As soon as the corona pandemic started, the temples shut down and only hospitals offered relief. Isn’t it better that we fund medical research?
Transcription by: Suresh Gupta
Question: As soon as the corona pandemic started, the temples shut down and only hospitals offered relief. Isn’t it better that we fund medical research?
Answer: Often, comparison is a tool for emotional manipulation against a particular thing. If at all we want to compare, we can say that the money spent on sports is way more than the money received in donation at temples. Playing and watching sports is a luxury, especially when compared to a dying person in need of a lifesaving medicine. Some people can spend lakhs of rupees for a ticket of a world cup final. Why can’t such money be used to save the life of some person who is terribly sick? Why not compare all the money that we are spending on cricket and decide to give it to medical research?
Different areas in life serve different purposes. Some so-called religious teachers might do some faith healing, but such a thing is not what is traditionally recommended. The idea that religion is used to heal our physical ailments does not have much scriptural basis. Certainly, religion is never presented as a substitute for medicine. In the Vedic tradition also, Ayurveda is considered as a separate branch of knowledge from those Vedic texts which are recommended for spiritual development.
One may say, cricket serves the purpose of entertainment but what purpose does religion serve? Well, certainly for many people, religion at the very basic level serves the purpose of calming the mind, up lifting the heart, give strength. Even if we presume that from functional purposes one does not believe in the religious tenet such as the existence of God, even then atheists have also recognised that religion provides certain things to people which are valid human needs. There is an atheist who has written a book called ‘Religion for Atheists’ where he says that – if we want to prescribe atheism, we need to be able to provide it to people in some healthy way so that they can fulfil their needs. If we do not do that, then religion is going to persist.
Scientific research and spiritual growth are two independent areas. At present when we are trying to deal with the pandemic curve through medicine there is also panic curve which needs to be dealt. For many people, it is their religion that calms them. Now, one can say that there are some religious people who have congregated indiscriminately causing the spread of the disease. That is true, but such people are doing the same mistake the questioner is doing by accusing religion by saying that if religion is not providing solace, so why have religion, just have medical research. Basically, those who congregating indiscriminately and are defying science, they are saying, replace religion by science. However, we need to understand that the two cannot be equated.
Medical research is important and those medical workers who are providing health care even at great risks are to be lauded. At the same time, the two are not equivalent and most mainstream religions are not claiming that at all. It is the interpretation of some people of their own religion which makes them imagine, that religion is a substitute for intelligent practice. Mainstream religions like sanatana dharma does not say that the material will be replaced by spiritual. Material and spiritual, both need to be taken care of appropriately and just as we need to curve the pandemic through medicine, we need to curve the panic through meditation. By comparing the two it could well be a tool for emotional manipulation to get people away from their religion. This is a false dichotomy that is brought because just as there can be funding for various areas, there can be funding for medical research and there can be funding for other areas of technological developments. Countries are still going on funding their space research, developing weapons. Therefore, there are different areas of human needs and human interest and all of them need to be served in an appropriate way.
Why are the temples closed? It is because the temples acknowledge, that they are not making a super claim by being substitutes for science or substitutes for hospitals. Temples are recognizing that they have their domain and they are providing the needs of that domain by appropriate means. For example, through Zoom, spiritual talks and digital aartis are also happening. There is a sense of mature responsible understanding over here and that needs to be appreciated. Hence, just as there are fanatic religionists who defy science and who are a part of the problem, there are also fanatic atheists who mischaracterize religion and thereby also make things worse. We need moderates to come together and unitedly work to deal with this huge crisis of pandemic that has come upon the world today.
End of transcription.