An old woman was very sick. As she was alone in the house she was in great difficulty. One day, early in the morning two nice women, who appeared to be very religious, came to see her. They had henna markings on their hands and strings of prayer of beads. They started helping the old woman and said: With God’s grace everything will be all right. Faith is power; and it never goes to waste.
That simple old lady trusted them — more so because she was alone, and a person who lives alone wants to trust people. She was in pain, and when people are in trouble the trust easily. These unknown women looked after her the whole day. Because of their help and the religious discussions throughout the day, the old lady’s confidence in them grew still stronger.
At nighttime, following the instructions of those women, she lay herself down beneath a blanket so they could offer a prayer to God for her health. Incense was burned; sweet-smelling water was sprinkled around, and one of the women, with her hands on the old women’s head, started reciting some unknown mantras. Later, to the sweet music of mantras, the old woman was lulled to sleep.
At midnight she woke up. The house was in darkness. When she lit the lamp, she found that those unknown ladies had left long ago. The doors of the house were wide open; and her safe had been broken into. Her trust had indeed borne fruit — not only for herself, but for those two crooks! And there is nothing surprising in this, because faith has always been fruitful for crooks.
Religion is not faith; it is discernment. It is not blindness; it is an antidote for the ego. But discernment is an obstacle for those who want to exploit, and, that is why they administer the poison of faith.
Thinking is a revolt; and because exploitation of a revolutionary is impossible, people are educated in a “faith.” Thinking makes a person free; makes him an individual. But for exploitation you want sheep, you need weak-minded followers. So thinking is murdered and faith is nurtured.
Man is helpless; and therefore, in his helplessness, in his loneliness, he accepts faith. Life is painful, and therefore, to run away from it, one rests in the lap of any faith or belief. This state of affairs definitely offers a golden opportunity to the exploiters and the selfish. Religion is in the hands of the crooks; and, that is why there is irreligion in the world. So long as religion is not free from faith, the real religion cannot be born.
Only when religion is combined with the ferocity of discernment will there be freedom, will truth and power be born. Religion is power because thinking is power. Religion is light. Religion is light because intellect is light. Religion is freedom, because discretion is freedom.
From Earthern Lamps, Chapter Sixteen
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