a sin for so-called low caste milk vendors to give them water. This was done to ensure that the high caste people were supplied with pure, undiluted milk. However, it was not considered a sin for high caste people to take water from so-called low caste sweet vendors. Otherwise, high caste people would not have been permitted to consume the numerous delicious sweets prepared from milk and water.

The privileged classes invariably think of their own comforts. They infuse the poorer sections of society with inferiority complexes in order to exploit them, and then force them to become their obedient servants. But eventually the poor people revolt against such exploitation, even if it takes one, two, three or more generations. People will always revolt against those things that go against human psychology. When oppression crosses the limits of human tolerance and endurance, revolution is inevitable.

All dogma must be rooted out. You should start a revolution against dogma. But to start a revolution you need courage. So gather that courage and start a revolution against dogma.

Copyright Ananda Marga Publications 2012

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