All Scriptures are Mere Self-help Books

" All scriptures and religious texts are mere self-help books," wrote M N Roy, one of the greatest rationalists of the last century. I'm reminded of his famous statement in the context of C C Das' assertion that Bhagvad Gita's much more than a self-help book. According to him, it's a book of self-discovery, self-empowerment and self-actualisation. First of all, the terms self-discovery and self-actualisation are intangible and self-deceiving.

 British anthropologist Sir Martin Congdon wrote in his seminal book The Reality of Scriptures (1987) that ' Human mind still being pretty ill-developed, ill-advanced and frightened, looks for an anchorage and tries to find solace in the shelter of scriptural conundrums.' Moreover, the comparative study of religious texts reveals that there's the same old and threadbare stuff in all scriptures. I've always found Gita's core message comparable to that of the Hasidic tales and even 4,000 year old oriental totemism of the South East Asia that predated Buddhism in all forms.

 Biblical psalms and the most celebrated 'Sermon on the mount' are no different than Bhagvad Gita. In fact, Sermon on the mount's appeal's more overwhelming than that of Gita. There's a word in Cantonese (other prevalent language of China apart from Mandarin) : Minshung  that means 'feel-good' or 'euphoric'. Chinese people still call their scriptures 'Minshung' or 'Uenwong' (Mandarin)-Books that make you feel good!!! What else is the purpose of a self-help book or a scripture other than giving a faux sense of goodness that lasts for a few hours? Confucius, the scholarly Chinese sage, was once narrating parables to his select few disciples. He saw that one of the disciples Shimpenong was jotting down something. He asked him, what was he writing so frantically.

Shimpenong replied, ' Master, I'm writing this for the posterity to benefit from your teachings.' ' No need. Expunge it. Tomorrow, this will DEGENERATE into a scripture and the purpose will be forgotten.' It's said that whatever we read as the teachings of Confucius is interpolated and later-day additions because Confuscius himself had no faith in the divinity of any religious book. ' What we don't comprehend sounds very exalted,' Christopher Isherwood used to say. When the English philosopher and the 'Vedantist' began to study Vedanta, Upanishad and Gita, he was intrigued by the repetition and reiteration of the word 'self'.

It made him feel good. But once he got over his ' honeymoon with Upanishads and flirting with Eastern religions ' (his own expression) and Gita's overdose of 'self', he rejected the whole caboodle as something as useless as self-help books with no lasting impression on the consciousness. 'Rubbish', he called them. We're all deceiving ourselves by the incomprehensible, turbid and esoteric connotations of these 'self-help' scriptures and getting inebriated by their utterly commonplace teachings, meant for mediocre minds.           

                                                         -----Sumit Paul