Read another novel by Tagore – The dancing girl’s worship. Through the devotion of a palace dancing girl, he tries to bring out the superiority of “Buddhism” over existing conservative and caste oriented “Hinduism”. The reason I have put both the “ism”s in quotes is that I want to avoid any debates on “this is not Hinduism; that is not Buddhism; nothing like xyzism exist” etc. The two terms are meant to convey a generally understood import of theirs.
But I am afraid the way “Buddhism” has been presented there does not really do justice to what it stood for or at least what could have made it a really good substitute of Hinduism by attacking the real cause of problems in Hinduism.
One of the most basic reasons why any religion decays over time is that it gives up the reasoning and tries to make “idols” a substitute for reasoning. Hence, you can do all the wrong deeds in life and then go a bow before an “idol” and be as innocent as one could ever be. “Idol” does not necessarily mean physical idol here. It stands for all those tricks religion finds to make you get feel guiltless after having done worst of immoral deeds. It could be the “teerths” of Hinduism, each of which almost make you get “moksha” simply by going there, or the “Haz” of Islam or the “confession” by Christians. You sing prayers in which you put yourself in the hands of that almighty and after that whatever you are doing must be forgiven by Him and you can be at mental rest. I wish there were prayers/songs which asked you to use your common sense to decide what is wrong and what is right instead of looking towards something mystical for guiding you and since that mystical is beyond you, falling prey to the religious institutions being run by some people for their own selfish purposes.
I started off with the problems with religion, but now I come back to the novel and the depiction of “Buddhism” there in. Look at some of the prayers used there –
Forgive me, forgive!
Accept my salutation:
For when I remember thee, O matchless one,
My soul melts into streams of dancing,
Which overflow my body.
The cry of my limbs is a hymn in rhythm that sings thy praise.
My love of thee overflows in the music of my gestures.
With my forehead I touch the dust of His feet,
Of the feet of the Buddha, pure and sinless;
May He forgive me my sin!
O thou life supernal,
O thou death supreme,
I take refuge in thee.
Let me light my lamp at thy fire!
May the print of thy glory on my brow
Remove my shame for ever.
Now, what are all these prayers doing? You are done with your duty by giving all you “love, heart and soul” to Him or by praying “His feet” and He is left with the duty solve all your problems and correct all that could be wrong in you! What good does it do over Hinduism. In the era which the novel present, Buddhism was still not so old a religion and hence had not decayed like Hinduism had. But with time no wonder it did not produce the kind of effect it would have produced. Because it did not talk of reason either. And reason I am referring to is not some highly qualified philosopher’s reason – it is simple common person’s reason, which can be appealed to. As soon as you substitute reason with a distant idol, each and every mistake made in the history would be carried down to the generations to come because nobody would care to reason it out and correct it. And as the time progresses, the mistakes are accumulated leading to the decay of the religion.
A strong argument is that idols are necessary for common people – since they do not always want to reason out. I remember Hitler’s analysis also which talked of necessity of religion. But then do religion and idols have to always go together; or for that matter can idols and reasons never co-exist? Just enough reason to provoke people to ask simple questions of “why” from time to time – just to correct some of the mistakes that creeped in at some point of time?
Well, going by the little experience of the world I have, it is indeed difficult. People really do not want to reason out. It does not have to be in the context of religion – it is true of the most modern and hip aspects of life as well as that of the intellectual ones. Why is it so? I do not know, but yes, people just do not want to ask simple questions!
May be what I am referring to as simple are not so simple after all. May be all the originators of different religions, which at some point of time talked of reason in some way or the other, never wanted to originate a religion after all. Nehru, in “Glimpses of World History”, gives an account of how Jesus probably never preached any religion and was more of a social rebel! The religion was born after his death.
Confused as ever!