Even in this 21st century, everyday we see religious fundamentalism and fanaticism is growing and people are stuck in those ideological beliefs; this disestablishes the social harmony and hampers the growth of an individuals, society, states or county and overall it brings down the nation. Such people’s imagination manacled by fear; shackled by custom rituals; trammeled by confused and non-adoptable thoughts.
There should be a way to overcome on this situation and Bodhisattva Dr. Babasaheb Ambedkar has given perfect explanation in the form of understanding “Dhamma” and “Religion” in his “Buddha And His Dhamma”. Understanding this in its form will bring social harmony and progressive generation.
Lets understand “What is Religion”; this also provides picture on what problem it could bring.
A. What is Religion?
1. The word “religion” is an indefinite word with no fixed meaning.
2. It is one word with many meanings.
3. This is because religion has passed through many stages. The concept at each stage is called Religion, though the concept at one stage has not had the same meaning which it had at the preceding stage, or is likely to have at the succeeding stage.
4. The conception of religion was never fixed.
5. It has varied from time to time.
6. Because most of the phenomena such as lightning, rain, and floods, the occurrence of which the primitive man could not explain, [were not understood], any weird performance done to control the phenomenon was called magic. Religion therefore came to be identified with magic.
7. Then came the second stage in the evolution of religion. In this stage religion came to be identified with beliefs, rituals, ceremonies, prayers, and sacrifices.
8. But this conception of religion is derivative.
9. The pivotal point in religion starts with the belief that there exists some power which causes these phenomena, which primitive man did not know and could not understand. Magic lost its place at this stage.
10. This power was originally malevolent. But later it was felt that it could also be benevolent.
11. Beliefs, rites, ceremonies, and sacrifices were necessary both to propitiate a benevolent power, and also to conciliate an angry power.
12. Later that power was called God or the Creator.
13. Then came the third stage: that it is this God who created this world and also man.
14. This was followed by the belief that man has a soul, and the soul is eternal and is answerable to God for man’s actions in the world.
15. This is, in short, the evolution of the concept of Religion.
16. This is what Religion has come to be and this is what it connotes–belief in God, belief in [a] soul, worship of God, curing of the erring soul, propitiating God by prayers, ceremonies, sacrifices, etc.
Now, lets understand what is “Dhamma” and how it resolves the problem associated with “Religion”
B. How Dhamma Differs From Religion
1. What the Buddha calls Dhamma differs fundamentally from what is called Religion.
2. What the Buddha calls Dhamma is analogous to what the European theologians call Religion.
3. But there is no greater affinity between the two. On the other hand, the differences between the two are very great.
4. On this account, some European theologians refuse to recognise the Buddha’s Dhamma as Religion.
5. There need be no regrets over this. The loss is theirs. It does no harm to the Buddha’s Dhamma. Rather, it shows what is wanting in Religion.
6. Instead of entering into this controversy, it is better to proceed to give an idea of Dhamma, and show how it differs from Religion.
7. Religion, it is said, is personal, and one must keep it to oneself. One must not let it play its part in public life.
8. Contrary to this, Dhamma is social. It is fundamentally and essentially so.
9. Dhamma is righteousness, which means right relations between man and man in all spheres of life.
10. From this it is evident that one man, if he is alone, does not need Dhamma.
11. But when there are two men living in relation to each other, they must find a place for Dhamma whether they like it or not. Neither can escape it.
12. In other words. Society cannot do without Dhamma.
13. Society has to choose one of the three alternatives.
14. Society may choose not to have any Dhamma as an instrument of Government. For Dhamma is nothing if it is not an instrument of Government.
15. This means Society chooses the road to anarchy.
16. Secondly, Society may choose the police–i.e., dictatorship–as an instrument of Government.
17. Thirdly, Society may choose Dhamma, plus the Magistrate wherever people fail to observe the Dhamma.
18. In anarchy and dictatorship liberty is lost.
19. Only in the third [case] liberty survives.
20. Those who want liberty must therefore have Dhamma.
21. Now what is Dhamma? and why is Dhamma necessary? According to the Buddha, Dhamma consists of Prajna and Karuna.
22. What is Prajna? And why Prajna? Prajna is understanding. The Buddha made Prajna one of the two corner-stones of His Dhamma because he did not wish to leave any room for superstition.
23. What is Karuna? And why Karuna? Karuna is love. Because without it, Society can neither live nor grow; that is why the Buddha made it the second corner-stone of His Dhamma.
24. Such is the definition of the Buddha’s Dhamma.
25. How different is this definition of Dhamma from that of Religion.
26. So ancient, yet so modern, is the definition of Dhamma given by the Buddha.
27. So aboriginal, yet so original.
28. Not borrowed from anyone, yet so true.
29. A unique amalgam of Pradnya and Karuna is the Dhamma of the Buddha.
30. Such is the difference between Religion and Dhamma.
(Composed by: Chandrakanth Dandge, Email:firstname.lastname@example.org, From: Herndon, Washington, D.C., USA)