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11      Should Religion Put Restrictions on Us?
Is Not God Himself Egocentric?

At the Sikh youth camps, every year the trainees are urged to learn about their heritage and feel proud of it. They are told to follow the Sikh practices, reciting Gurbani, wearing five K's and observing the Sikh discipline. At the Vancouver Island camp, one day the teenaged group was not in a learning mood. The faces of the two senior students revealed their inner feelings. To scuttle the teachings planned for that day, they came out with their own agenda.

I was busy arranging my teaching material and before I called the class to order, one youth acting as their spokesman asked me, "Uncle, anyway, why do we have to have a religion? Why should it put restrictions on the freedom of an individual? One should be able to live the way one likes. Of course, one should not cheat or commit any other crime."

Having understood their mood and temper, I felt it would be of no use to discuss the scheduled topic with them. They needed a change in their regular program and I provided it to them. After listening to the question, I said, "This is a wonderful question. Today, this period will be used only to answer your open questions on any topic. Any more questions please?"

The trainees were visibly relaxed and pleased with the success of their plan. The second student came out with another question, "Why should one continue to say 'God', 'God', every day? OK, God does many favors for us. But why should He demand daily meditation from us? Uncle, is God not Himself egocentric? I do not like your God."

There were many more questions asked by the youth. This dialogue brought them back to a listening and learning mood. A summary of the discussions with them is given below:

1. When asked how many of them would like to go swimming that afternoon (it was summertime) every one raised his hand. I asked, "Will the pool benefit from you when you swim in it? Do you oblige the pool when you enjoy it?" The answer was "No".

I put another question to them, "During winter when you enjoy the sun at the beach, is the sun benefited by your sitting there?" Of course, the answer was the same. Having thus prepared their mind, I asked, "If not, then why should you think you are obliging God when you bask in the 'sun' of the virtues of God or 'swim' in the comforts provided by Him? "

When we meditate on God, we think of His virtues and try to imbibe them for lighting the path of our life. It is not God who benefits when we remember Him, it is we who benefit by meditating on His virtues to obtain peace and happiness. No doubt, repeating His Name like a parrot, without keeping the mind tuned to His virtues, is of little benefit.

Now, I think you understand God is not an egocentric person. It is we who on many occasions become ungrateful and fail to thank Him for His favors. Again, it is we who lose the benefit, which flows from His virtues if we do not meditate on Him.

2. To answer the other question, the discussion followed like this:

Did anyone of you notice that I was late for the morning assembly in the gurdwara?  A couple of boys responded, "You were not late, we had just started when you quietly slipped in." I asked, "Anyway, when the classes are over today I need two volunteers to go with me with a small gun." The students were surprised to hear that and looked at me askance. I continued, "I want you to break all the traffic red lights on my way, they unnecessarily delayed me in the morning. At every crossing (intersection) the driver stopped the car. When I told him to move on as no car was coming from any other side, he responded that the police will give him a ticket (fine him)."

When I pointed out that there was no policeman to be seen anywhere, he replied, "We may meet an accident and may lose our life.” I asked the driver, "How can there be an accident when there is no vehicle coming from any side?" He said, "That is the law. We have to stop at the red light, vehicle or no vehicle from other sides."

I questioned the youth, "Is it not the wrong law? Why should one stop when there is no vehicle coming from any direction? A red light unnecessarily delays our journey.” The students jointly responded, "Without red and green lights to direct the traffic, there will be chaos and many accidents will occur. Even when the law is there, some people ignore the traffic rules and cause accidents. We should not remove red lights."

To interpret their view I observed, "You mean to say that even when you are bothered and delayed, you should not disregard red lights." The youth in one voice replied, "Yes, one should always follow the signals." I continued, "Now, it should be easy for you to understand the answer to your second question, why a religion has 'red' lights. They tell you not to defy certain directions to save yourself from meeting accidents of life. They have been 'fixed' not to obstruct your way of life, but to keep your path clear and safe. Some 'roads' have permanent 'red lights'. A Sikh cannot smoke or drink, nor is he permitted to have premarital/extramarital sex, etc. You must study the Sikh Reht Maryada for this.

One must move on at the 'green light' to reach his destination. Otherwise, not only he himself will miss the goal but will also delay the traffic (mislead other people) following him. I believe, now, you will also understand why Sikhs must remember God every day and recite Gurbani regularly, as directed by the Guru; this is the 'green light' of our faith."

The youth enjoyed the discussion that day and the author felt satisfied that the trainees received a useful lesson for everyday life.




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