Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Of the spiritual and temporal

Much space on the editorial page of this paper was dedicated to the debate on the role of the church vis-a-vis the problem the state is facing. A section of the laity questioned the role of the church in the society especially in this trying time. The question asked was should the church remain adamant and remain a mere spectator to all that is going on in the state? Or is the role of the Church confine to the four walls of the buildings only?
We have seen articles and letter to the editors which only make obvious that people are not happy with the prevailing situation. Some are of the opinion that the church should not involve in earthly issues and it should only engage with spiritual matters, while others think otherwise and wish that the church should involve in issues which are crucial for the society.
In the Hynniewtrep traditional context even though the Kings or the Dalois are the head of the faith, their role in the day to day religious life of the people is very limited. Niamtre or Niam Khasi was not started as organized religion because religion in the Khasi Pnar context is more of family affairs. It was only in the late eighteen hundred that the followers of the Niam Khasi organized themselves under the banner of the Seng Khasi and followers of Niamtre in Jowai organised Sein Raij only after the country gain its independence. In the traditional religion every rites of passages of any member of the family is conducted by the Kni who is the head of the clan. And because it is not an organize religion, the place of worship in the Hynniewtrep traditional religion is the hearth and the home of the clan.
The Hynniewtrep traditional religion may not have organized body like the other faith groups, yet the Khasi Pnar are govern by their own set of value system. The three cardinal principles of the Hynniewtrep people are ka Tipbriew tip Blei, Kamai iaka Hok and Tipkur tipkha and the entire value system of the tribe rest on these tri-principles. The three cardinal principles of Khasi Pnar value system is all about striking a right relationship. The first principle is about having a right relationship with the creator and the other two principles are about having a right relationship with fellow human beings. Therefore in the Hyniewtrep religious context; ka Niam or religion is a way of life and it is about how one is to live in the World- by living a righteous life, by trying to have a right relationship with God and having a good and cordial relationship with fellow human beings.
The traditional Hynniewtrep religion not only stresses on how one live in the world, but the ten commandments of the Jews too are like compass which guide Jews to live a righteous life. Rabbi Hillel of the Jews was once asked by some pagans to recite the whole of Jewish teachings while standing on one leg, the pagans said that they would convert to his religion if he can do so. Hillel obliged and stood on one leg and said, “Do not unto others as you would not have done unto you. (Or the other version is, do unto others as you would want others to do to you) That is the Torah and the rest is commentary” he quipped. This is the simple teaching of the entire Torah or as known to the Christian -the Old Testament. According to Rabbi Hillel the basic teaching of the Torah is to do good to others and nothing else. It was also recorded in the two gospels that Jesus too said something similar when people ask him which is the most important commandment. In his response Jesus said something like the Lord your God is one, you should love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and the second commandment is to love your neighbours as you love yourself there are no commandment greater than these. These two great religious figures also square down their teaching to one simple idea and said something similar to what the Hynniewtrep religion teaches, that the important aspect of all religious teaching is for a person to strike a right relationship with God and with fellow human beings and maybe even with our fellow creation.
 Karen Amstrong one of the scholars in the study of the three Abrahamic religion wrote in her book The Spiral Stairways that “The one and only test of valid religious idea, doctrinal statement, spiritual experience or devotional practice was that it must lead directly to practical compassion. If your understanding of the divine made you kinder, more emphatic, and impelled you to express this sympathy in concrete act of loving kindness, this was good theology. But if your notion of God made you unkind belligerent, cruel, or self-righteous, or if it led you to kill in God’s name, it was a bad theology” In the same book Karen also added that “Compassion was the litmus test for the prophets of Israel, for Rabbis of the Talmud, for Jesus, for Paul and for Muhammad, not to mention Confucius, Lao-tzu, the Buddha or the sages of Upanishads”
The teachings of major religions of the world too stress on the need of the individual to strike a right relationship in life. We must try to have a right relationship with God or the creative spirit and with our fellow creations. We must also set our relationship with our fellow human and the entire creations on the foundation of compassion. Many a times I find it difficult to have a perfect relationship with God or with others and very often I failed in my efforts to even have a good relationship with near and dear ones. I may fail once twice or may be hundred times but for me; trying to make this relationship work is a spiritual act.
The other moot question is what is really required of each and every one of us? Prophet Micah has sums it beautifully when he said “What shall I bring when I come before the Lord, when I bow before God of high? Am I to come before him with whole-offerings, with yearling calves? Will the Lord be pleased with thousand rivers of oils? Shall I offer my eldest son for my wrong doing, my child for the sin I have committed? The Lord has told you mortals what is good, and what is that the Lord requires of you: only to act justly, to love loyalty, to walk humbly with your God.” (REB Micah 6:6-8).  Karen Amstrong again in the same book said that “What is vital to all the traditions, however is that we have a duty to make the best of the only things that remains to us-ourselves- our task now is to mend our broken world; if religion cannot do that, it is worthless. What our world need now is not belief, not certainty, but compassionate action and practically expressed respect for sacred value of all human being even our enemy.” 

For some people religion is something which has to do with the spirit only and it must not involve in anything materialistic, but religion is not something that happened only once a week or in the four corner of the church only, - it is a way of life. Religion is not something that only stare heaven ward but that which look on the ground too, religion is how I act and live in this world; in short it is the continuous act of trying to strike a good relationship with God and with everything around me no matter how many times I failed. 

1 comment:

Jim and Gail said...

Thank you Helpme - this issue is of course quite relevant here in the States, and in a rural state like our Tennessee in particular. Khublei, Jim Seavey