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Dharma or Dhandha: A Journey through the Divine and the Corrupt


As I embarked on a journey through the heartland of India, visiting the states of Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, and Jharkhand, I sought to explore the intricate tapestry of my religion - Hinduism. Immersed in the cultural richness and spiritual fervor of these regions, I visited numerous temples and holy places. It was a profound experience filled with moments of divine tranquility. However, amid the sanctity, I also witnessed a disheartening reality – the exploitation of religion for personal gain. It was the clash between the sacred and the profane. It was the clash between dharma and dhandha (business). It left me pondering the true essence of religion and its relevance in our lives.


Divine Encounters:

Visiting temples and holy places allows one to witness the convergence of faith, devotion, and tranquility. The aura within these sacred spaces is palpable, filling the air with a sense of peace and contentment. The sound of ringing bells, the fragrance of incense, and the chanting of mantras create an atmosphere that transcends the mundane.


I remember vividly the grandeur of the temples I visited – the sprawling banks of the Ganga in Varanasi, the awe-inspiring Khajuraho temples in Madhya Pradesh, the sacred abode of Lord Krishna in Dwarka, the sky touching divine peaks of Pavagadh and the serene ashrams nestled in the lap of nature. In these moments, I felt a deep connection with something greater than myself, a connection that brought solace and a profound sense of fulfillment.


The Clash of Dharma and Dhandha:

However, amidst the divine sanctity, I encountered a disheartening reality – the corruption and exploitation of religion. Some of the very individuals entrusted with upholding the sanctity of these holy places were tarnishing their noble purpose. The priests and preachers, who should have been the custodians of spiritual guidance, had turned into opportunistic merchants of faith.


It saddened me to witness few of the pandits' greed as they shamelessly tried to manipulate devotees and extort money in the name of God. Their deceitful tactics ranged from extravagant offerings to questionable rituals, all for the sake of monetary gain. Instead of fostering a sense of devotion, some preyed on the vulnerability and piety of the devotees, tarnishing the true essence of religion.


Personal Experiences of Exploitation:

On one occasion, while visiting a renowned temple, my family was approached by a priest who insisted that we make a substantial donation to secure divine blessings. His persuasive words, coupled with the belief that the monetory value of the offerings made to the God is directly proportional to the amount of prosperity, momentarily swayed upon the devotees by the divine. He actually made a formula out of receiving more and less blessings by the God. It was only later, as I reflected on the incident, that I realized how our faith had been manipulated for his personal gain.


Another incident left an indelible mark on my conscience. I witnessed devotees, often impoverished and seeking solace, being coerced into buying overpriced items purportedly infused with divine powers. The priests, acting as shrewd businessmen, exploited their vulnerability, leaving them impoverished and disillusioned.


Rediscovering True Religion:

These experiences compelled me to question the very essence of religion. Should it be synonymous with exploitation and personal gain? Or does religion hold a higher purpose, one that transcends mere materialistic desires?


Hinduism, a religion rich in wisdom and depth, offers profound insights on this matter. Lord Krishna, in the Bhagavad Gita, proclaims,

"Perform your obligatory duty, for action, is indeed better than inaction."

This teaching emphasizes the importance of righteous action and selfless service, rather than the pursuit of material wealth.


Similarly, the ancient scripture, Manusmriti, states,

"A person should not think, 'This is mine,' but rather, 'This is for the welfare of all.'"

These teachings remind us that true religion lies in selflessness, compassion, and the upliftment of others. It calls us to move beyond the narrow confines of personal gain and embrace a broader understanding of our responsibilities towards humanity.


Conclusion:

By reflecting on these timeless teachings and witnessing both the divine encounters and the clash of dharma and dhandha, I came to realize that the true essence of religion resides in the purity of heart, in acts of kindness, and in the pursuit of spiritual growth. It is incumbent upon us, as individuals, to reclaim and embody these values, ensuring that religion serves as a guiding light rather than a means for exploitation.


My journey through the heartland of India revealed the profound beauty and tranquility of religion, as well as the disheartening reality of its corruption. It urged me to delve deeper into the true essence of religion, beyond the superficial trappings, and to foster a genuine connection with the divine. It is in our collective efforts to uphold the virtues of selflessness, integrity, and compassion that we can restore the sanctity of religion and its relevance in our lives.

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