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RELIGION

South Asia has been home to nearly 9 major spiritual traditions. While the number of customs and rituals in each of these religions varies considerably, there are some spiritual goals and values that many of them share.

Unfortunately, the name of religion that makes the news headlines today is the one that professes fundamentalism and violence against non-believers or people of other faiths. These are aberrations – the very opposite of that which lies at the heart of most religious traditions. Basic questions that religions try to provide answers to are the concern of all human beings: the miracle of life, the meaning of living, the search for happiness, the mystery of freedom, sin and death, the right way to live with other persons, the just and equitable ordering of society, the longing for eternal bliss...

Most religions believe that the answer to all these questions is found in a sincere and trustful relationship with God, that such a relationship gives the believer inner/spiritual stability, peace and joy; that it builds a society based on truth, love, equality and justice; that it creates respect for the preservation of nature and the human family. If these are some of the reasons why people find religions meaningful, then education is religion by another name.

The name of education that is more popular, however, is ‘success’ – like ensuring that students do well in their exams to get good degrees, to get better jobs, to earn bigger salaries. But success, and the salaries it brings, do not lead to true happiness. Result-oriented education often emphasizes outward shine, not inward growth. Appearance-motivated education promotes good business; it does not form the complete person. Only a holistic education can.

Holistic education caters to the exterior as well as interior maturity of the young person. Every "true believer" of any religion is challenged to reach such maturity, which can be called by different names, such as, happiness, holiness, wholeness, wellness, integrity, maturity. Essentially this maturity is the art of living harmoniously through a:
  • Harmony with self - in thoughts, words and actions
  • Harmony with others - with all humans, creatures and the environment
  • Harmony with the Transcendent Being, God, Ishwar, Allah, Atman...
We have seen that the aim of educating in Don Bosco’s Way for our time and in our context is to form “Honest Citizens and True Believers”. Young people are motivated to become honest citizens, not merely because they are well-informed about the rights and duties of citizenship, but fundamentally because they are, first and foremost, true believers, that is, persons who strive for harmony both interiorly within themselves and exteriorly within the society that surrounds them.

This striving implies embarking on a unique double-destination pilgrimage, a voyage into one’s self and into the world, a journey within and without.

The journey within is the search for one’s uniqueness; one’s reason for existence; one’s inner voice; one’s struggle to be true; one’s personal intimacy with God who is reverently worshipped in South Asia under innumerable names.

The journey without is the search for social harmony. It consists in building loving relationships with others; in making choices responsibly; in balancing one’s inner truth with the demands of daily living; in accepting difference and diversity as a challenge to broaden perspectives; in contributing to a more just and peaceful society; in avoiding everything that harms another human being, whether physical, psychological or spiritual; in cooperating with people of good will to make the world a better place. In this sincere search the pilgrim strives to make God’s abode/kingdom a reality on earth.

But here is the greatest challenge that even many very religious people fail to perceive at times: the above-mentioned journeys are not two separate journeys, but one and the same. The religious quest, the journey to happiness is a single double-destination pilgrimage. The more one cultivates a passion to embark on the journey within, the deeper one enters into the journey without. The greater the depth of inner peace, the wider is the peaceful impact one has on society. The deeper one is in the embrace of God, the more effectively is one able to embrace his or her brothers and sisters. The more one experiences God's love and forgiveness in oneself the more one wishes to be compassionate with underprivileged sections of humanity. The journey within is incomplete if it neglects the journey without. The journey without is superficial if it is not rooted in the journey within. Happiness, holiness or wholeness consists in a perfect harmony between the two movements of the one journey.

Educators in Don Bosco's Way are not merely 'think-tanks' or 'data-banks' from which the students' hunger for success is replenished. They are persons who have experienced the double-destination journey in their own lives, so that they can guide and motivate their students for the same adventure. Like sincere gurus, who have themselves started out on this pilgrimage and are serious about persevering no matter their own failings, they humbly and patiently lead by example rather than by merely teaching techniques. They strive to cultivate the truthfulness in their own personalities before they can build other persons. Their education for a happy life becomes first and foremost a shining personal example of what happiness is. Educators and parents who strive hard to make example their best lesson will seldom be disappointed. As their children mature through the years, they will have demonstrated by their own lives the true key to happiness.

Art: Religious symbols taken from creative commons; the journey: Peter Gonsalves
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