2 July 2012 - QA 6

Dear Guruji, why are there religions? I know that they are there to keep us sane and have something to believe in; but why do people feel so strongly that their beliefs are right and others are wrong? How do we know if any of them are right?

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar:

You know, people want an identity, and they hold on to religion as an identity. Once you identify with one religion, you find that those who do not belong to that religion, no longer belong to you. They are separate; they are different. And that is how strife has started happening; wars have happened in the past.
Human beings want an identity, and it is simply an identity crisis, whether it is language, religion, nationality – it is all a play of ego. One doesn’t say this religion is good because it is good, they say it is good because I belong to that religion. It is my religion, so it is better. This is where you see clearly that it is an identity crisis more than religion itself.
All religions point out to one thing – Love and brotherhood, existence of a supreme power and prayer to that power, confidence in humanness and confidence in the goodness of human beings.
However, people have left the spiritual aspect of religion and are holding on to the outer shell, and so they are all fighting. There was one Jesus but today there are seventy two sects of Christianity. There was only one Prophet Muhammad, but today there are six different sects of Islam. Lord Buddha was only one, and today there are thirty two sects of Buddhism. And in Hinduism, countless number of sects! There are so many schools of thought that you cannot even count them.

What I would say is that we have to rise above our religious identity and recognize spirituality. Spirituality is experience. Once you have the experience of peace, tranquility, love and quietness deep within you, you will find that the same knowledge is said in all the religious scriptures.
So, I would say that you need to be like an ant. If there is a mixture of sand and sugar, do you know what the ant does? It separates the sugar and the sand, makes an anthill out of the sand and consumes the sugar. We need to do the same thing. That is discrimination; that is reasoning.

You know, often the places of faith shun reason. And those who take pride in being very reasonable, they don’t value faith. Life will be handicapped in the absence of any one of them. You need both faith and reasoning. And that is what spirituality is. Spirituality is faith and reasoning together, enriching both heart and mind.
You will find this in the World’s history – the Orient and the Occident. There are two ways of looking at it. The Occident always said, ‘First have faith, and then one day you will get an experience.’
The Orient had a different approach. It said, ‘First you have an experience, and then, if you want, you believe.’ And that is perhaps why science flourished in the Orient, because science also has the same methodology.
What does science say? ‘First you experience it and then you can believe it.’ And that is the one reason why scientists were never prosecuted in the east, in the Oriental philosophy, because the parameters were the same for both faith and science. They never got into conflict. However, in the Occident, they were always in conflict.