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Religion, Arts and Understanding Life

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The following topics are considered:

  1. Introduction
  2. Religion and Politics
  • Political Ideologues
  • Numerous Dichotomies
  • God and Justice
  • The Force, Energy and God
  • Scriptures and Psychology
  1. Arts

References and notes: Star (*) followed by a bracketed number (#1, etc) identifies applicable specific reference and notes.

Introduction 

Comparative religion, arts and science are tools for understanding life. Terrorism was examined from social and cultural angles in previous article. Second article on introduction to Understanding Life series of four articles discusses how religious dogma is exploited by political establishments.

Life is dynamic and ever changing or evolving. Known is history, unknown is future and present is what counts. Understanding life challenges mind. Life revolves around belief systems, arts and material world. Tools for understanding life include comparative studies of religions, art and science. The tools define the various people groups – cultures and societies – across the world.

Religions and Politics  

We have a variety of belief systems to choose from. Religions have many facets and some discussed below are associated with hate and intolerance.

  • Political Ideologues 

Theologian and establishments addicted to power interpret scriptures to mold society and cultures to conform to their vision as is seen in many nations of Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the process the ruling establishments insist on submission to dogma that only true faith is with ‘God of conformity to authority, rewards and punishment.’ Such a mindset historically has promoted hate and intolerance of other faiths creating conflicts and cultural wars.

A flawed belief has emerged to support politically motivated theologians and fundamentalist orthodoxy that insists that their interpretations of scriptures are inviolable. Non-believers are branded as pagans or even sinners, forced to convert or punished. Insistence on conversion creates social, cultural and political conflicts. The behavior, essentially bigotry, is based on the ignorance and lack of mutual respect for understandings of social, cultural and political ideologies of non-believers.

  • Numerous Dichotomies 

Beyond all political finer details in beliefs, discussed in previous article, “Terrorism and Cultural Wars”  all civilizations agree on a universal truth that there is only one God. For aam admi (common men) “God is love, mercy and forgiveness”; for political ideologues, God wears colored glasses: ‘He is judgmental, He demands submission to authority and He manages rewards and punishments’. The universal belief in ‘God of love, mercy and forgiveness’ should promote sourly missed mutual respect for all belief systems. In the power driven cold cruel world of the political ideologues to satisfy authoritarian politically motivated establishments the universal belief is amended with ‘God of submission to authority, rewards and punishments’.

World has believers and non-believers. Fundamentally, all belief systems teach dependence on a presumptive external entity. God, Allah, Devata or Ishwara, YHWH, Ahura Mazda, etc are some well known words used by different religions to describe the external entity. The non-believers identify Him as the Force.

The dichotomy in definition of God has made belief systems complex. Believers ignore that He is everywhere; He is not just in at designated places of worship.

Subscribing to a given political ideology the believers place a symbol of choice in churches, mosques, temples, etc and claim it to be house of “the God”. For Muslims “Kabba” in Mecca, Saudi Arabia represents house of Allah; it was originally the Temple of Abraham (pre-Christian era). Muslims have built numerous mosques with a symbolic grave as places of worship. Christians have Vatican City, Italy and Churches with two dimensional icons or a three dimensional cross, statues of Jesus, etc on almost every block in most cities and towns all across Christianity dominated lands. Jews have synagogues and like Christians and Muslims a claim over a shared place of worship in Jerusalem, Palestine. Hindus worship a variety of idols in numerous temples on Ganga River and other waterways all across India.

  • God and Justice 

Ask where God is and you are directed to places of worship or pointed towards the world beyond. No one has returned from the world beyond to fill us in if the God is present in the world beyond. We are asked to believe in power of intangible God and use available justice systems in every nation.

In real world judgments are delivered and implemented by local authorities and therefore all political ideologues seek power and authority. In religious world for most part the judge, jury and executioner is same person – a cleric whose judgments are suspect for non-believers. In constitutional democracies a separation of powers of religious authorities and government is norm and if the judicial system of the government works it offers a chance for a fair justice. There is no authority directly linked to the external entity – God – in both political systems.

The phrase “In God We Trust” appears on the US currency and prominently displayed in many government buildings, including above where judges sit in the US courts. Intentional or not, linking God, currency and the courts potentially may mean that with money justice can be purchased. In fact in Muslim lands justice and forgiveness is delivered by paying handsomely to survivors of the victims. It is not unheard of people with money managing to bribe or influence members of jury panel and even the judge to get a favorable decision.

  • The Force, Energy and God 

Non-believers are justified in their faith that may be, only the Force or energy is responsible for creation of the universe and that life has a purpose* (#1). For believers, scriptures teach life has a purpose and God is infinite. For some believers God appears in number of ways but there is only one God. Energy like God is infinite and indestructible. Although energy can morph into a number of forms and states, energy is one. God and energy are one. God is a presumptive external entity, energy is absolute truth.

Unlike Abrahamic faiths that believe in the external intangible God, the Vedic Sanskrit/Hindu scholars intuitively stipulated that God is everywhere including in every living entity. Hindu greeting Namaste or pranam meaning I see God in you signifies relationship of God or Brahma to Energy. In a sense Vedic scholars intuitively acknowledge that God and Energy are one. Einstein’s famous equality relationship for mass (the material) and energy suggests to me why God synonymous with energy is everywhere including in every living and inanimate objects in the universe.

