There are many paths up the mountain – and in the end they ALL reach the summit ... these words signify the attitude of the Buddhist religion about all the spiritual paths that exist in this world. So this shows an attitude of complete religious tolerance and a wish for the spiritual upliftment of all.
But what is religion and why is it so important to those of us on this plain of existence? The answer to this is found simply by looking at the very nature of us – the human being ... Who and what are we truly?
And the answer is simply this ... we are spiritual beings stuck in a physical body. So what has this got to do with religion? Once again the answer is found simply by looking in to what it actually is, religion that is ...
So then what is religion? It is the system that is supposed to lead us to our own higher self – our SPIRITUAL self. We need this system in order to keep ourselves balanced and sane, a guiding light on our journey through the different realms of existence.
Many people believe that we can live, and thus exist, without religion in our lives – and that is because the rush for material things and money has become the new world religion. We have forgotten the need to protect our home, the planet earth.
Instead it has become more important to see who can strip this planet of its resources first, strip mining, eradication and rampant crime has become the order of the day. So what has become of the honor and respect that our parents and their parents before them have struggled so hard to instill in all of us?
Every day more and more people feel that religion and all of its teachings have become completely redundant, that there is no longer a need for such outdated ways of thinking in this technologically advanced era of ours ... So who is correct, the industrial giants or the outmoded religious fanatics?
A question that, ironically enough, has been answering itself in the last couple of years – thanks to the new worldwide followed religion called ... science ... Yes, I smile as I just heard all of those outcries and inhaled breaths, depending on who you are. But think about it, slowly ever since the Renaissance a new religion has been taking hold in this world of ours. If something cannot be scientifically tested and retested until it finally proves a theory one way or another, then it cannot possibly be true. If the priests of this new religion, known as scientists, don't back up any idea then it must be fiction and thus untrue.
Yet I seem to be veering off topic here, but am I really? Let me explain my side track from the main road (the article's topic) and all will become clear – and hopefully bring a fresh viewpoint to an age-old dilemma ... why is religion important to us as individuals and as a species?
Surely the animals have no religion. They simply do as they will, so long as they are allowed and not constricted by human masters. I can hear it now ... wild animals have no masters, they act as they will all the time! But I say no, even they are subject to the whims of human “masters”. We have set ourselves up as the masters of all things on this planet – animal and plant alike – all over this planet of ours ... we have made ourselves into the gods deciding the existence of all “lesser beings”.
Yes, we allow the animals to roam free – within our set borderlines – while we study and control them, culling or moving them as we see fit. So once again you ask how this has any relation to the topic at hand. I shall now explain. A religion is based in some way or another on the teachings and commandments of some god or gods, which are revealed through the aid of certain inspired prophets who tell us the tales and laws of those gods. And then we are expected to act and restrict ourselves to stay within those borders set by the given religion's deities ... just like the animals are given no choice but to remain within the borders we have set for them, in which they believe that they are actually free.
But what is religion actually supposed to be? A system of teachings to aid us in becoming more focused and enlightened in order to prepare us for the next phase of the journey we'll be undertaking as soon as we shed this body of clay and continue on to the next level of existence.
Religion, or more accurately spirituality, is there to teach us to be more developed beings. Focus and compassion toward all beings – human, animal, plant as well as “inanimate”. It is what originally set us apart from the animals, the ability to conceive of the spiritual within all things, especially within ourselves. The oldest religion (Spiritual Path) is that of shamanism, following what is known as an animistic point of view – that spirit resides within all things, even supposedly inanimate items such as rocks.
As the human species became more and more sophisticated, so did our concept of the spiritual and thus our religious understanding. Yet at the root of every religion lies one simple concept – respect for all things.
And now I come to the actual point ... the importance of religion to individuals in this technologically advanced age of the human race. Think for a moment and the image will become shockingly clear – whether you would like it to or not. A hundred years ago there was significantly less cases of mental and physical illness ... and this because of a more religious-conscious world - whichever religion that might be. Nature was also something to be cherished and protected, where today pollution and deforestation has become not just a problem, but a critical error to be corrected before its too late – which it actually already is.
In our modern day and age we have become so focused on making more money faster and our society dominated by instant gratification that the rush has overwhelmed us. Stress levels are so high because of our fast-paced lives and work that should have been completed yesterday already. We no longer truly take time for ourselves or our families – part of the reason that the divorce rate has also skyrocketed the world over – nature has become something “out there” that most no longer see as a place of safety, rather as a place to be avoided and feared, removed all for the advancement of humanity – until the entire planet is finally just one large city focused entirely on commerce and nothing else.
Recent surveys revealed that one of the happiest and most fulfilling careers in the world today is that of the clergy ... Why? Because they aren't rushing around all the time and actually have the time to focus on higher things of spiritual importance. Psychologists and doctors are now more regularly advising patients to spend more time outdoors in natural environments in order to aid their recovery. The fastest growing “religion” in the world today is that of paganism, because it encourages its followers to return to a position of slow, calm focus and a respect of all things in nature ... escaping from the rush of everyday material concerns and returning the magical into our daily lives.
So to sum it all up into a short and concise answer ... religion is important to us as individuals because it encourages us to once again to find the balance within ourselves and slowly return true order to our world. It keeps the psyche relaxed and prevents dis-ease such as mental instability or illnesses such as cancer. It teaches respect of not only ourselves but all beings and ultimately our planet. It prepares us for the next leg of our journey after we leave behind this body. And most importantly, it returns the magical to the everyday within our lives ...
So all in all the answer is simply this ... religion makes our lives that much more special and meaningful.