“What is religion? A cloud in the sky. I live in the sky, not in the clouds, which are so many words held together. Remove the verbiage and what remains? Recorded religions are mere heaps of verbiage. Religions show their true face in action, in silent action. To know what man believes, watch how he acts. For most of the people service of their bodies and their minds is their religion. They may have religious ideas, but they do not act on them. They play with them, they are often very fond of them, but they will not act on them. Christianity is one way of putting words together and Hinduism is another. The real is, behind and beyond words, incommunicable, directly experienced, explosive in its effect on the mind. It is easily had when nothing else is wanted.”
Is there anything more subject to manipulation, modification, and misdirection in this realm than belief systems? In fact, nearly every person alive is ruled to some extent by conditioning programs based on manufactured beliefs. Reality descriptions are implanted as soon as one develops the cognitive capacity to be influenced, and that process never really ceases until the body-mind expires.
Moreover, people tend to be divided by their beliefs. Such is a convenient and often-employed tool for the controllers, the belief system engineers, who know all too well the power of fabricated beliefs. There is a very good reason for so much disinformation in this day and age. It is a sort of black magic based on a long-cultivated knowledge of how the human herd reacts to certain signals.
Currently, with the advent of media technologies that provide them with unprecedented control options, the powers of this realm have more ability and resources to fashion opinions and misdirect attention than at any other period in history, as well as marginalize any threat to their information control from the few voices that still speak out.
One of their favored modus operandi is setting up various competing religions, and using those beliefs to get people to attack, torture, and kill those who oppose the corrupted belief system. Various competing political and financial systems are also utilized for comparable purposes, but it is still hard to top religious belief as a prime vehicle for the manipulation of humans on this planet.
Religious belief in general is a mental and emotional superimposition on our felt experience of life and being. Borrowed fantasies of interpretation, based on cultural filters, are added to perception. These notions are then grasped onto as unchallenged and self-confirming propositions, for which we are even willing to sacrifice the lives of others, as well as our own, in their presumed defense.
Indeed, much of the violence perpetrated on humanity by humanity throughout history has religious belief structures at the root. Some might even argue that ethnic cleansing agendas went hand in hand with the inception of the Abrahamic religious cults that were eventually institutionalized into what are now considered “major world religions”, and that the monotheistic principle itself was in reality symptomatic of the human proclivity for totalitarian empire-building.
In any case, when the fundamentals of religious laws were initially implanted in human societies, it more than likely entailed a process similar in purpose and design to the various behavioral conditioning programs that are employed in the training of young children. In other words, religious concepts served as socialization vehicles and control structures aimed at achieving and then maintaining consensus views and corresponding standards of conduct in the fledgling societies springing up across the planet.
It was important for the evolution of these societies that individuals learned to distinguish appropriate versus inappropriate forms of relationship and activity, and considering the infantile level of developmental maturity of the species, certain fearful punishment consequences (i.e. hell realms) were strategically associated with failure to comply with the established rules.
These rules were eventually codified as religious dogmas requiring belief and allegiance, and many might argue that they are still necessary at our current level of global maturation, and so the overwhelming majority of humans are still kept in the dark. It’s never so dark as when we close our eyes, and yet most of us persist in keeping them shut and just going along with the herd.
In that regard, a large portion of humanity is still convinced that a male parental deity figure dreamed up by primitive nomadic peoples thousands of years ago is still worthy of worship and fear, and moreover relies on its followers to uphold its status by subduing and even exterminating unbelievers. To that end, a startling percentage of those deluded humans espousing such beliefs are willing to wage war with each other to confirm that their particular version of that deity figure is superior.