The purpose of life, the reason to exist, from birth to death, is to learn. We are here to learn of God’s Truths in His works. We are here to learn to live in peace and in harmony with all of God’s Creations. Mutual respect for all faiths is essential for peace and harmony to prevail all across the globe. There is only one “God of love, mercy and forgiveness” at all places of worship, both indoors and outdoors. What better way to know God than to look for His Truth in His Work. It takes very little insight to realize that all life on earth must learn and that failure to learn guarantees extinction.

  • Scriptures and Psychology 

Each religion has a set of scriptures to teach purpose of life and how to practice it. Trained believers and theologicians promote a psychological profile protocol that conforms to a set of acceptable social standards of behavior and cultural norms. Religious scriptures illuminate specific psychology (and in a variety of ways) consistent with acceptable social profiles and cultural norms of a given faith.

Psychologically religions are very complex; each religion has a specialized group of devotees, made of the clerics and a clerical hierarchy to explain to laymen all psychological principles incorporated into the scriptures. Commentaries are offered to make scriptural teachings relevant to current times. Swami Chinmayananda books are commentaries on the Geeta, the Hindu equivalent of Bible, and also on Vedas; it offers psychological interpretations of the Vedic Sanskrit/Hindu teachings* (#2).

Arts 

Arts continue to unfold in cafeteria full of music, museums, literatures, poetry, scriptures, and philosophies, etc. Arts occupy a special place in life and a central role in improving quality of life. Music is intertwined into almost every aspect of life. The scriptures, sculptures, idols, icons, architectures, paintings, literature, poetry and philosophy, etc leave a lasting mark illustrating history of life. Art, sound (music and prose) and talents are combined to excel in sports as well as for production of visual and performing entertainments including music, plays, movies, and documentaries, etc.

For understanding and unraveling secrets of material world sciences and arts are combined.  Icons, idols, simple and artistic crosses depicting crucifixion of Jesus, soul music – classical and modern – and Star of David are used for representing each faith. Art plays a significant part to improve quality of life by designing, producing and packaging scientific technologies not only into sleek consumer products like computers, i-pods, entertainment equipments, and various forms of transportations, etc but also into a variety of non-consumer items needed for defense and space explorations.

Scriptures are a special type of literature and poetry that serves to define moral and ethical parameters consistent with cultural norms and that are deemed necessary for social order. Scriptures are often used by politically motivated theologians and politicians to attain and hold on to power.

Arts in daily life explain, illuminate and demonstrate purpose of life in a variety of ways, including shedding light on history of the nation and its accomplishments. Not everyone is keen on preserving historic sculptures. The UN commissions strive to preserve arts of ancient times and significant recent landmarks as they are historically valuable.

Many art sculptures and architectural monuments were destroyed by followers of two Abrahamic faiths during and following cultural wars for extra-territorial expansions. The repeated destructions as well as rebuilding by the cultural warriors of impressive places of worships of two Abrahamic faiths is well documented in the history – medieval period occupation of Iberian Peninsula by Muslims followed by the Reconquista campaigns.

Gandhara Buddhist/Hindu Civilization lasted from 6th century before Christ to 11th century after Christ* (#3) and it covered most of north India (now Pakistan) and eastern Afghanistan. Muslim surrogates of the Abbasid period attacked Hindu/Buddhist dominated Afghanistan and north Indian territories to raid, loot and plunder wealth of temples (10th to 15th centuries). Temples were known to serve not only as places of worship, but also as banks and education centers. The artifacts of Gandhara period are being unearthed in Pakistan and sold internationally* (#4) without regard to its historical significances. These raids were precursors to setting up of the Mughal Empire that lasted from 15th to 19th centuries.India was enriched with Mughal art. Muslim raids into India plunged Hindu India into an age of darkness (950 to 1947).

British and other European Museums have preserved many Greek, Hindu and other historically important art pieces that they recovered and moved to Europe from the occupied or colonial territories. In Greece, Italy, India and other nations the semi-destroyed architectural and other arts are now preserved and turned into tourist attractions.

In Pakistan and Afghanistan historically important artifacts of Gandhara culture are either destroyed or exploited for personal economic gains* (#4). Hard-line Muslims have a history of targeting Christian, Buddhist, Hindu and other religious sites they consider heretical to Islam. In 2007, hard-line Taliban Muslims blew the face off a towering, 1,500-year-old rock carving of Buddha in the Swat valley, northwest Pakistan* (#5). In 2001, the Afghan Taliban had shocked the world by dynamiting a pair of 1,500-year-old Buddhist statues in central Afghanistan.

References and notes 

  1. Kishan Bhatia, “Purpose of Life and Absolute truth”, http://www.indiacause.com/blog/2012/01/03/purpose-of-life-and-absolute-truth/
  2. Swami Chinmayananda, “The Holy Geeta, Central Chinmaya Mission Trust, 1976” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinmayananda
  3. Gandhara, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gandhara
  4. “Millionaires unveil Pakistan’s artifact smuggling secrets,” http://dawn.com/2012/08/09/millionaires-unveil-pakistans-artefact-smuggling-secrets/
  5. “Buddhas of Bamiyan”, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhas_of_Bamiyan

 

 

 

 

 

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