Saturday, February 21, 2009

Worldwide web of belief and ritual

Humans have a strong need for emotional and spiritual fulfillment. The need to revere, respect and to be in awe of the sacred is an age old human desire. We need to make sense of life, to build bonds of love, and to cope with the inevitable change, loss and suffering that life brings. We all feel the need to answer the question: "What does it mean to be human?". Through out our rich and varied history, humans have answered this question, not in one or few, but as much as in 6000 different ways.

While this clearly points to the need and place for the sacred and spiritual in human life, we can also clearly see that the humans are vulnerable to falling prey to believing in unreasonable things without any evidence. Humans are highly susceptible to conflating the spiritual experience with religious beliefs. Because something gives us spiritual and emotional comfort, it must be true -- nothing can be farther from the truth.

I want to share this beautiful presentation by anthropologist Wade Davis in which he discusses a few exotic beliefs and rituals from different parts of the world.

This should make you realize that the spiritual and the sacred are not the domain of any one religion. They are fundamental experiences that humans yearn for. It should also make you stop and realize that you should not conflate and mix genuinely spiritual experiences with unreasonable religious beliefs. Sure, humans have usually had such experiences with the help of religious beliefs, but these experiences don't depend on the nature of the religious beliefs -- they are independent. This should make you stop and think whether you too are committing the mistake of regarding your religious beliefs as true, just because they give you spiritual fulfillment, as humans have done for years and years.

Its about time we start seeing the repeating patterns in our history, and stop having unreasonable beliefs. There are other ways of having experiences that we yearn for. The answers lie inside of us -- we just have to quieten our minds and listen to ourselves.

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