Going Beyond Manmade Religion
By Jai Maha Dev
The law of the land—the manmade laws that are formulated by society for its harmonious functioning—differ from the law of our Being, the laws of Consciousness. The laws of Consciousness are universal and unchangeable, whereas the laws of various societies are constantly being modified and formulated according to the changing times.
The laws of society can be compared to the laws of mathematics, or the laws of physics, or the laws of medicine, etc. As we understand more and more about our universe, the laws of physics are sometimes modified or new laws are formulated.
As people’s tastes change, so the recipes change; similarly, some of the laws of society also change according to the ‘tastes’ (moods, preferences, etc.) of the society. Even laws regarding murder, theft, treason, etc., change according to the changing times.
But the laws of Consciousness are eternal and unchangeable. They do not change with the times because they are timeless. What do we mean by the laws of Consciousness? Most people would interpret this to mean the laws of God as embodied in various religions. This interpretation would be fine so long as people could agree upon a universal concept of ‘GOD’, and could also understand that ‘religion’ is a manmade institution created to preserve and uphold those laws. But the fact is, there is much disagreement as to what or who is GOD, and there is also much disagreement as to what are God’s laws, and what (if any) is the true religion.
The Meaning of Dharma
Before any religions existed (approximately 5,000 years ago), did the people who lived on this planet have no belief systems? Are we to assume that because no formal or institutionalized religion existed, that everyone who lived was ignorant and barbaric?
If we blindly accept the Western world’s account of ancient history, then we might conclude that our ancient ancestors were all barbaric cavemen, and that their ancestors were monkeys and baboons, and perhaps the ancient ancestors of the monkeys were cockroaches, which have been around for many, many millions of years. But all of this flies in the face of reason: because even a rudimentary exploration of consciousness dispels this myth.
No sensible person would say that energy is produced by matter. On the contrary, people say that energy is already present in matter, and they conclude that matter is produced by energy. Similarly, the subtle is not the product of the gross, and consciousness is not the product of the body. Through direct experience one concludes that consciousness can (and does) exist even without the presence of the body. Consciousness cannot be burned by the fire, drowned in the water, or cut by the sword. Consciousness is not born with the birth of the body, nor does it cease to exist upon the death of the body. (Only the body-consciousness, which is a superimposition, ceases to exist.)
From the Sankhya doctrine (attributed to the sage Kapila), we learn that everything we see, hear, taste, touch and smell—including the body and senses, and even the functions themselves (of seeing, hearing, tasting, touching, and smelling), as well as the mind (including the intellect) and the ego—all of these are products of nature that have resulted from the union of PURUSH (soul) and PRAKRITI (matter). In other words, our origins can be traced to the union of the ‘spirit and the flesh.’
Some people may reject the use of the words ‘spirit and flesh,’ and may prefer instead to use the terms energy and matter. In fact, spirit is energy, and energy is spirit. Spirit is the energy of the soul (ATMAN), which is the pure Self (our Real Self). Coming to this understanding, we realize that our real self, our pure consciousness, is the basis of everything, it is the beginning and the end (and is present at every moment of our life); it is the foundation of all that is, and is all that remains when all else is not.
If we do not know our Real Self then we do not know much. If we think we know much, but we do not know our Real Self, then really we know very little. It is because we do not know our Real Self that we are trying to find answers outside of our selves. But the answers do not lie outside. The answers can only be found in the core of our being, in the core of consciousness itself.
We need to be conscious, and we need to think and behave conscientiously. In a nutshell, this is the essence of Dharma. All expositions on Dharma are simply expositions on what it means to think and behave conscientiously. Now, what does this mean ‘to think and behave conscientiously?’ Does it mean to think and act like a Hindu, or a Muslim, or a Christian, or a Jew, etc.? Do we need to follow a particular religion in order to be conscientious, sincere, and noble (good)? No, WE DO NOT, and that is why Dharma has nothing to do with religion and vice versa. If we think that in order to do what is right we need to follow a particular religion, then we are deluded, we are far removed from the truth.
Dharma is the union of the self with the Real Self. That is, Dharma is simply the way one thinks and acts when one is conscious of his or her True Nature. It is not a question of ‘remembering’ your true nature, or philosophizing about it—it is a matter of living it, it is a matter of being your real self—it is NOT a matter of being a Christian, Muslim, Hindu, or Jew, or anything else.
Until we wake up and shake off the rusty chains of orthodoxy, dogma, superstition, and all other similar forms of ignorance, this world is going to continue to suffer. Foolishly we cling to our religion and ignore our humanity. If we are inhumane, we are going against our Dharma, we are denying our True Nature, and for that we will suffer again and again until we make up our mind to truly change for the better. But if we are so busy trying to change the world ‘to think like we do’, to ‘worship like we do,’ to ‘pray like we do’, then we will neither improve ourselves, nor our environment, nor anything. We do not need to be better Christians, or better Muslims, or better Jews or Hindus. We need to be better human beings. That’s all. We do not need to impose our religion on others. Neither do we need to superimpose any religion on ourselves. What we need is to discipline our minds, and get a grip on ourselves. We need to stop groping in the darkness.
The Light of Wisdom reveals the truth. The Light of Truth shines through all religions and reveals what is true and what is false. If we are true to our religion, we will discard whatever is false (in our religion) and embrace only what is true. If we are true to our Real Nature, to our True Self, we will rise above all religious differences and embrace only the Truth.