Personalising Religion


In the first pages of his novel, Illusions, Richard Bach tells the story of some water creatures.  These creatures spend their entire lifetime clinging to some object under water.  Once they saw a creature of their species floating along on the surface of the river.  They thought it was a miracle.  They thought the creature was their messiah.  They requested the messiah to save them by working a miracle.  The floating creature asked them to leave their clinging and they would discover new meanings which would save them.  But the creatures continued to cling… And they made legends (myths?) about the messiah.

We, human beings, spent our whole lifetime clinging.  Clinging to wealth, power, acclaim, love, freedom/independence, fun… We may cling to one or more of these.  And hence fail to see new meanings, miracles, in life.

We can choose not to cling.  The first step would be to define clearly and concretely the object of our clinging.  Don’t define it in abstract terms like success.  Ask further: success in what?  Or why do I want that success?  Slowly we’ll discover that we cling to one of the things mentioned in the list above (with a few exceptions). 

Now, go a step further.  Ask: why do I need this particular thing (wealth or power or whatever it is to which we are clinging).  How much do I need it?  Is it really making me happy?  Will it go on keeping me happy? 

Even love is not an essential condition for happiness.  Let alone wealth, power, etc.  It’s good if we can love others and be loved by them.  Life can be meaningful even if we can’t love others and are not loved by them.

Life can be meaningful without power, wealth, etc.  [Not in absolute terms.  Many of these things can come in handy at times!]

If an exercise like this, which may take weeks or months to practise, can lead us to the realisation that we really don’t need anything much to be happy in life, many new windows will open up in our view.  New ways of looking at life, at other people, at objects…

That’s how the clinging ends.

It’s then that the scriptures acquire new meanings for us.  Personal meanings.  It’s then that the scriptures can guide us genuinely and meaningfully.  [What is true of the scriptures may be more true of literature, art, music, etc.]  Religion will then stop to be a divisive factor in society.  Life will become more resplendent… 

Note: This blog is an answer to a fundamental question raised by the previous post.  I shall not state the question, however.


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11 Responses to Personalising Religion

  1. Well said sir….it is the personal interpretation of life as documented in scriptures or as experienced in everyday that provides new meaning….And not just scriptures, sometimes, fiction does that to you as well….try James Frey’s The Final Testament, it is someone’s personal interpretation….you might like it

  2. A profound and cogent post. It is difficult to let go of the old convictions even if they are detrimental to own interests.

    • matheikal says:

      We are taught to CLING. Right from our childhood. Think of how we teach our children certain good things and more bad things like hating the OTHER (people from other communities, countries, linguistic backgrounds….) See how our textbooks breed hatred against the OTHER

  3. Raghuram Ekambaram says:


    One way or another, there is usually a sentence in your post with which I am forced to disagree. This time it is: “It’s then [after all the declinging] that the scriptures acquire new meanings for us. ”

    If we somehow get rid of the need to cling, we can decling from scriptures also. Indeed, the first declinging must be from scriptures, to make other declinging far easier. “Personal meanings” will not need art, literature, music … anything at all, and least of all scripture, which carries pseudo authority.

    By the way, a surprise supporter of the British Education Secretary’s move to distribute King James Bible to schools was Richard Dawkins. He says, that Bible is a veritable fount of the now everyday idioms in English (he lists out quite a few). The Book is truly a good English language supplement! But, going beyond, he says, school children reading the book on their own and not under any religious supervision is a sure way for them to learn the immorality contained in those Chapters and Verses, not interpreted but taken “as is”.

    I am back to my earlier point. Without interpretation, scriptures are most loudly immoral. And after interpreting them, we find we did not need to interpret them in the first instance!

    Raghuram Ekambaram

    • matheikal says:

      Raghuram, you always understand me in the right spirit. I’m sure of it. Even your questioning me shows that. I am against clinging of any sort including literature, my favourite subject, and a dose of ‘holy spirit’, my favourite pastime. A purely enlightened person would be a purely “declung” [let me coin that term out of your ‘declinging’] person. But the problem is that such a person would be absolutely boring. Tell me what’s interesting about a planet moving in its orbit following the laws of gravity. If the planet gets out of the orbit and behaves strangely there would be news, there would be entertainment…

      Well, I think Nature created man (evolved, if you wish) because She got sick of all those rule-controlled behaviour. So she gave freedom to man. And man makes life very entertaining. Even a war is an entertainment today, thanks to the live telecast.

      So, am I going back on my argument and saying that man should cling to something? No, not at all. I’m saying that man is thus. THUS. That is, a stupid clinging creature. That’s how Nature made him. Nature can’t transcend herself, can She?

      • Raghuram Ekambaram says:

        “Nature can’t transcend herself, can She?” – this is a VERYDIFFICULT question to answer because what is considered “Nature” is extremely subjective. There is no objective “NATURE”!

        For example, I consider that everything happening in the biosphere, including Man’s imposition on the other parts of NATURE, is NATURE. It is NATURE that nurtured the human brain. This is reflected in your statement, “That’s how Nature made him.” The clingingness is part of NATURE.Then, that is nature. Then, can you go against nature? No, because going against NATURE is also NATURE!

        Therefore, I consider the question as one that is ill-posed, while also sympathizing with your thoughts. This is also the reason, I accept the memetic theory of Richard Dawkins. Nature created the first replicator, the gene. Then, over time it created the second replictor (perhaps more powerful and less fidel to the original; NATURE waited for the human brain to come through and break the surface), the meme, a cultural feature of NATURE. Now, it is a cooperation-cum-competition between the two replicators. This is how clingingness comes. You cling to your kind (your race etc.) through memes and that enhances the survival of the genes in you (a subset of the universal human genome).


      • matheikal says:

        Raghuram, the question is ill-posed from the point of view of a scientist. It is intelligently posed from the point of view of a mad man!

        When Nietszche proclaimed the death of god, was it ill-posed or intelligently posed? Of course, Nietszche died mad.

        When Albert Camus said that the heavens were silent on the death of a little girl in an accident which he witnessed, was the statement ill-posed?

        I think you won’t ever understand anything beyond science and mathematics. That’s the only gap between you and me. But I’m glad you state it plainly. So I have the freedom to state it plainly too.

        I don’t understand science much. The jargon is beyond me. I’m still ploughing through the Frontline’s articles on the God particle. Isn’t science trying to create a kind of elitism with all that jargon even as the corporatists did with money-jargon? It’s just a doubt that entered my mind as I read the Frontline standing in the metro train.

      • gardenerat60 says:

        The topic, your views, and Raghuram’s arguments, all make it a “must read” blog. Thanks.

  4. Britul says:

    I personally feel that clinging starts from the basic need of survival. In the beginning we cling to survive. Then we cling to make our lives little better than “just surviving” and so on. But later, we forget about what was the basic need of clinging and do we need to continue the clinging. This is what has evolved over the years and very few of us give a second thought about clinging.

    The role of scriptures in ending the clinging or continuation of clinging depends entirely on us. It on to us how do we interpret the scriptures.

    very insightful post and good intellectual feed. enjoyed reading… 🙂

    • matheikal says:

      Thanks for the continuous encouragement you give me.
      This comment of yours reminds me of the hierarchy that psychologists like Maslow spoke about. Starting with basic needs and proceeding toward self-actualisation. Maslow argued that after a certain level, as one apparoaches self-actualisation, many emotional needs like admiration, appreciation, etc will vanish. Too many people in the world get stuck with the levels below self-actualisation. That’s why even scriptures becomne meaningless.a

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