Wars in the name of religion have gone on since the beginning of time and there have been religious wars in all the major religions. Christianity had the Crusades, Islam had Jihad and Hinduism had the Mahabharata where a Dharma Yudha took place. So what are religious wars after all? Religious wars are wars fought due to religious differences and conflicting ideologies and beliefs. Each religion at its core is the same. It preaches universal love, charity and compassion towards fellow man. Every religion says it is the word of God and is the absolute truth. Every religious ideology, thus, is the same at its core with concepts of the ataman and consciousness. No religion preaches hate or murder. We are told that the killing of one man is the killing of all humanity.
But then, all religions are schizophrenic as they are perched by men who say they are the torchbearers of truth but they contradict themselves. On the other side, they say Dharma Yudha, Jihad and wars to save one’s religious identity is permissible. Crusades were necessary to push back the rising force of Islam and Catholics and Protestants have engaged in it for centuries. Even Buddhism, the most peaceful religion in the world, has had its share of wars. Out of the 1763 conflicts recorded in history, 123 wars have been classified as wars that took place due to religious conflict solely and as termed as religious wars. That is about 6% to 7% of the total number of wars. The Syrian civil war, Iran and Iraq conflict, Islam and Palestine – these conflicts are ethnic conflicts with fights over resources. They do have some elements of religion but not much.
The most famous wars took place in the 15th and 16th century between the Catholic order and the Protestant faith. The Spanish and British was between King Philip and Elizabeth. It was one where the beheading of Mary Queen of Scott was the trigger for Spain to attack England. The Spanish were the upholders of the Catholic Faith and the English upheld the Protestant faith. It was a holy war nonetheless.
Therefore, at the core, every religion sells us the same truth but they also give a man the liberty to wage holy wars against anyone who challenges their truth. Then it becomes a holy war; a war to uphold dharma where blood can be spilt and it does. The one who comes out victorious is the true faith or the upholder of the truth and the real winner. In Shekar Kapur’s film, Elizabeth, King Phillip is seen praying to Jesus on a crucifix holding a candle flame to the image and says, “Elizabeth is darkness and I am light.” The winds blow away the flame as England despite having a smaller army wins the battle and the downfall of Spain begins.
So if all religions say they are the flagbearers of truth, they must also accept that they have let holy wars happening around the world which has led to death and destruction. They say that is the true word of God as if God was above existence, someone up above running the show and pulling the reigns. No God will allow war as I see it. Therefore, just like existence, religion is also dichotomous, dual and schizophrenic. It flows with existence itself, which by nature resides in duality – good and bad, love and hate, happiness and sorrow, life and death, peace and war, positive and negative, yin and yang. These all exist in the same existence. Therefore, religion also preaches love and war. From this, we derive that existence is God and neither is above the other. For God to be the ultimate truth, it has to be one and whole, the complete and ultimate truth should have oneness. But it does not. Both existence and religion reside in duality and are not able to show that oneness, that singular essence, that is the ultimate.
The sages argue that the nature of the truth cannot be perceived by the five senses, as it is incomprehensible to the five senses. We cannot understand it through words, books or the scriptures. Then how do we comprehend this ultimate truth when the existence around us is rooted in duality and we see it all around us? Well, that is the nature of Maya, the illusion of the world. Wise men say it is duality itself with opposite forces tugging at each other all the time. In Hindu scriptures, we call it Maya. Sometimes one force dominates and sometimes the other and then nature restores balance for there to be harmony. This is also the nature of the conflict, which sparks off when one force begins to overtly dominate the other. This leads to a push and tug and we see wars until a balance is restored again when the aggressors have been subdued. So no matter how much religion and religious leaders preach, war will be a part of human experience until we are on the planet. It cannot be eradicated. It can be postponed and minimised but not eradicated as it is rooted in every theology that we know.
The only way truth and oneness can be found, as we are told, is by going inwards and meditating. This and many other yogic kriyas subdue the five senses. In deep meditation, one drops the mind and the body altogether and then through practice and trance, we are able to transcend the duality of existence and nature that we reside in and see all around us. Slowly, we begin to see a glimpse of that oneness that resides in us all. At first, it is difficult to reach that point of the ultimate truth and feel the atma. Then, slowly, it appears as a sweet sensation, a flicker, a soft breeze, a kind of reverberation. That witness resides in us all and when the five senses are dropped completely, you can begin to feel it and even comprehend its flavour. You will notice it only in deep silence when you drop the mind completely. It is the quiet hum inside the hollow sound ohm – sheer bliss and joy. Notice yogis coming out of meditation. There is nothing but peace, joy and love around them. That is because they have dropped the psychological drama happening around them and have been able to connect with the ultimate reality that is non-dual and one.