The use of the word secular ensures that we can collectively continue to govern ourselves through various democratic institutions in spheres that are ‘concerned with the affairs of the world’ while retaining the individual freedom in the spiritual or sacred sphere. However, secular has come to mean different things to different people – most of all to our politicians. The actions of all our political parties give one a fair indication of what these parties perceive to be the meaning of this word. To the Left parties, secularism implies being irreligious; to the Congress and its allies it implies being minority centric; to the BJP and allies it implies being majority centric. Majority and minority in this case are all decided by religious leanings of the population. The definition of secular clearly brings out the fact that secular is only concerned with affairs of the world and has nothing to do with the spiritual or sacred. Though secular has nothing to do with religion, which is a very personal choice of every individual, but all the political parties understand secularism only in terms of religion and propagate it as such to the detriment of this unique idea, of India. Politicians in a democratic India have to win elections to earn their living. They find that Indians are very religious at the individual level. It is thus easiest for politicians to create a grouping of individuals with similar religious leanings. These individuals are then fed with half truths all with the aim of exploiting religion with the sole aim of winning elections. What exactly is religion?
I believe religion is the personal equation of an individual with his Creator. Religion is defined as a ‘particular system of faith or worship’. Each individual may follow the same system of faith, may worship in a similar fashion but does that make his understanding of religion same as that of the next person. I do not believe so, because every individual perceives the same thing, differently. It is only when you reach the summit that you realize that you are on the same mountain even though you may have come up through different paths or slopes. The summit, or God, Allah, Jesus, Krishna are the names of the same Creator. A rose by any name would smell as sweet. A small example from the mortal world would help. I am one individual but am known by different names: ‘papa’ to my daughter, ‘dad’ to my son, ‘Jeeten’ to my wife, ‘bhapa’ to my siblings, ‘lalan’ to my parents and so on. Each individual addresses me differently but I am the same. Only when they do not know me do people address me by my given name. Once we develop a rapport, each one finds a new and more personal name for me.
As per Swami Vivekananda, religion comprises of three parts; mythology, rituals and philosophy. Mythology is transmitted to you by people around you; rituals are learnt over a period of one’s life. Most of us are happy at reaching this level. Only people who are serious in unraveling life’s mystery proceed further and that is when they discover that the philosophy behind all religions is basically the same i.e. the summit is the same, and we are all parts of the whole. Science is now proving through stem cell research that the same cell grows to various forms to meet the needs of the different body organs. Our worldly religious leaders and politicians take advantage of the fact that most people are happy with ‘mythology’ and ‘rituals’. This leaves the field wide open for them to exploit human weakness of ‘my religion is better than yours’. This exploitation takes the form of informing the followers of various threats to their religious identity and how each one needs to defend his/ her faith even with one’s life. These are first signs of a fracture in the idea of India, sown by unscrupulous elements amongst us, in search of personal gains. It has been said that religion protects the individual, and not the other way around. I do believe that no one can shake my personal faith, but me. So, why do we fight over something that has no bigger enemy than oneself? Fighting over religion, or for religion, negates the idea of India and secularism. Let’s all practice secularism in our dealings with fellow human beings, and religion with our inner selves. India would then truly be secular and the idea of India would blossom in glorious splendor, as God willed.