Raghu's

Notes and Thoughts

Exploring the fabric of knowledge

Traditions are continued, not preserved

  • September-05-2019
  • General

When people talk about the rich heritage of some religious tradition, they are almost always talking about how good their community has been at continuing the tradition and not necessarily at preserving it. And more importantly, they do it without even realizing it. Every tradition is prone to distortions given long enough time. And it doesn’t just apply to traditions, in fact, it applies to pretty much everything from humans to religions to science. Christianity today is probably not the same as it was when it was first created, nor is Islam, or for that matter Hinduism. No man can claim that he is true to the first man’s real text, when in reality what he has been true to, is his continuously evolving exegesis of the so-called real text by the first man.

Even if we go into the technicality of it – to preserve is to make sure that it remains as is and is not damaged or ended. Although we can be certain about the “not ended” part as we are aware of its continuation either by the community or by us, I don’t think we can ever be certain about the authenticity of it.

Such notions as they – that is, the followers of the traditions – have on this subject, that it is preserved in its purest form, is so intransigent that even if someone were to show them the proof for the unwitting perversions, they would just outright discard it. And it is so amazing that everyone else knows how to take advantage of this insecurity and irrationality. This makes me think if this is the reason behind the downfall of religion’s monopoly over giving meaning to one’s life in it hasn’t been able to build systems(traditions) that can be justified with reasons that do not obey their motif of convenient interpretations. Maybe I am straying away from my point here but I think that if people remain so obsessed over traditions but are unwilling to entertain that the introduction of impurities in what they call as "tradition", it is only going to get more difficult as time passes for them to convince the furture generations as they evolve and start to reason beyond what is taught.

I seriously feel that this and the other kindred questions need discussions. And fwiw, this essay was never meant to denigrate the importance of traditions, in fact, I was inspired to write this after seeing this and some encounters with several staunch adherents of a religion. I understand there are benefits to practicing rituals and following a culture, it helps both psychologically and socially in it can help one foster a sense of purpose and provide a sense of oneness needed to thrive in a community but my concern is with its inflexibility in realizing that it is not what it was and it is continuously evolving/changing as we are evolving. This is to say that self-deception and false pride can only take us so far. The religious teachings and the traditions we boast about have probably already undergone several iterations of plastic surgery, what remains now is our desperate longing to stick to an entity that we think has not changed so that we can find solace in an ever-changing world.