Hinduism

by Pathmarajah Nagalingam

 

Chapter 9
 
 
Conventional Religions and the Real Religion
As vedanta or 'the end of the vedas', i.e. upanishads, is the philosophy of the vedas, the philosophy of the agamas is called siddhanta.
Religion or 'samaya' is that which leads to union. All theistic religions profess to take their followers to God. Religion is therefore a power, and not a lifeless bundle of doctrines and practices, or 'matam'. This article makes a distinction between samayam and matam.
There was a time when religion held unquestioning sway and everyone abided by it. But as new religions and variants came into being there was a clamor for supremacy. Instead of religion giving life, knowledge and ethics to society, it was religion that was to receive energy from society.
Most often than not human frailty worked on it and gave it a tragic expression, assuming a militant spirit and brought all the ignoble concomitants of discrimination, marginalisation, racism, bigotry and ultimately to war in various guises. It sowed enmity and hatred instead of love and peace, contempt and distrust instead of respect and good will, hypocrisy and corruption instead of sincerity and honesty.
The awakening of this spirit had repercussions on its internal workings, doctrines and practices. Whatever benign influences where smothered. Formalities, nominalism, commercialism, skepticism of sciences and materialism began to hold sway. Most of all was the introduction of prejudices and superstitions in its clashes with other religions. Doctrines became dogma. Samayam became matam. Now its serves just as a label to differentiate one from another, to mark out people whether one is with us or against us.
These conventional religions lay stress on doctrines and observances, and make extravagant claims regarding them. Authorship is attributed to God and the texts are the infallible words of God, and it is guaranteed that the practices leads one to the final truths and highest conceivable happiness. The followers ignorantly imbibe this story as few endeavor to examine the validity of these claims. Claims and beliefs are instilled since childhood and the faithful grow in unquestioning faith and love of it, strengthened by the faith of the surrounding community. The belief in the divine origin, coupled with the hope of reward and fear of punishment, compelled adherence. With ignorance and blind zeal, beliefs crystallized.
Those who have not been inoculated in these beliefs are unable to accept these claims. That the beliefs have no substantial or insecure foundations and crumbles upon the impact of demonstrable truths is repressed by further claims. In order to silence them and remove doubts, attempts are made to elevate religion to mystic levels, transcending not only science but also the scientific approach.
With the advent of scientific knowledge, rationalism and discovery of the world, most tall claims by religions are falling apart in the face of adverse demonstrable truths. Faulty doctrines, structural defects and inability to lead a soul to its goal, which are features of nearly all religions leads to its failure as a samaya. If a religion holds out a goal, it must give an account of the path, a road map and the means of attaining it. But few religions possess such a scientific structures as they may not possess one or the other. Such is the state of conventional religions.
A real religion is dynamic. It must be rational with demonstrable truths. It must be able to uplift a soul and ultimately it it to its goal. A real religion is not a creature of mankind but a sustainer of the people instead of being sustained by it.
Most of us have had some 'religious experiences' whether we realise it or not. At some time or other we have experienced altruism, where we exhibited real sympathy for someone else and assisted them in some way, perhaps a donation, or cooked a meal for the family, or drove someone to see the doctor, or made some sacrifices for the benefit of others. This selfless service produced a calm serene joy in us, a joy without excitement. This is a religious experience of an ordinary type.
Such actions are found in all societies and even in criminals, transcending the conventional notions of right and wrong, and us and them. This power is pervasive in mankind and even animals. Animals too exhibit features of altruism like selfless cooperation where the group concerns supersede that of the individual, making religious experiences universal.
The outstanding feature of all religious experience is goodness. A real religion manifests itself in goodness. It must therefore be a cause of goodness. A concomitant of goodness is truth. Goodness and truths goes together, as there is never goodness that is not based on truth or vice versa. Where there is goodness and truths, there is peace and harmony. This is a blissful state. So wherever there is goodness there is truth and bliss. Real religion thus manifests itself as truth, goodness and bliss, or what Saivism calls sat-chit-ananda.
A single act of goodness lasts forever and sat literally means that which lasts forever. Since satchitananda is everlasting, it is real, and as it is pervasive, it is universal. It permeates through all life and all conventional religions. As even the most saintly of persons unceasingly has the urge to do more, to go higher, there is no limit to this urge. The objective of the urge is therefore perfection.
Real Religion may therefore be defined as the inward dynamic power which urges all to strive for perfection. As it produces perfect goodness, it must be something greater than that. Acting on different people it produces different degrees of goodness. These degrees may be defined as the goals of different conventional religions.
This universal power manifesting as an urge in mankind, in all life, for the preservation of life and the pursuit of ideals, must have been put there by some higher beneficent power, which itself is all pervading, and the source of goodness, truth and bliss. The function of this power is, step by step through various religions and philosophies, the evolution of the world as a whole, to the attainment of perfection, that is, attainment to the source of this satchitananda.
This Real Religion, which underlies all religions and all life, the omniscient, all mighty and all loving power which controls and guides the universe, and provides the urge and intuitive knowledge to the soul in its onward march to perfection, is called in the Saiva religion as the Power of God, or the Love of God or Siva-Shakti.
Saiva Siddhanta proceeds from here to built up its philosophy, based not on authority, but on demonstrable truths, or axiomatic truths.
Some of the first postulates are;
1. something cannot come out of nothing, or become nothing,
2. change is a rearrangement of components,
3. whatever has no components, or is further unanalysable, cannot undergo change,
4. that which does not change is real, is eternal,
5. things change under the action of a force or power,
6. that power (Shakti) is held by an Intelligent Being (Siva).
These rational postulates, prima facie, makes all conventional religions and philosophies redundant. In Siddhanta this fundamental ontology (of god, souls and the world) and postulates are not simply philosophic posits but rather self evident Axiomatic Truths, truths like 2 plus 2 is four, always there objectively and universally as something already in the mind of all. These are also not the Axioms of the West but rather TRUTHS, always there and already in the mind of all, only that not all might have arrived at them yet.

It is a TRUTH that clarifies all metaphysical questions and because of which there is apodictic certainty as to the meaning of existence, a certainly that cannot be shaken at all. If something is a postulate, it does give rise to this kind of certainty that comes along with indubitability.

It is not also a belief, a faith, etc, for once an Axiomatic Truth, there can be no uncertainty of whatever kind. It cannot be further deconstructed and stands there solidly and as the Axiomatic Truth without doubts and distortions. (Dr. K. Loganathan)

 
References:
1. 'The Saiva School of Hinduism' by Principal Emeritus S. Shivapadasundaram, Victoria College, Sri Lanka, 1934, based on the Siva Gnana Siddiyar by Arulnandi, 13th century.
2. Thiruvarulpayan by Umapati Sivachariyar, 13th century scholar sage and disciple of Meykandar, and who wrote 8 of the 14 Siddhanta Shastras, 9 books in tamil and 2 in sanskrit.
 

 

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