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Use Religion To Travel From Lower Truth To Higher Truth

In the life of the lay devotee, religious endeavors normally begin with prayers for the wellbeing of one self and one’s family and kin. Prayer calms the mind and gradually expands one’s spiritual horizon to embrace the welfare of all beings, not just of one’s earthly kin. So prayers and other related ritualistic observances that are centered on the lower self have the power of gradually cleaning one’s inner impurities; transcending them, one is enabled to embrace higher thoughts and exalted patterns of behavior.

In this way, the practice of religious ceremonials comes into play. Their performance is important in religious worship in so far as it helps to discipline the mind and focus it on the deity being worshipped. However, religious savants have cautioned that religious ceremonials must not be performed in excess of their usefulness. In Swami Vivekananda’s words, ‘It is good to be born in a church, but it is bad to die there.’

Religious parochialism and superstitions engendered through addiction to rituals and ceremonials are detrimental to spiritual life. Such a focus ends in intolerance, self-centeredness, and insensitivity that mutilate religion’s intrinsic function of uplifting the human mind and soul. Those congregations that harbor fanaticism or bigotry and seek shelter under the mantle of religion to justify their nihilistic conduct ought to be identified and rejected as spurious institutions denigrating the true purpose of religion. Holy wars waged by religious fundamentalists throughout history are cases in point. The aim of religion is to mould and unify, not to destroy. Religion strengthens itself not through conflict and anarchy, but through a harmonious confederation of humanistic values aiming for God-realization. Religious fundamentalism and isolationism make people imperfect. Thus, religion can also unmake a person if it is practiced in a wrong way.