In an era where everything has been commercialised, religious beliefs too have been misinterpreted to bring about benefits to certain individuals. While religion is supposed to be one of the basic foundations that could guide a person to do good in life, today we don't see many young people interested in it. Or they seem to be having various misconceptions regarding their own religions. Keeping this in mind, Life Online spoke to a few young people to find out the issues they have with their religions and where they think it should improve in order to convey its message.
Sahan: The religion needs to be more realistic. Certain magical things that are being taught in the Catholic Church are difficult to believe and therefore the priests have to give us a proper picture. People listen to the priests so they have a key role in conveying the correct message out. Religion should guide us to have a good life. The religion needs to be protected and people should be taught the truth.
Sudarshan: As a Hindu, I believe that religion is something that makes someone better. But there is also a tendency for Hindus to believe in superstitious beliefs. Sometimes they are doubtful. But on the other hand, there are few of them that carry a lot of meaning. So it's in the hands of the follower to leave out the bad and follow the good lessons it preaches.
Biman: I don't expect anything from my religion simply because I have learnt not to expect things in life. It keeps me happier, rolling with the punches.
However, if used wisely, it is a tool, a road map for living in peace, Salaam, or Nirvana. Ideologies are merely ideas, amongst a whirlpool of ideas. At the level of debating ideas, whether it stems from Buddha or a Prophet, we are merely debating ideas. At that level, we have missed the point, where their idea points to. Their idea is to point one to that place that encompasses all ideas, and yet has no idea, simultaneously.
Let it pass and you will see for yourself. To that point where the entire universe is yourself, and there is no one to be found. As for rules, and morality, they have their place. However they must be used wisely. Without wisdom, you suppress one's nature, a shadow we refuse to accept while we are dressed in white nationals and rape thy children.
We must make mistakes. Break the rules even if it means breaking someone's heart. For that, in truth is our very nature. But through our mistakes, we learn, some saving Grace and the value of rules and morality, and that it is perhaps in our own interest too.
People need to be human, and make love, not war.
Rihaab: Despite being a religion of peace, Islam is largely misconstrued and misunderstood. Like many scriptures, the Quran is also contextual. Hence Muslims are supposed to consult the Quran and Hadiths before coming to conclusions. This is one of those things that make Islam so progressive. Yet, many refuse to acknowledge that. Instead, they harp on certain facts like the prophet married a child, yet ignore that the wife of Richard II was only 6 years old. It was the norm at the time. In this day and age it isn't - Yes, even according to our religion. Some treat females like slaves and animals, while the religion itself gave women so many rights and elevated her position. Jihad doesn't simply mean waging wars with others but mostly within yourself - to be a better human being, to treat everyone with love and respect. I could go on.
In conclusion, I'd like to state it's less of what I expect of my religion and more about what I expect from those in leadership positions in my religion - especially to not twist the Quran to suit their whims and fancies. The youth are our future and they must be guided and moulded into productive and responsible citizens of Sri Lanka. And to always remember that as Muslims here, we are bound by the laws here, as per the religion. Most importantly, don't confuse culture with religion. The culture in the Middle East is oft misconstrued to have a religious basis. This is untrue and the distinction is an important one that many fail to make. Islam is a religion of peace and advocates for a healthy, conducive way of life this includes treating everyone irrespective of their gender or religion with love and respect.
Miuru: Most 'Buddhists' in this country, let alone the Buddhist youth; do not know the meaning of the most known recitation of reverence a Buddhist should know - 'Ithipisogathawa'. A lot of 'Buddhist' youth are of the idea that it is something one should chant when in fear or doubt or before an interview or an exam. They think the moment they chant this 'poem' all will be better. I think all Buddhists should first understand the true meaning of 'Ithipisogathawa'. It depicts the 9 unparalleled qualities a Buddha embodies. Each of these 9 facets encompasses what Buddha is all about and this should be the first source that builds Shraddha - the first step of being a Buddhist.
It's unfortunate that the deep and meaningful philosophy connected primarily with developing the human mind that is Buddhism, is very much institutionalised today, that the youth are either Buddhists for the namesake or blindly following what a school textbook says. However I also believe that there is a very small segment of Buddhist youth who is truly attempting to understand and practice the deeper meaning of this fascinating philosophy. Buddhism cannot be explained through any modern science. It has to be personally experienced. Dhamma is 'Opanaika' where one should practice and see within one self the truth written in the Pali Canon - the only and the most reliable source today that encapsulates pure Buddhism. There are imposters in the guise of Buddhist monks today, imparting fabrication that is beyond belief for their own benefit. Buddha was only a teacher. The ultimate teacher. And Buddhism has to be achieved by each of us. The ability to understand the 4 Noble Truths and the ability to adhere to the Noble Eightfold Path is also up to us. By worshipping a tree labeling it 'Bodhi pooja' or by following opportunistic cosmopolitan monks blinded by their eloquence will never develop our minds towards the cessation of suffering, which is what Buddhism is in a gist.
Yumiko: Religion is what inculcates disciplinary guidance among the youth. I think children should be given the guidance but they should also be given the liberty to follow it on their own. Most parents try to force children to be religious and I think spirituality is something which one must seek on their own. One's take on religion could differ owing to various reasons and I think what really matters is that they have a say in it. A choice. I personally find most healing services and prayer services to be extremely commercialized nowadays.
We then spoke to a few religious leaders to find out what they have to say about these misconceptions.
Father Sriyan Ranasinghe believes that today's youth go after money and power. "They want instant solutions. But money and power doesn't bring happiness. It could only be done by a divine source. Young people are not patient nowadays but 50 years ago, this wasn't the case. People believed in God and committed themselves to the religion. Today we live in a throw-away culture where everything is utilised on a temporary basis. So values have changed, the youth have begun to go on their own way and ultimately they will be stranded."
In his comments, Waakadala Rahula Thera said that Buddhism is a religion that could be followed by anyone. "It is not only for Buddhists. Today, young people have various racist beliefs, which make them formulate negative beliefs. Lord Buddha has never asked anybody to kill each other, but this is being practiced. What I believe is that all those who have misconceptions about Buddhism should read the Tripitaka. That would teach one the initial roots of Buddhism and its true teachings. Now the youth have started to believe and follow a popular wave of Buddhism which is a wise move nor would it be of any use in future. Therefore the religion has also become greatly commercialised."
Speaking to us, Moulavi Ziard agrees with the fact that there are several misconceptions about the Islamic faith. "Some would have an issue about our dress code, especially about the ladies. But we have never made it compulsory for them to be wearing the hijab or be covered. They are been asked to dress in a way so as to not attract the opposite sex. So many of them would have different dress codes in order to protect the law. Another issue is that of morality and manners. Here again, we don't differ from any other religion. We are strict about following certain principles which have been recited in the Holy Quran. It's simply like joining a company where you would agree to follow certain rules and regulations. So once one becomes a Muslim, they have to agree to stick to these principles. If one violates these principles, then it's considered a punishable offence. But one has the liberty to leave the religion and commit any crime. If they remain a Muslim, they have the chance to repent in front of God for the rest of their lives and beg for mercy."