I often work with the interfaith people, especially in minority issues. Our basic common understanding is that we are live together in democratic country and law-basic state. Our constitution protects our religious and faith freedom. Its mean, every interpretation and faith has same rights to be exist in our country. We learn about diversity, plurality, and respect the others. So far, we can work together on any issues.
But I have not much chance to learn deeply about the other religion. I have concern especially in Islamic perspective. We make campaign on pluralism and unity in diversity. In my Islamic organization, we try to interpret Islamic values and Islamic scripture with peaceful and pluralist perspective. Usually, our perspectives are challenging the common moslem’s perspective. Then, the common Moslem usually blames us and considers that we are a part of Christian missionary or we are disturbing Islam from within. So, the common sense about pluralism issues is not a new thing for me.
But in this part of module of School of Peace on Faith, Religions, and Spirituality, I have much chance to learn deeply about another religion from their own perspective and experience. Also about peace perspective from different religions.
This reflective essay is not about detail of any religions. I want to focus on the religion that has two level of interpretation. The first one is form or formalism level, and the second is philosophical, spiritual, or theological level. It is a my reflection according our journey and our learning about Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity, Jainism, Sufism, Art of Living movement, and Dalit Religion.
On the form level, we have a truly different cult, ritual, and claim of truth, and also different image on God. On this level, most of religion has a justification to create a peaceful world, and also to blame another religion or create hatred and violence each other. It is easy to find a justification from the scriptures that drive the devotees to live with another religion’s devotees in the peaceful and justice way, same easier as justification to fight each other. These facts drive us to battle each other in the interpretation area.
That why there are many story and news about violence, war, and battle by the name of religions and God. Islam has a “jihad”, Christian has a “crusade”, Hinduism has a caste system, and Budhism has“karma” to justify sacrifies and suffer.
On this level, sometimes we can’t understand why we should have a respect to another religion follower and consider that they are also having their own belief on truth. It is because logically, if we belief that our religion is the truth, the others must be wrong. It is a common logic.
This level represents religion as an institution. As an institution, religion has a flexibility to used as an identity and also as a political commodity. The consequently, people can drive the religion to gain a benefit and profit by interpreting its value as their interest. And because it has an holy aspects, it is easier for religious leader or politicians or religious seller to get the trust from a common people or devotees.
The second level of religion is philosophical, theological, or spirituality level. We can say it is level of the core message of God. For me, it is a next level from the form level. We can arrive to this level with an intellectual or liberal interpretation on the cults, rituals, and forms of religion. But usually, this level needs another way to interpret the religious value and scripture.
On this level, the truth among human being is a relative truth. The absolute truth is belonging to the God. The five blind person’s description of an elephant is good example to explain this value. When we compare the description from each person to others, there are many differents. But if we put all their descriptions together, we can get the whole picture of the form of an elephant.
We learn from Jainis leader, Swasthishri Charukeethi Bhattaraka Swamiji in Chandragiri Temple. Eventhough Jainism has also different ritual and cult, he believe that the main core of our life is in philosophic area. For him, this area is beyond religion and will overcome our differences.
We learn about this level also from Sufism. Sufism is part of Islamic interpretation which has view beyond the form. Usually, Sufism focuses on love, esoteric value as an ultimate goal of religion. The resource person there talks about story of Ustadz Dada Hayat and his value on Sufism and religions. He came to that hill village with Sufism spirit and drives the people there to live together, whatever their religions. He believes that every form of religions is truth and they can live together with no disturbing the form. Then, we saw there that the people have a different way to worship and have the same belief on God.
In this level, we also learn about Dalit Religion. Eventhough the religion have no belief in God, for me, it has a message of God. We learn from MC Raj, who wrote “Dalitology”, and Jyothiraj, his wife. This religion based on three dimension of spirituality: earth centric, body centric, and woman centric. This dimension makes human being more respectful with the nature, cell system in their body, and the most important, more respectful with the women. It’s a very rational and empiric religion. With that three dimensions, and learning from another religion that create an injustice and violence aspects, there is no specific rituals and forms. This religion based on about 3.000 year’s tradition in Dalit community.
This learning process drives me to understand and help me to choose a standing point to look diversity. Sometimes, we feel it is very difficult to understand and answer many question around us: how can religion create violence? How can a holy scripture mentions many legitimation for its devotees to make an injustice and bloody war? Why the God create a bad religion?
For me, it is because religion created for a common people with big differences. Religion creates a scripture than can be understood by a different level and knowledge of people. Then, we can choose one standing point in form level of religion, and find the answer from a peaceful and justice perspective by interprete the scripture or religious form with another way. But sometimes, we cannot overcome some obstacles in this level.
And, we also can choose another standing point, by steps out to another level of religion: beyond form level, beyond the religion as institution. For me, it’s more effective as a view to create peaceful and justice world.
Catatan: ini adalah tugas dalam School of Peace di Bangalore, India 2 bulan yang lalu. Tugasnya sih esai reflektif. Tapi jadinya amburadul gini. Itung-itung latihan nulis bahasa Inggris.