Religion – All Faith, No Science?

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Religion is unquestionable

“shastro mei likha hai, karna toh hoga” , “ye sab bhagwaan ki maya hai”, “ye toh sadiyo se ho raha hai”…

But it is not always irrational and unscientific.

Religion, like science, begins with a question. Religion is the quest for finding the “ultimate truth”. Religion, like science, searches for that only ultimate path. But that’s not the only connection. Many of our samskaras show not only our cultural (indicator of our kul) but a scientific leaning too.

The Pandit choti is not just a mark of distinction and high (highest) status. According to charaka school of philosophy, there are seven charakas or energy points. The one on the head is the crown charaka called sahasrar. The bunch of the hair protects this point from exposure to sun which can cause a sudden stroke. Even while blessing someone (aashirvaad), the person places his/her hand on the sahasrar. It leads to the transfer of energy. This transfer of energy is also the logic behind touching the feet of the elder or the guru.

The Tika or Tilak is another important religious symbol. The size and form varies with the caste so it represents the ‘irrational’ system of caste. However, the Tilak is rational enough. It is backed by the same charaka point theory. The Tilak is applied on the forehead, between the two eye brows. This is the Aajna chakra point which is the seat of memory and thinking. The tika which is generally of chandan, thus, prevents energy loss by keeping the point cool. But it is to be noted that the bindi applied by women do not serve the same purpose. Neither is there any scientific logic behind the sindoor.

Aarti is a fundamental aspect of the Hindu rituals. Aarti purifies the person not just spiritually but quite literally as it purifies the air around the person. The Agni kills the germs and bacteria in the surrounding air.

The benefit of Upvaasa or vrats is well-known.  During an upvaasa, we consume only water and fresh fruits. Thus, they are beneficial for our digestive system and the entire body.

Offering water to the Agni god at the break of the dawn is a common daily ritual. It is believed that the first rays of the sun are beneficial for the eyes.

In Jain tradition, one is not supposed to eat after dusk. Modern science lends support to this practice. It recommends no meal or a light meal at night.

The most controversial domain in this issue is reserved for the taboos on a menstruating woman. While the origin theory of menstruation is not very rational- Indra had slain a Brahmin and it is his blood that a woman secretes out after every 28 days, Ayurveda views the menstruation cycle as a purification process- the impurities are dispelled with the blood discharge. With the discharge of the blood, women lose out on vital minerals, particularly iron. The body is weak with the loss of blood and the accompanying body pain. Thus, women are ‘advised’ to rest. However, this advice took the form of taboos- women cannot enter the temple, the kitchen; they were shunned in a room because they were ‘impure’.

Thus, we started out being all scientific but to make it binding on the people, a supernatural/sacred dimension was added to it. Their blind faith in the omnipresent and all-powerful God provided the perfect platform to sell rationality. They fear that the inability to follow these customs will provoke the wrath of Gods and all hell will break loose. And this is how it always works. Rituals are also used to please the Gods. The world exists on a ‘patron-client relationship’. It is a ‘mutual’ relationship between God and Human Beings. Both are dependent on each other, for survival or means of survival. There is no end to the demands of the ‘greedy’ human beings. God is the patron of these rituals and offers spiritual and material wealth, in return. The best example for this is the Upvaasas or vrats. Vrats are contracts between the God and the devotee. Religion is the binding to be good and ‘moral’. Anything can be sold in the name of Religion. Here, rationality and scientific logic mixed with religion has been passed down for centuries. So is Religion still un-necessary and useless?

Devika Mittal

*This piece has been selected as a Winning Entry for the ‘Viewspaper Express Yourself Writing Competition’*

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