Meaningless Ritual

Ideology is the intellectual articulation of some serious reflection on a
concept by the elitists. But common people, living on an existential level
have different, practical-oriented approaches to the same concept. The main difference is that while the elitists are criticizing the common approach to reality by the commoners, the commoners are neither aware of such intellectual ideologies nor bother to learn from them to survive.

In answer to the question, “Are rituals a way to become peaceful or are they a solution to life?” Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev says: You can derive some benefits from ritual, if it has some element of science in it. However, rituals were popularly practiced when most people were ignorant.

When intellect is sufficiently evolved in society, the practice of performing rituals begins to slowly recede because this is just like old
technology. We should use other methods that can easily transform a person. Rituals have now become a source of exploitation. There could be something to ritual, but it is overly exaggerated. If you want to be peaceful, there are some simple things that you can do with yourself. If you invest just a few minutes a day to yourself, remaining peaceful through the day is easy. (Shun Meaningless Ritual, Get A Hold On Yourself, The Speaking Tree, The Times of India, Bangalore, May 31, 2007, p. 16) Then after pointing out the vanity of performing of ritual to avert earthquakes at Andhra and financial problems in Tamilnadu, the Sadhguruji explains the genuine and natural way to handle those problems. Again pointing out the need to address the poverty seriously, he concludes: You must be in a condition that you won’t crack up and break down when situations demand exertion from you. So it is important that you do some inner engineering, strengthen and stabilize yourself before setting out to face challenges.

Of course every reasonable person will welcome such sober advice, which is the need of everyone. However, we need to question the statement that ‘rituals were popularly practiced when most people were ignorant.’ Because down the centuries, if we observe Hinduism (or any other religion), rituals need not be practiced all the time with ignorance. If we call the rituals of common people as ignorant ones, then they can say our way of finding peace without performing any outward ritual, but only through the so-called scientific methods of ‘meditation,’ ‘contemplation,’ ‘yoga’ etc. are nothing but different kinds of rituals in their eyes. We may think that such practices are not rituals. However, these are the same old methods of interiorizing the outward forms (of rituals) that are recommended in Aranyakas. In Aranyakas, the  vanaprastas (forest dwellers) were advised to abandon all kinds of outward rituals and perform them mentally.

Inner transformation never comes so easily. Performing ‘simple things’ by oneself will never bring peace easily. Whether we choose some inner engineering or outward (old) technology of rituals, when it comes to attaining peace, there are not ‘simple things’ alone involved. Of course, all kinds rituals, performed with ignorance or mechanically need to be improved. However, considering our nature, even these so called ‘simple things’ of scientific inner engineering could themselves become mere routine and mechanical. Then performing such practices becomes another kind of ritual, only gaining certain sophisticated terms like ‘meditation’, ‘contemplation’ or ‘yoga’.

Dayanand Bharati,
Mathigiri, May 31, 2007.