We see many popular religiosities and traditions around the world which are taken forward mostly by the people. It may or may not have official recognition of the religious hierarchy. In some cases, it may be approved by them, though not fully endorsed. Today, some have been approved and amalgamated into the official religious programs. Some of the common examples are pilgrimages to various shrines (shrines of all religions), attending retreats, satsang or preaching by a Guru at some special places and some celebrations in a particular center/shrine.
There are innumerable differences between people belonging to same religions. Even Christians can be seen divided on the basis of language, culture, rites and at times even belief systems. Caste division is also seen in many places. Same is true with other religions too.
But when we see many of the popular religious centers, there is a great sense of egalitarianism visible there. The shrines of Mother Mary are visited by people of all religions; even Christians of different rites and cultures do come together. (this is much more evident than in the mass celebration of a normal church). When we see the Sabarimala pilgrims, there is no difference of high or low castes (Surely women of certain age are not allowed…). The retreat centres, yoga centres, satsangs welcome people of different kinds. Though it may not be perfectly egalitarian, these centers and shrines do exhibit and express greater human equality than the normal society.
Then the question is, why the humans who exhibit this sense of egalitarianism in such situations fail to exhibit in their ordinary lives? We could have different answers. Some may even call it fake. But I feel, these instances prove that humans are capable of going beyond the differentiating parameters. It is good to ask, how the authorities/the priests of religions see these devotions. Can they see a prophetic dimension in their role as the authorities who guide these centers.
There could be 4 responses from the authorities of these centers. When it is not fully authorized, we could include the head or the founder of that center as part of authorities for our discussion. The responses are
- Just allow the religiosity to happen as it happens with minimum interference. (An observer attitude)
- Find means to increase and popularize religiosities and be happy with the popularity you enjoy as the head. It could also give monetary benefits and other powers. Use these centers for creating a group for your political or personal ambitions. (Investor Attitude)
- In some extreme cases, they do propagate hatred with other communities. This may not be so common. (Destroyer attitude)
- Help people to take the egalitarian and other positive virtues that are exhibited in the shrines/centers to follow them into their day-to-day life helping in the creation of a just society. (Prophetic Attitude)
There are tendencies among a section of the society to condemn such traditions and rituals. (I am not saying everything that happens in such places are right…) But I feel, the great liberative potentials associated with these places should be unraveled by the courageous and prophetic gestures of the individuals (especially those holding respectful positions in such places).