Just so, the alarming rise of violent Islamic extremism in the world today is not to be seen as an aberration, but simply business as usual when humans take their religious beliefs seriously (particularly within the Abrahamic sects, though certainly not exclusively). There is currently a surge of fundamentalism in the overall collective consciousness because humans who rely on conditioned belief to confirm their existence are deeply anxious about the future, and so wish to roll the clock back to a more comfortable time – a time when the earth was flat and the sun traveled around it, their favorite god ruled from his throne on high, women knew their subservient place, and there was plenty of enthusiasm about burning fellow humans at the stake or consigning them to the pits of hell if they dared to offend the consensus reality illusion.
The sage Nisargadatta Maharaj made a good point about belief itself in this regard when he noted: “We believe in so many things on hearsay. We believe in distant lands and people, in heavens and hells, in gods and goddesses, because we were told. Similarly, we were told about ourselves, our parents, name, position, duties and so on. We never cared to verify. The way to truth lies through the destruction of the false. To destroy the false, you must question your most inveterate beliefs. Of these the idea that you are the body is the worst. With the body comes the world, with the world — God, who is supposed to have created the world and thus it starts — fears, religions, prayers, sacrifices, all sorts of systems — all to protect and support the child-man, frightened out of his wits by monsters of his own making. Realise that what you are cannot be born nor die and with the fear gone all suffering ends.”
In any case, when we start to come clean of our fascination with and dependence on second-hand dogmas, and begin to shed our conditioned religious identities, we may find ourselves in a silence of mind that can at first seem extremely uncomfortable. After all, we are programmed and accustomed to having something there, something we can fall back on — “our” beliefs — and now they are either suspect, or have gone missing altogether.
We find ourselves cast into a vast and intimidating unknown, with no crutch or familiar landing place. Nevertheless, if we are able to resist the temptation of trying to fill the gap by replacing obsolete beliefs with newer and shinier versions, we will find ourselves opening into the transparent aware spaciousness of our own original innocence.
No frame of reference, no reference to frame — this transitional state of utter insecurity and not knowing is in fact the womb of real awakening. Many people tend to think that the “dark night of the soul” refers to a period of depression or psychological distress, but what is being pointed to here is not that. It is a state which pertains when all previous identity supports and anchors of belief are surrendered, and is thus a necessary stage prior to, and even coincident with, authentic awakening. It is often called a death, because it represents the end of clinging to old self-images.
By simply persisting there, while discarding the motive to add some further mental fabrication (i.e. belief) to our present aware spaciousness, what is is allowed to reveal itself, without artifice or force. It is the indescribable bliss of our own true nature, and it has never been elsewhere. It’s just that we have been too distracted by our beliefs and notions to see what has been present and radiant all along.
However, when we attempt to apply some conditional structure/meaning to it, so that the mind can wrap itself around it and plant its flag of identity in a staked-out position (belief), we’ve immediately separated ourselves from the essence of what is, even though it is only by directly experiencing the very essence of it that we will come to true peace.
Certainly, employing the intellect to inquire into the nature of any particular subject has its own value and utility. However, we often tend to over-complicate things by relying solely on reason and logic, and thus hold back from fully letting go and plunging all the way in to the heart of life and relations. Hence, another way to consider the matter might be like this:
There is an ocean. There are those who have heard that there is an ocean, have read many testaments about it being there, but have not actually seen it for themselves, much less plunged into it. These people might ponder the ocean in their minds, and derive various interpretations about its nature. Still, until they actually go to the ocean and get into it, their understanding will remain in the realm of belief and fantasies of interpretation.
Even those who do enter into the ocean are unable to fully appreciate its totality, since there are depths that are difficult to penetrate, but at least they have the direct experience as far as they go.
Just so, if one actually sees for themselves that the ocean is real, then there is no need to speculate about it, or even to doubt it. There is not even any need for faith, since one has found out on their own. Otherwise, one will constantly vacillate between faith and doubt, which is why religions and philosophies appear — to indulge people who do not have direct experience of the ocean.
“This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”
~ Dalai Lama
See also: Religion, Part 1 https://theconsciousprocess.wordpress.com/2012/11/08/religion/