Isn’t the idea that religious rituals provide happiness just sentimental imagination?
Daru pine se kya khushi milti hai10? The pleasure of drinking alcohol is also a sentimental imagination. In fact, it is worse than a sentimental imagination; it is a self-defeating imagination. It makes people behave disgracefully like lunatics. It also leads to drunken driving, ending in numerous accidents, many fatal. And it triggers so many health problems, even fatal diseases.
By comparison, the religious rituals, at the very least, don’t harm. They provide a higher happiness that frees people from the desires for pleasures like meat-eating and intoxication that are harmful to others and harmful to themselves. How can this happiness be considered imaginary when its effects are real: freedom from addictive and destructive desires, freedom that is otherwise extremely difficult to gain? And these effects are not just real, but repeatable. Many surveys have demonstrated that religious people are healthier and happier than their nonreligious peers11.
For argument’s sake, let’s assume that this pleasure is just the sentimental imagination of people with blind faith in their tradition. Then why is this same pleasure sought by millions of people all
10 What happiness does one get by drinking alcohol?
11 In the HandbookofReligionandHealth, published by Oxford University Press, Harold G. Koenig, MD; Michael E. McCullough, PhD; and the late David B. Larson,MD, carefully review no fewer than two thousand published experiments that consistently demonstrate the positive correlation between religious belief on one hand and physical and mental health on the other hand.
over the world – people who don’t even know about this tradition, leave alone having blind faith in it? Kirtan is becoming increasingly popular in the West as a means of relieving stress, gaining peace of mind and promoting spiritual growth. Thousands of people from various parts of the world become so inspired by the joy that they find in kirtan that they come to India as spiritual tourists to find out more about the culture that gave birth to kirtans. Many such seekers are often seen in holy places like Haridwar, Varanasi and Vrindavan. If the happiness from kirtan were just a sentimental imagination due to blind faith in tradition, why would people whose tradition is entirely different relish that happiness and come halfway across the world to learn more about it?
Actually, this happiness is not sentimental; it is factual and universal because it is innate to our higher spiritual nature. All of us, whatever our religion, nationality or race, are souls and by our nature are sat-cit-anand, eternal, knowledgeable and blissful. At present, we have forgotten our spiritual identity and have alienated ourselves from our innate joyfulness. Through practices like kirtan, we reconect with that intrinsic joy. The Vedic wisdom-tradition explains logically and philosophically how and why we experience this sublime happiness – and also how we can maximize our connection with that happiness. By studying Vedic wisdom, we will understand how this happiness, far from being a mere sentimental imagination, is life’s supreme happiness – an experience of our highest spiritual nature.