“My religion is very simple.
My religion is kindness.”
~~~ The Dalai Lama
When we say the word ‘religion’, many images, memories and experiences flash across our minds. We think of lyrical hymns echoing inside a church; the sound of bells as a priest raises an aarti lamp shimmering with golden flames to light the face of a smiling goddess; the mellow notes of a shabad kirtan floating out of a gurudwara at dawn and the azaan calling the faithful to start their day with prayer. For most of us, religion is the thread that holds our lives together.

For centuries the many religions of the world have helped millions of people through the sorrows and challenges of their lives. Faith gives us courage and also moments of joy and peace. All religions appeal to the best side of the human character and when our lives are touched by kindness and compassion, it is what civilization truly stands for.

Think about it, could any religion have survived if it did not offer a path for the survival and progress of mankind? We still gain strength from the teachings of the Buddha who spoke them two thousand five hundred years ago. Jesus Christ’s words of love and kindness still inspire us to reach out to help others. The shrine of the Sufi saint Sheikh Muinuddin Chishti at Ajmer still sways to quawwalli songs that talk of love, faith, equality and charity. And we have not forgotten the poems of Kabir, Basavanna and Sri Chaitanya. If we listen, faith makes us better human beings.

The Buddha said, “Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.” Every religion lays down the rules of ethical, moral behaviour that makes it possible for us to live in peace and harmony. No religion will say that you are allowed to steal, tell lies or kill. If they did, what would follow is chaos in society.

Being part of a religion gives us a sense of community. Human beings are social animals and we need the reassuring circle of family, friends, colleagues and neighbours. It is the unspoken rule of every such community that we care and respect each other. And when this community gathers at temples, churches and mosques it gives it greater permanence. For many people a regular visit to a religious place is source of solace.

Finally there is the most beautiful aspect of religion the inspiration for our culture. From classical dance and music to architecture, painting, sculpture and handicrafts are touched by our sense of spirituality. From a Bharatanatyam dance telling the story of Lord Krishna and Radha to a musician singing Rag Bhairav in praise of Lord Shiva, the vibrant hues of a miniature painting, a majestic carved image of a goddess to the soaring gopuram of a temple, they are all inspired by religion.

At its core all religions tell us to choose to live with love, kindness, charity, tolerance, forgiveness and generosity. If we seek with an open heart we can all find our own religion and that will enrich our lives.