First there were very powerful charismatic leaders with a mission. I am going to consider four leaders who gave rise to four world religions. 1. Christ is believed to incarnate into history, preached the Kingdom of God, and revealed God as his Father. He proclaimed the glorious liberty of God’s children, especially to the poor and the down-trodden. His mission was to reconcile humans among themselves and them to God. He taught his followers that truth alone shall set all free. He told humanity to forgive and love one another as God forgives and loves. 2. Mohammed believed to be the last messenger of God, the compassionate and merciful Allah. He taught his followers to surrender to God absolutely and completely. He exhorted all to take care of the poor and the disadvantaged. 3. Shankaracharya, though not an initiator of a path as Sanatana Dharma was already in existence, laid the foundation for organization of Hinduism. Purified from his vicious caste mentality reportedly from divine intervention one evening in Kashi, raised all to the one level of supreme consciousness, and enlightened all through his commentary on existing scriptures related to advaita (non-duality), and brought all to the awareness of One and Sole Reality behind all appearances, and made all “Aham Brahmasmi (I am God)”. In his famous Shatka Nirvanam he left no doubt as to our state of being Pure Bliss, Consciousness. 4. Gautam, renouncing a luxurious kingly status got into a deep meditation of long duration, acquired enlightenment, became Buddha, and discovered the cause of unhappiness. He did not give any indication that he believed in a Supreme Being. Buddhists consist of two branches Heenayaana (does not believe in God) and Mahayaana (believes in God).
Four powerful religions arose from the teachings and examples of four irresistible leaders. These religions, ways of life, got corrupted beyond recognition over many centuries, often through powerful, egotistic, and narcissistic leaders, malignant cancerous growths, unhappy world events, and above all, basic human insecurities. Insecurities lead to unhappiness. Let us take, for instance, two world events that are very much talked and commented about in the recent world news. The two countries in question are two powerful economic powers in the world that enormously affect the world economy as indicated by the recent crash of some major stock markets. The USA succeeded the one-time, all-powerful, exploiting, colonial, and imperial power, UK, in the world. As we have barely got out of the evil era of the apartheid, and before that of the demonic eras of authoritarian, fascist leaders such as Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini who cashed out on human miseries, insecurities, and fears, rose leaders such as Boris Johnson in UK and Donald Trump in USA. UK voted its frustration and insecurities coming out of its inability to manipulate and dominate European Union nations, and possibly also due to its nostalgic, arrogant days of the empire. Trump, cleverly engaging in a version of American fascism, vamped on insecurities of people and whipped up enough insecure emotions of vulnerable Americans to become a presumptive presidential candidate of the Republican Party. Banking on the fears caused by emigrants Trump is not aware that America is almost entirely is a land of emigrants and that he himself is a second generation emigrant from Scotland. Both world events do not indicate a bright future for the world and the oneness of humanity. But humanity eventually will survive and overcome these two obscurantist events as it survived many in the past.
Drawing a parallelism between the religious and the secular world, we can draw the conclusion that growth and development is not linear, it zigzags and gets lost in blind alleys, and stays in darkness for a long time as happened for the Catholic Church and other Christian Churches in the Dark Middle Ages. The contention without any doubt here is that the Christian Church got separated from its roots so far that Christ would not recognize it from the Jewish pharisaism that he so mercilessly condemned in his time. Christianity, especially the Catholic Church, needs to be thoroughly overhauled, reformed, and decentralized so it can reconnect with its vital roots and capture anew the vigorous charism early Christian communities experienced and lived. Christianity should become a way of life and portray the image of a strong person brimming with life and vitality rather than the image of a worn-out, weary person laden with unnecessary and oppressive dogmas, doctrines, and rituals too heavy to carry. Those who want doctrines and rituals can have them. But Christianity has to be a way of loving and easily flowing nourishing river in this world. All other religions also need to be radically overhauled so that all religions together can develop a mighty life of love that makes life bearable for all in this world while they believe in their concept of the One and Only God we all believe in.
Swami Snehananda Jyoti