Question: Please tell us how we can keep a fine divide between the religious and the secular, and grow holistically, as an individual and as a society?
Acharya Prashant: There is no divide between the religious and the secular. True religion is about eliminating all divisions. How are you trying to have a division between religiosity and secularism?
What do you mean by ‘secularism’? You mean that no person should be blinded by his creed or belief. No person should just turn unjust, or biased, or prejudiced, because of his ideological or religious inclinations.
But that which you are trying to achieve through secularism, can actually be never achieved through secularism, because this, that you are trying to achieve – an unbiased and just mind – is exactly what religion and only religion can deliver you. So, secularism is self-defeating.
You have to understand this.
When you say that you want a secular person, or a secular state, what is it that you want? You want someone, who is not prejudiced, not blinded by belief, who can keep a distance between his duties, and his conditioning, who must know what the right action to do is, in spite of what his religious condition is, right?
You want a person who does the right thing, irrespective of whether he is a Hindu, or a Christian, or a Muslim, or whatever. Right? That’s what you want to achieve through secularism.
When you say that X is a secular person, what you mean is, that he is prepared to read the Quran, even if he is a Hindu. And that he is prepared, to respectfully go to the Upanishads, even if he is a Muslim, right? When you say that a country Y is a secular state, what do you mean? You mean that in that country, people are not discriminated on the the basis of their professed religious association, right? If this is what you want, then you should be deeply religious.
Who teaches you equanimity? Religion.
In secularism, you want to be equanimous. But who teaches you equanimity? Religion.
In secularism, you want a certain detachment. But who teaches you detachment? Religion.
In secularism, you want to be respectful towards divergent opinions. But who teaches you, to be respectful towards divergent opinions? Religion.
In secularism, you want not to hurt the other, even if the other is holding beliefs, that go against yours. But who teaches you ahinsa (non-violence)? Religion.
So, truly religious person, and only a truly religious person, can be secular, in real terms.
In other words, if secularism is dear to you, you will have to turn to religion.
If secularism, is in strife with religiosity, it means, both are misplaced. The religiosity is fake, and the secularism is shallow.
You need not teach, a truly religious person, to be secular. In fact, ‘secular’ is such a small and shallow word, in front of religion.
If one is deeply religious, truly religious, then one is not only secular, one is way, way beyond secular.
Secularism only wants you to tolerate differences.
True religion, celebrates differences.
So, when you will talk about secularism, to a truly religious person, he will laugh. He will laugh, not because he opposes secularism. He will laugh because he has gone..beyond secularism.
There is communalism. Higher than communalism, is secularism. And much, much higher than secularism, is religiosity.
So, obviously you see, that communalism and secularism are at odds with each other. But, not secularism and religiosity. It is naive to say, that secularism, and religiosity, confront each other. No! Shallow belief, shallow communalism, that is what, is at odds with secularism.
Secularism is a, short-term treatment. You have bigots on this side, you have bigots on that side. None of the sides, is prepared to listen to the other. It is in this kind of an environment, that secularism is irrelevant. Only in this kind of environment.
So seeing that there are just bigots all around, you say, “Alright, keep religion, to your houses. On the street, everyone has to follow secular principles.” So only in a very, very poor quality environment, does secularism has some place. In a truly religious environment, secularism has no place.
In fact, a truly religious environment, is so much better than secularism, that if you impose secularism on a really religious place, it would be a deterioration of that place. So, it is great if you are not communal. If you are not communal, you are probably, secular.
Now if you are secular, and you want to do still better, then move into religion. Then you would forget everything about secularism. you would have transcended secularism.
You would have entered into something far more joyful.
Excerpts from a ‘Shabd-Yoga’ session. Edited for clarity.
Watch the session: What is secularism? How to become secular? || Acharya Prashant (2018)
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