Times Gone By and the Contemporary World: Role of Religion


Ravi P Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

28 Jan 2020 – Time has usually been separated by scientists and ordinary people from space. We can travel from one part of space — from one place to another. But time is different in the sense that we cannot go back into time; we can go into future but not into past. However, the well known scientist Albert Einstein considered space-time as an integral concept and devised many unique theories on this basis, including the well known equation E= MC square (representing the transformation of mass into energy). But although he talked of time both in the past, present and future, he could not physically go into past.

Most people — novelists, poets, painters and ordinary people think and talk of the past which gives a glimpse of what a person was in the past — weeks, months or years ago. This is especially true for an old person. As we all know, a young person — child or a person in his or her twenties or thirties is so different from an elderly person, in terms of his physique, perspective, thoughts, abilities etc.

The older person is the same — in terms of name, race, religion, citizenship and other common criteria as he was as  a young person, and yet becomes quite another in terms of his psychology, personality and thinking in terms of a youngster.

In terms of these parameters, to call the person the same appears to be erroneous and problematic.

In a family or community or society, we tend to feel that the other person is, if not the same, is similar; has similar likes or dislikes; has similar hopes and desires and habits. Not identical but similar.  Consider students studying together in a particular course in a College or University. They have similar habits of studying together, going to the Library, completing assignments given by their teachers. Similarly, they like to play games or sports, they like to dress nicely, want to see new and interesting historical places such as forts or temples or churches, mountains, hills, rivers or deserts. They like to go to theatres or cinemas and enjoy themselves by different means available in modern society. Men and women like to go out together for dates, etc.

For an old person,  politely called senior citizen (above the age of 60 years), the energy levels become low even if he is not suffering from any major disease. But to compensate for his low energy levels, he has many memories — some pleasant, some painful. However, what pains an old person is quite often being alone — loneliness. There are other old persons living nearby with whom one has some contact or interaction. But while belonging to similar age groups, they often have dissimilar problems related to their health or to their family lives or their ideologies. Thus despite belonging to similar age groups, they often have differing problems which accentuate their loneliness.

Younger family members often feel that old people share similar health problems and similar feelings and so can become friendly with each other. This is so occasionally but often old people do not quite gel with each other and thus their loneliness is accentuated. There are old age homes or get-togethers for such people. They do serve a limited purpose but do not quite meet the needs of elderly people.

Modern society and technology do provide some means of keeping oneself engaged even for elderly persons. Television, Smart phones with various games or puzzles such as Solitaire or Sudoko do keep them busy for some duration of the day.

What nevertheless keeps many people engrossed, especially the elderly, are religious rituals, charities, and lectures on Gods and deities, on good conduct, spiritual life, after life, etc.

Islam, the religion of Muslims enjoins people to do namaz in praise of Allah five times a day. Devout Christians keep themselves busy by going to Church and carrying on welfare duties such as education and health care promoted by the Church.

People following Hindu religion not only go to temples and sing bhajans in praise of various Hindu deities, they participate in crowded satsangs, kirtans and listen to spiritual discourses given by different religious gurus. Not only do they listen attentively, they often sing and dance to the music of bhajans. They feel happy and cheerful and temporarily forget the harshness of their lives. It is amazing to see not only elderly people but also youngsters and children at these satsangs.

The Krishna Consciousness MovementISKCON is popular in many parts of the world. Devotees of this organisation not only feel blessed by the Hindu God Krishna but talk about right conduct, peace, happiness, sharing, and kindness, which Krishna promotes. They sing and dance joyfully and try to help people in need.

Other religions — Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, the Baha’i Faith and other smaller sects also have many devotees who are attracted to their faiths and keep themselves engaged and contented by sharing, helping each other.

In the complex modern society of today there are wars, terrorism, violence and billions of dollars being spent on manufacture, sale, and distribution of deadly weapons. There is also poverty, inequality, loneliness and isolation on a social level. My feeling is that perhaps spirituality will offset the cruelty, isolation of the modern world and usher in peace, harmony, love and caring for each other in this unequal world.

Hare Krishna


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 10 Feb 2020.

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One Response to “Times Gone By and the Contemporary World: Role of Religion”

  1. Dear Ravi,

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with Transcend. As I’ve often expressed, you add a special flavor to TMS, one that is not expressed very often, or often not as well as you express it.

    Yes, humanity is becoming more and more confused by the “technicalities” of life rather than the spiritual dimension. AI does not have the human spirit and never will. Something that all those who are highly intelligent and deeply lost can’t seem to understand. In short and borrowing from Virginia Woolf, “They don’t get it.”

    Another essential problem within religions themselves is that many of them use the carrot of heaven and the stick of hell approach, which to me is a great flaw in human thought generated from the fears of the lower and middle consciousness.

    Within the groups that you mention that “sing and dance joyfully and try to help people in need” all too often that does not apply to anyone outside of the group/belief/earthly driven goals. Such inner circle joy is often used as a mask to cover the prejudice and fears dwelling deep inside. If this were not true, we would see the end of animosities that are visible, and rapidly becoming more so, now throughout the world, including India.

    I imagine this comes from not being in touch with a higher consciousness which emanated with the Big Bang and is an evolutionary light within each of us, that we, as a species, cannot seem to fathom. At least not yet sufficiently enough to reduce the numerous existential threats that are there for all to see. In actuality, it is so painfully simple and so sadly missing from our own higher consciousness, that the forces of the lower-thought realms seem once again to be gaining the upper hand.

    Once again, the battle for the human spirit offers all of us a great challenge.

    What do you think, my dear friend?