RELIGIOUS BELIEFS AND PRACTICES- MY OBSERVATIONS CONT’D
(First written in 1990)
Many people, throughout the world, follow certain practices for which they do not have any logical understanding or foundation. We must examine our religious practices and try to follow those which make universal sense. They must also adhere to the basic precepts taught by all the major religions, e.g. the sanctity of life, non-violence, love for God and all beings, kindness, etc. Let us examine some more practices.
Take for example the sacrifice of animals to God, or to various other deities. Before sacrificing animals one should ask a few simple questions. Who or what is God? Does He require your sacrifice of animals? Where is God to whom you offer sacrifices? If God created the animal, as he did you, then would He not much more prefer to see the animal living than it being killed? Isn’t the religious teaching “thou shalt not kill”?
God does not take pleasure in smelling the burnt offerings made to Him as was practiced in ancient Rome. God does not have nostrils like you and I, or even like the slaughtered animals so that He may smell the “aroma”. God does not take pleasure in seeing the spilt blood of the fearful animal that is killed forcibly, when it is in a helpless state. All other deities or gods are creations of man’s mind under the influence of “Maya”. It is funny that man should create deities that have no real existence, and then kill animals which do have a real existence, and offer up the innocent lives to imaginary beings.
Let us come back to where God is. God is universally said to be Omnipresent. When God is Omnipresent, is God not present in the animal being sacrificed? God is that indwelling “life force” or spirit manifesting in the animal as it also manifests in you. Realizing this, is it not foolish and sinful to sacrifice an animal to which God gave life by putting Himself as the life force in the animal? Isn’t the animal’s life dear to it, as yours is dear to you? Are we not supposed to have reverence for life? That life is also in the animal! After offering the sacrifices, people usually eat the meat or drink the blood themselves. What benefit does God derive from such a practice? Let us try to be loving towards God’s creatures and lighten the burden of our karmas.
Many people of various religions automatically either say or point that heaven is above and hell is below. One should then ask where is above and where is below? The earth is spinning at the rate of approximately one thousand miles per hour at the equator. If you point your finger upward to indicate up then, as you are standing on the surface of the earth, your finger is drawing a circle. So the direction you call up is changing from moment to moment. If you hold your finger up for twelve hours then you end up pointing in exactly the opposite direction from which you started. Where then is up? Similarly, when you point down, where is it that you are pointing? You may be pointing towards the center of the earth or through the center of the earth to the other side. If it is towards the center of the earth, science knows that the core of the earth consists of molten iron and nickel. If your pointing goes through to the other side then, if you are in the northern hemisphere, you are pointing to countries in the southern hemisphere, such as New Zealand and Australia, or South America. Certainly those countries are not hell. Similarly, somebody standing in New Zealand or Australia and pointing down likely will be pointing to where you are at in the northern hemisphere. Certainly you are not in hell.
Suppose we assume that your pointing indicates only under the surface of the earth or even to the center of the earth. Would that be the place where sinners would go after death? If we can say that sinners go to the inner core of the earth where there is molten iron and nickel, then we can also say that those sinners go into volcanoes where there is molten lava containing rocks and minerals and metals. But we never assume that sinners go into volcanoes. Then again, if God is Omnipresent and present everywhere in this universe, then isn’t God also present inside the earth? Or is he present only on the surface of the earth? Because of His Omnipresence God is also present inside the earth. What is wrong then with a soul going below the earth when God is also there? But of course things are not as we think they are because, as human beings, we are subject to delusion. It was thus that Guru Kabir stated that there was no up and no down; no back and no front; no east and no west; no sunrise and no sunset. Try to understand these concepts, and free the mind from beliefs and practices which are really of no help to you in your spiritual life.
[These essays are an attempt to find “Truth” in spirituality]
Dr. Jagessar Das
Religious beliefs, sacrifice of animals to God, heaven, hell, burnt offerings