Sunday, June 29, 2008

Meaningless Ritual


Ideology is the intellectual articulation of some serious reflection on a
concept by the elitists. But common people, living on an existential level
have different, practical-oriented approaches to the same concept. The main
difference is that while the elitists are criticizing the common approach to
reality by the commoners, the commoners are neither aware of such
intellectual ideologies nor bother to learn from them to survive.

In answer to the question, "Are rituals a way to become peaceful or are they
a solution to life?" Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev says:

You can derive some benefits from ritual, if it has some element of science
in it. However, rituals were popularly practiced when most people were

When intellect is sufficiently evolved in society, the practice of
performing rituals begins to slowly recede because this is just like old
technology. We should use other methods that can easily transform a person.
Rituals have now become a source of exploitation. There could be something
to ritual, but it is overly exaggerated. If you want to be peaceful, there
are some simple things that you can do with yourself. If you invest just a
few minutes a day to yourself, remaining peaceful through the day is easy.
(Shun Meaningless Ritual, Get A Hold On Yourself, The Speaking Tree, The
Times of India, Bangalore, May 31, 2007, p. 16)

Then after pointing out the vanity of performing of ritual to avert
earthquakes at Andhra and financial problems in Tamilnadu, the Sadhguruji
explains the genuine and natural way to handle those problems. Again
pointing out the need to address the poverty seriously, he concludes:

You must be in a condition that you won't crack up and break down when
situations demand exertion from you. So it is important that you do some
inner engineering, strengthen and stabilize yourself before setting out to
face challenges.

Of course every reasonable person will welcome such sober advice, which is
the need of everyone. However, we need to question the statement that
'rituals were popularly practiced when most people were ignorant.' Because
down the centuries, if we observe Hinduism (or any other religion), rituals
need not be practiced all the time with ignorance. If we call the rituals
of common people as ignorant ones, then they can say our way of finding
peace without performing any outward ritual, but only through the so-called
scientific methods of 'meditation,' 'contemplation,' 'yoga' etc. are nothing
but different kinds of rituals in their eyes. We may think that such
practices are not rituals. However, these are the same old methods of
interiorizing the outward forms (of rituals) that are recommended in
Aranyakas. In Aranyakas, the vanaprastas (forest dwellers) were advised to
abandon all kinds of outward rituals and perform them mentally.

Inner transformation never comes so easily. Performing 'simple things' by
oneself will never bring peace easily. Whether we choose some inner
engineering or outward (old) technology of rituals, when it comes to
attaining peace, there are not 'simple things' alone involved.

Of course, all kinds rituals, performed with ignorance or mechanically need
to be improved. However, considering our nature, even these so called
'simple things' of scientific inner engineering could themselves become mere
routine and mechanical. Then performing such practices becomes another kind
of ritual, only gaining certain sophisticated terms like 'meditation',
'contemplation' or 'yoga'.

Dayanand Bharati,
Mathigiri, May 31, 2007.

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