Thursday, April 23, 2015

A Plea for Humanity

Prof. TM Paily, in his book, ‘Human Religion’, urges people to develop tolerance and love for all faiths

By Shevlin Sebastian

Like most Indians, Professor TM Paily, the now-retired principal of Mar Athanasius College in Kothamangalam, was anguished when the Babri Masjid was demolished on December 6, 1992, and it resulted in communal riots all over the country. “That was when I began thinking about the destructive effects of religion,” says Paily. “Religion is meant for the good of mankind, yet it does so much of harm.”

But he was not surprised. “Most religions create animosity and hatred towards other faiths,” he says. “This is to serve the selfish interests of the leaders. The more followers they have, the more they are able to amass wealth and gather power for themselves.”

Paily says that if religions propagate brotherhood, it will create peace between people. It is to this end that he has written his book, called ‘Human Religion - my conscience is my God’. It is a translation of his Malayalam book, ‘Manushyamatham’, which was published in 2006. “Well-wishers and friends had told me that it would be worthwhile to publish it in English,” he says.

The 70-page book, published by DC Books, is priced at Rs 60. There is an eye-catching cover: two hands clasped in prayer and around it is the outline of a head drawn with white lines.

And it has been written in a simple and easy style. Here are some thoughts which Paily has expressed: ‘An excess of importance given to religion may lead man to communalism which is a curse of the present-day world’. ‘If a religion can ensure that all its followers are essentially good and their acts are conducive to the welfare of humanity in general, then that religion is a blessing in all respects’. ‘One need not go to the temple, church or mosque in search of God. God is within us and all that we need to do is to kindle the divine power that is already within us.’

Poignantly, there is an undercurrent of anguish in the work. “I want to tell everybody that they should accept all religions and get along with people of all faiths,” he says.

One way is to teach tolerance to children. “The religious teachers should tell youngsters that they should love and respect all faiths,” says Paily. “So, from childhood, they will be able to develop positive thoughts and a broad-minded attitude towards others.”

For adults, one way to develop this mind-set is through meditation. “The main purpose of meditation, according to Swami Vivekananda, is to escape from the cosmic illusion or what is known as ‘maya’, the cause of all suffering in the world, and to bring peace and bliss to the mind of man,” says Paily.

Another way is through prayer. “It is the only way to experience God fully,” says Paily. “But prayer should not be aimed at personal gain only. Every individual should pray for the well-being of his fellow beings all over the world. We have to ensure that the mind is free from evil thoughts like hatred, jealousy and revenge. It is only then that prayer can be effective and meaningful.”

The third way is through fasting. “All religions have prescribed fasting as a way of life to make people aware of the hardship of others,” says Paily.

This work, with well-meaning suggestions throughout, is a soothing balm, in these times of fierce religious fundamentalism, and offers a way out of the fanaticism that is gripping the planet. 

(Published in The New Indian Express, Kochi and Thiruvanthapuram) 

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