Question: Religion is the source of so much strife in our world, perhaps because of the fact that it is misused. I would like to get your perspective on that.
Radhanath Swami: My guru Srila Prabhupada said, “Philosophy without good character is practically useless.” The whole purpose of religion is to help us in transcending the arrogant ego.
The ego creates such a void in the heart. If we have a full heart we don’t crave to feel superior to anybody. One who really considers oneself the servant of everyone is actually a true master. One who feels that need to be the master is a servant of their own mind and ego.
If we have an ego and we don’t understand the purpose of our religion, then the very wonderful blessing of religion that we have to go beyond our ego, we use that same thing to be a weapon to conquer others for the purpose of that ego.
True religion is a wonderful blessing and a path to help us go beyond our ego. But if one is controlled by ego they can misunderstand the purpose of religion and use that very same blessing as a weapon to conquer others for the purpose of the ego.
One may use a knife to kill someone. A surgeon will use the same knife to save a person’s life. Is the knife good or bad? The knife is as valuable as the person who is using it. Wealth, money, academic power, scientific discovery, religion, philosophy, they are all like that knife. If we have the proper character – which is the purpose of religion, to develop that humility, that compassion – if we have that proper character, all these things, including religion, can save people’s lives, can give people such life through love, through compassion. Otherwise, we just misuse it according to our own uncontrolled egos. And throughout history, people have misused religion for that purpose. But that doesn’t mean religion is bad. It’s the most sacred blessing that we all have if we understand it properly. True dharma is beyond sectarian boundaries, if we understand the essence.