In an article (Kingdom of God) the other day I spoke about what I thought was the way that Christianity and Islam isn’t that different in what people are striving for and that the thing that people are striving for, for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways, was for a sense of satisfaction. An increase in a sense of peace and a reduction in a sense of guilt.
This I suggested sounded to me like Buddhism and it does. The idea of Nirvana is not a far off heaven it is a state of mind that one can enter here on earth only when you have understood how to make your actions not affect the world. And you can only reach true Nirvana at death on the last time you die when you won’t be reborn.
The problem with religions, especially for non-religious people like me, is that really the greatest bits of philosophical reality are often obscured by some hocus-pocus gobbledygook.
Buddhism has become popular in the west, but particularly a brand of Buddhism which is almost areligious. People simply take the concepts of nirvana and karma and detach them from the rest of the religion.
I’m always surprised that Hinduism wasn’t the religion that this happened to. In many ways Hinduism is the most open religion. It accepts scripture from other religions and is still continuing to learn about the world. It has some great world view concepts, like the idea that that truth is a conceptual reality just as gravity is. Gravity existed before people described it and truth existed before people tested it.
And of course the point of Hinduism is that over time you will enter the state of Jivan-mukta and will achieve “perfect mental peace and a freedom from worldly desires”.
There have always been three areas that religion dealt with in society. The questions relating to where do we come from which science have taken over for many. The questions relating to what we are allowed to do which government has taken over for many. The questions relating to how we feel inside ourselves which psychologists are trying to take over for many. However the problem is that this third area is only dealt with by psychologists when people realise they have a specific problem. And philosophers while dealing with general issues also tend to be some of the most self-reflective individuals around. They seem to care little with making their ideas practical. Perhaps this is the area that Religion can claim in the modern world.
The idea that all people want to fell better and less guilty, and that this is not achievable through hedonism. That we all want to overcome Jihad, enter the Kingdom of God, reach Nirvana or become Jivan-mukta. Or simply be.