Guiding Light: Is religion a public or a private matter?

Guiding Light: Is religion a public or a private matter?

Swami Brahmavidananda SaraswatiUpdated: Thursday, January 25, 2024, 07:04 PM IST
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A charming young lady whom I know wrote an interesting post: Religion should be a private matter. Why are we voting for governments that spend tax payer’s money on public demonstration of religion by building temples? She was referring to the Rama temple coming up at Ayodhya. Firstly, the taxpayers money is not involved in building up the Rama temple. Just like the Somnath temple was built with public funds so too the Rama temple is being built by donations from the public and not the taxpayers money.

Should the practice of religion be private or can religion have a public display? Every religion has a private aspect of Sadhana, Tapas, the practices and austerities done and also a very public face of worship. Festivals are not only family affairs, but also social and community gatherings. Show me one religion that does not have festivals and public forms of worship. It is natural because it bonds the community together and the community members also become support systems for each other. Whether it's a Hindu marriage where people pitch to help the family that is having the wedding or a funeral where the family doesn't cook, and relatives and neighbors send food or the Christian community helping out a Sikh family with food, or people belonging to Islam helping the poor in their community or the Parsis helping out their community.

All religions have a public face and private face in terms of the practice. Sometimes religions also have a political side. There is strength in numbers, especially in a democracy. Voting remains an individual choice and Hinduism would be the last religion to deny the freedom of choice to anyone. Therefore, let us stop saying that religion is only a private affair. It is very much public all over the world. And fittingly so! That doesn't mean that one religion, whether majority or minority dominates the other or tries to prove its superiority over the other. We live and let live. We help each other grow and live together as a community and as a strong nation.

The writer is the founder of Aarsha Vidya Foundation. You can write to him at aarshavidyaf@gmail.com

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