My religious consciousness is different from my ordinary consciousness. There are a lot of actions that some people consider to be acceptable and ordinary, but religious people consider to be a sin. There are also certain objects, places, and times of the year that a non-religious person would think of as ordinary, but a some religious people would view as very special.
From a Christian viewpoint, a Church is a holy place. It is thought of as the House of God. When I go to Church on Sunday, I find myself in a very religious mood. On another day of the week, Tuesday for example, I might not think of God even once all day long. When I go to Church I am thinking of how grateful I am that God loves me and I thank Him for the opportunity to live in this wonderful world. When I leave Church it is very possible that my religious feelings will slowly fade away. By Tuesday, I might be back to thinking like an average American (non-religious) guy. It would be nice to have something at home to remind me of the thoughts that I was thinking in Church on Sunday. I do have some religious items, but they are not displayed in a place where I see them every day.
Christmas is a time of the year when I am thinking about God a lot more often. With all the decorations around the house and the neighborhood, it’s hard to forget about Him. I know some non religious people who celebrate Christmas, but they do not think of it as a religious holiday. To them it is just a holiday to be with the family and exchange gifts – they skip all the religious ideas behind it.
There are also some actions that might not get a second thought from some people, but that I would feel guilty doing. I would think of these actions as sins. A few examples are lying and stealing. I know some people who might tell a lie every now-and-then. They think that nobody knows the truth except them. I know that I have had that thought cross my mind too. The difference between me and a non-religious person is the fact that I think of how God knows that it would be a lie. I can’t keep any secrets from Him, so usually I wouldn’t lie. It is the same way for stealing.
Taking the Lord’s name in vain is another example. I know that there are a lot of people in this country who swear. Whenever I swore in the past, I would have a guilty feeling. Swearing is one bad habit that I found to be pretty easy to overcome.
I own some religious objects that I view as sacred. The objects include a Bible, a crucifix, and a rosary. Even though these objects do not have much material value, I consider them to be very important. I treat them with more care than I would for an object that is worth a lot of money. The Bible is God’s word and I treat it with a lot of care. The crucifix reminds me of how Jesus died on the cross for me and everyone else so that our sins may be forgiven. A person who isn’t Christian might think of it as just two pieces of wood nailed together; an object that they would throw in the trash.
People can make any object or place special in an instant. If I didn’t have a crucifix, I could cut a cross out an old cardboard box and tack it to my wall. Now I would have a crucifix that I could pray to. The artistic design isn’t important. I can see all of the artwork and beautiful images in my imagination when I am thinking about God. To become closer to God, I don’t need to buy a lot of expensive religious decorations. Just one crucifix or picture of Jesus is all that is necessary. Once I see that, it will activate my imagination and I will start to think nice thoughts about God, and He will do the rest.
Indian and Christian religions have different goals. The goal of Christian religions is to go to Heaven. The goal of Indian religions like Buddhism and Hinduism is to attain Nirvana. Heaven is a place. Nirvana is a state of mind.
The word Nirvana comes from the root meaning ‘to blow out’ and refers to the extinguishing of the fires of greed, hatred and delusion. When these bad emotional and psychological things are destroyed by wisdom, the mind becomes free, radiant and joyful and at death a person is no longer subject to rebirth. Buddha said “One thing and only one thing do I teach, suffering and the cessation of suffering.” Cessation means ‘a temporary or final ceasing’. Buddha also said that “Nirvana is ultimate happiness.” (nibbanam paramam sukham). Some people have asked “If desire, wanting, and craving, causes rebirth, then how could one ever attain Nirvana because in wanting to attain it one would be strengthening the very thing that prevents it from being attained?” Johnansson , The Psychology of Nirvana, Garden City, 1970. This question does not recognize the fact that Nirvana is not something that a person gets by wanting and then pursuing, rather it is the state of being utterly without wanting.
Another criticism is that Nirvana takes so long to accomplish, that very few people can do it. The Buddha did not agree with this view. He said that anyone can attain Nirvana. If the person follows his instructions sincerely and carefully, a person could attain Nirvana in this lifetime.
Nirvana is beyond the world of mind and body. Nirvana is composed of ‘ni’ and ‘vana’. In Sanskrit ‘ni’ implies ‘to be free from’ and ‘vana’ means ‘weaving or craving’. When a person manages to extinguish all his desires, he escapes from the cycle of birth and death and attains Nirvana. Now the person is free from lust, hatred and ignorance and has reached supreme peace.
Nirvana is different from the Christian belief of Heaven. Nirvana is a state of desirelessness; Heaven is a state of an person reaching his most fundamental desire. Christians believe that Heaven is a place where a person meets God face to face. Nirvana is a place of ultimate lack of emotion and indifference. Heaven is a place of ultimate joy and fulfillment. Nirvana also differs from Heaven because it suggests a person will loose his body and identity forever. Christians believe they will keep both of them eternally.
As a Catholic person, I have always thought of Heaven as a very difficult place to get to. If I was to die today I would probably go to Hell. This is not because I am a bad person, but because the rules are so strict that it seems as if only nuns living in a monastery, a newly baptized infant, or someone who went to confession very recently would be free of sins and would go to Heaven. The people who I know that go to confession at all, only go once every year or two. If a person dies with a mortal sin on their soul, they go to Hell. There are a lot of very simple things that are mortal sins, such as not going to church on Sunday, coveting thy neighbor’s wife or thy neighbor’s goods. It seems to me as if 99.99% of the human race would go to Hell. Hopefully I am wrong.