As far as we can remember, religion has been the marketplace for selling the concept of enlightenment. It could be in different forms for different religions, while some may talk of an afterlife depending on sins, the concept of hell heaven or whether to be reborn again, all have something in common, an ideology.
If one inquires deeper within that why is there a need for religion to exist, the answer is quite simple. People all over the world are scared and need a support. There is insecurity because there is fear, there is immense suffering and pain in the world which makes one want to believe in something so that, that very “something” which some may call God, gives them the strength to bear the current life. So, can the man accept his situation as it is without having the want to change it or seek comfort somewhere? To answer this question, we must understand how religion has contributed to increase the suffering and pain in our life and how the idea of enlightenment and blissfulness can exist without the need for an organized religion. Throughout the ages, religion has been the biggest weapon used by people to start wars, genocide, and all kinds of atrocities. The caste system that we see in India is also a gift of religion, we can see the horrors of the Khairlanji Massacre to understand how deep rooted this is. Whether it is the Israel Palestine conflict or the Kashmir issue or the growing hatred against minorities in India are all examples of this.
The reason why religion has been so successful to be able to manipulate and exploit people is because people are too afraid to see the reality. I am not denying the religion’s importance completely, but we need to understand that what Buddha said in his teachings or what Krishna said, their teachings are not like the today’s organized religion. There have been several philosophers and practices where they talk of life and God without the need for religion. There is a reason why Buddha never talked about God, or why the Zen talks of silence or the Tao practice of yin and yang, all these are examples of enlightenment beyond religion. Religions cannot be considered a philosophy as it only preaches order, a strict way or path to salvation, philosophy is about questioning and not blinding following. Yes Krishna, Buddha, Kabir, Jesus, Muhammad these people can be called thinkers, philosophers but not the organized religion that exists today.
Religion whose primary purpose is to preserve the order is of no use, even if it bring order in society, that order is fake, as it is imposed. Imposed on the grounds of fear of punishment in the afterlife. We are so accustomed to order, that chaos scares us, but as order, chaos as its importance and beauty, we cannot escape from it as much we want. Religion itself never started, at first came great thinkers as I have talked about, whether it is Krishna, Buddha, Muhammad, Jesus, Nanak, they all saw life in their own way seeking something beyond themselves. Each of them understood life, but the followers were not interested in the message, they were more interested in the messenger. That is the whole problem, the purpose of the boat is to drop one to the destination but imagine if the traveler becomes attached to the boat instead and thinks that the boat itself in the destination. People today go on killing in the name of religion, there is not what any of these preached, but now that they have an immense amount of love for these people, they cannot hear something against them.
Mirza Ghalib, one of the most influential Urdu poets was one of the people who denied the idea of God for most part of his life, yet was one of the most spiritual people, who have life lessons with his couplets. The idea of enlightenment is about waking up, seeing, without any bias or preconceptions attached, to be free from all. But how can the man be free if he is attached to religion? He must be free even from religion. Then due to this fear, people fall into Gurus for guidance, who are the biggest conmen of the current society. Their whole business runs on the fear of people. The guru who teaches their disciples to leave them in the end is the true guru not the one who becomes the very dependance of the disciple.
There is a very famous story, that a man troubled with life and its problems left his wife, friends, family, children, job and went to a cave. It was not long when he faced the same trouble, he used to face in society, he realized that, that which is troubling him resided within him, he must look within. When Kabir talked of the Kasturi in the very stomach of the deer which he seeks everywhere, he was talking of looking within. Only when one dares to look within them, they realize that there is no need for religion or for any guru, and that the “truth” which has multiple names attached to it cannot be understood in words or found somewhere outside. All such efforts shall go in vain.
The idea of detachment at first sounds very confusing, but is very simple, as I said before running somewhere else physically is not the solution, the way of Sufism says to be in the world yet be detached from it. As in the end when one says that we must free ourselves from desires, we also have to free ourselves from the desire to be desireless, which is a paradox, but only if one also drops the desire to know the truth, means that the destination has arrived as there is no way to go. In the end, one must also leave spirituality and religion as well, as these are mere words, words are never enough, they are dead without any emotion. As the Tao also says, “that which can be said, is not the real Tao” that the truth which can be spoken is not the truth.
“Parh parh alim fazil hoya, kade apne aap nu parhya yi na, ja ja warhda e mandar masjid nu, tu kade mun apna wich warya yi na” These awakeing words were said by Bulleh Shah, a sufi poet. He is saying that you keep on reading the books of knowledge, but you have never read yourself, that you go to temples and mosques on the outside but never go within you. All these mystics focused on the exact same idea, that the truth which we all seek lies within us. Similarly for evil and good as well, these terms do not exist somewhere else, it is all within us. We can go on for are whole life running after money, positions, a lover, but we shall never be satisfied as there is no end to desire. So beautifully Rumi says, “that which you seek, is seeking you.”