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Secularism- A bane or a boon for contemporary world?

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  1. 21st century has thrown up myriad challenges to humanity. The very character of the human psyche is that of ‘one-upmanship’. Everyone wants to outdo the other, to reach the acme of perceived/believed narrative. The present narrative, world over, is zeroed on to prove its economic dominance to others. This concept has an inbuilt requirement of security. Thus the cumulative energies of the entire world are manifesting as “rat race” for pre eminence in trade and commerce protected by high tech security i.e.  Defense capability in a variety of spheres. It could be conventional space, internal security, off shore security (sea lines of communications), NBC/CBRN, cyber space or even outer space.
  2. Whereas, the nation states are struggling to boost the trade and defense capabilities legally/illegally, yet the fault lines in this comity of nations are too fragile in terms of religion, race, political beliefs and regional aspirations. This has lead to puritanical competition for dominance over others. The worst of these maladies that world suffers today is the religious imperialistic tendencies. This has manifested itself in a conspicuous manner in the present mess the world is in.
  3.  While the nations like China, Pakistan, Turkey or few African countries demonstrate their overt desire to promote their brand of nationalism with religious support, there are others where right wingers are active enough to be taken note of.  These right wingers are responsible for putting reasonable pressure on the governments to toe a particular religious line. The passions of gullible masses are used as weapons to change the sociopolitical parities for petty little gains while the educated majority remains silent for variety of reasons. This race to Supremacy forces the political establishment to sacrifice the principles of secularism so vital for the overall prosperity of any pluralistic society which majority of the world is composed of.  While few countries in this world have declared themselves as the theocratic states, yet the others christened themselves as secular. Unfortunately, a good no of the ruling dispensations in these so called secular states, misuse the word ‘SECULAR’ for their petty political gains.

Secularism as Defined

  • What exactly is the meaning of secularism? Secularism as per dictionary means, “Where religion does not interfere with social, political and educational sphere of a society”. This is the true spirit behind the progress and prosperity of pluralistic society that majority of the contemporary humanity is formed of. Despite fully understanding this cliché, yet a lot many attempts are made to misuse it for petty personal and political ambitions. Even in the past in Europe, when religious head used to lead in state governance and many aberrations were noticed and felt, this concept was introduced to ensure that the affairs of the state are devoid of any religious influence. It was ruled that practicing any religion was totally a personal matter of any citizen. Unfortunately today, even small practices of any religion are viewed with extreme passion and fervor which results in gigantic proportions of intolerance. All this without understanding as to what exactly is the reason behind each practice that is followed by a sect and the same is branded as religious practice or belief. The term ‘Secular’ is misused by vested interests for political of social personal petty gains.

Essence of God’s Being

  • Our ancestors in ancient times had attained a very high levels of intellectualism irrespective of any geographical region where the humanity excogitated. They realized that the universe is made of five elements. Even today, the pluralistic humanity survives in this universe which is composed of five ingredients as its key components i.e. Earth, Sky (Space), Air, Water and Fire. Our ancestors realized their existence and started revering them as some divine supreme power. This reverence and refuge to the divine power gave rise to the concept of god, albeit, with different names or faiths. The underlying fear in the human mind against natural and other calamities was common to all societies. They had negligible communication between the societies or sects/religions and  yet their respective  intelligentsia arrived at similar conclusions independent of each other as that was the reality of the very existence. The Hindus called it  “BHAGWAN”. The Muslims called it “ALILAH”. The  Christians called it “GOD” and so on and so forth.
  •  “BHAGWAN”  is composed of “BH” bhumi(earth), “G”gagan(sky/space), “W” wayu(air), “A” agni(fire)  “N”neer(water).The Muslim god “ALILAH” also is composed of “A“ aab(neer/water), “L” lab(bhumi/earth), “I” illa(vayu/air), “A”(aasmaan/space), “H”harank(agni/fire). The “GOD is “G” generator (Brahama the creator), “O” operator(Vishnu the director), “D”(Mahesh the annihilator). Thus every religion in this universe came across these five elements which make the universe and mostly similar interpretations. Each sect recognized its supreme binding force, started drawing inner strength from it and perceived the supreme lord depending on contemporary geographical location, climatic conditions and ease of praying. We may have named our perceived lords by different names but the basic faith underlying our emotions, research and understanding is same.  Then, we started making a beeline to get into the semantics of promoting our religion and that’s when we started an avoidable acrimonious debate laced with bloodshed, hatred and disrespect for each other. Least realizing that we all pray to same entity and we all believe in the same Supreme element but only in a different form.

Evolution of Religious Practices

  •   Now one may argue that there are some distinct religious practices which make up a particular religion. One must realize that most of the practices were evolved over a period of time in a particular geographical region and other limiting factors. For example, practice of washing hands before prayers (SHUDHIKARAN/VUZU). The procedure is guided by the conditions in which the religion prospered i.e. green lands/deserts. Hindus prospered in green lands and had surplus water in terms of rivers and ponds. They washed hands in a particular way. Muslims prospered in deserts where there is acute shortage of water so they washed hands (VUZU) in a different way to conserve water. Hindus did ‘Surya Namaskar’ facing East, basically a yogic way of keeping your body healthy. They promoted this amongst masses as a worship of the Sun god. Same yogic way with similar benefits was proliferated amongst the Muslims for ‘SAJDA to ALILAH’ (prayers/Nimaz) facing West since the ‘KABBA’, the holy place, is located in Saudi Arabia in West direction. Both the actions are similar in nature with same health benefits irrespective of the religion one follows.   In Islam, the practice of possibility of marrying four ladies was guided by the reasons of giving shelter to the widows of the warriors who offered their lives as supreme sacrifice   in “JEHAD” the holy war for “ALILAH”.  Similarly, there was a ‘Sati Pratha’ amongst some Hindu regions to protect a widow from the vagaries of life as the ladies used to be in ‘Parda’ and totally dependent on their husbands.
  •  However, these rituals evolved over a period of time and kept getting transformed into different shades depending on the contemporary evolution of the intellectual, social and political faculties of the society. Vegetarianism was buzz word for majority of Hindus as there was enough vegetation around in green lands and the benefits of having vegetarian diets on health were amply demonstrated by ‘Rishi Munis’ who supposedly lived for thousands of years during their ‘Tapasaya’. Even the temperatures do not lend to a non vegetarian diet in most places of Indian Subcontinent. On the other hand, Muslims in deserts and Christians in colder latitudes had little vegetation and had to turn  towards non vegetarianism. The colder climate warranted a non vegetarian diet for survival and health. Even the nature supports vegetarianism amongst animal world and non vegetarianism in the “Food Chains” in sea or lands wherein, one land or sea animal eats the other to survive and keep the population density of the respective ecosystems in manageable proportions. This management of eco system theories is scientifically explained and has nothing to do with any religion. Thus majority of the practices were the result of the contemporary social, ideological, intellectual and circumstantial triggers and has nothing to do with extremism leading to radicalism.

Lesson for Contemporary World

  • Later as the humanity evolved and many religions came into being, basically, for reformation of the malformed rituals which were deformed over a period of time and were not in tune with the contemporary society. Sikhism, Buddhism, Jainism, Din-e-Ilahi and many other religions emerged and their holy scriptures came into being. All holy books have the best of the teachings from all the religions in this world. All preached one god albeit with different architectures depending on prevalent social conditions. Every religion has relics, scriptures and beliefs which are basically nothing but all the good actionable things for prosperity and progress of every human being and the humanity as a whole. They all stress PLURALITY and progress for all.
  • On in depth analysis of all religious ‘ORIGINAL’ teachings, one finds that all religion preach one god. All religious leaning towards prosperity of humanity, pluralism and mutual respect for one and all. No religion teaches hatred and devastation for selfish ambitions. All agree in principle that there is one god and “to love is to be human”. There may be right wingers in every society for personal petty gains who misguide the illiterate masses with incorrect interpretations of the teaching of god. Every human being must realize that ‘chocolate’ is same, its just the wrapper that is different. That is because it was manufactured in a different land though the factory architecture which manufactured the wrapper was always same. All humans should go for the god irrespective of name, practices (original) or contemporary structure. All religions should be respected and all followers should be gracious enough to respect others’ feelings. Indian Armed Forces are the apt example of this.

(Brigadier dr vijay sagar dheman) is former Additional Director General NCC and former Vice Chancellor of GKU

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