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A religion is an organized collection of beliefs, cultural systems, and world views that relate humanity to an order of existence. Many religions have narratives, symbols, and sacred histories that aim to explain the meaning of life and/or to explain the origin of life or the Universe. From their beliefs about the cosmos and human nature, people may derive morality, ethics, religious laws or a preferred lifestyle. According to some estimates, there are roughly 4,200 religions in the world. (Wikipedia)
In ancient times, a man named Nour discovered how to make fire. He traveled to various places and shared his discovery to five tribes of people. They all had different reactions to him—some embraced his discovery, and others regarded him with aversion and fear. Eventually, Nour was killed by a group of people that were terrified of him and his fire.
A few centuries later, each of the five tribes had a unique viewpoint regarding Nour and fire making, which accounted for a major part of each tribe’s cultural and religious practices.
The first tribe had a priest class that kept fire-making a closely guarded secret, which gave them leverage over the other members of the tribe.
The second tribe did not care about fire making itself, but they worshipped the tools used to make fire.
The third tribe was entirely unconcerned about fire making, and instead worshipped Nour.
The fourth tribe had legendary tales about Nour and fire making ingrained in their folklore—and some people believed the legends, while other rejected them.
The fifth tribe knew how to make fire, and used that knowledge for a variety of purposes.
One day, a master and his disciples were traveling in the lands where these tribes lived. After observing the tribes, the disciples said to each other, “It is very surprising to see how all these tribes have such different views on Nour and fire making. Let us visit the tribes, and tell them the truth about fire making. The information will change their lifestyles dramatically.”
So the traveling master and disciples went to the first tribe—the one where fire was a closely guarded secret used among the priest class. After receiving a warm welcome by the tribe, they attended one of their fire making religious ceremonies headed by the priests. When the ceremony finished, one of the traveling disciples said, “I can duplicate the fire making that you regard as divine and restricted only to the priests. If I do this, will you admit that you have been wrong for all these years?” When the priests heard this, they immediately shouted out, “These travelers are heretics—seize them and take them away at once.”
The people immediately did as they said, and the travelers moved on to the second tribe—the one that worshipped fire-making tools. One of the traveling disciples announced to the tribe, “I come here to inform you that you are worshipping these tools, yet you are unaware that their use is simply to make fire.” The people heard this and responded, “We are hospitable people and welcome you to our land, but we must inform you that you are a stranger to our customs, and you do not understand what we are doing. Your statements are incorrect, and you are not acting in accordance with our religion. Hence, we will not listen to you.”
So the travelers went to the third tribe—the one that worshipped Nour. They observed the tribe’s various Nour statues and ceremonies. Later, they approached the tribe’s leaders and said, “The Nour that you worship is actually just a person like the rest of you. He discovered a fire making skill that you can learn and use.” The tribe leaders replied, “Even if that is true, such knowledge is reserved only for a select few like us, not for the entire community to know.” “But why not spread this knowledge to all?” the traveler replied. Upon hearing this, the tribe leaders replied, “You are unfamilar with our culture, and you are making sacrilegious statements. We have heard enough from you!”
So the travelers left, and went to the fourth tribe—the one where fire making and Nour were legends that some people believed and others didn’t. One of the travelers announced to the tribe, “The fire making stories and legends you speak of are indeed true, and I can show you how to make fire.” This announcement caused much division among the tribe. Among them, some people desired to learn how to make fire from the travelers, but were only concerned with using it to take advantage of others. They also did not learn to make fire properly because they were still fixated on their inaccurate legends about fire making. Another group of people said, “These travelers are duping us and trying to take advantage of us; and we will have nothing to do with them.” And another group of people said, “Whether these travelers speak the truth or not, we do not want to hear from them. We prefer to retain our current legends as they are, which forms the foundation of our culture and community.” So the travelers left and went to the fifth tribe, where they used fire, and observed the people’s ways.
The travelers then said to their master, “What are we to make of all of this? We tried to teach the four other tribes to make fire the way this tribe does, but our efforts have gone in vain.”
The master replied, “Most people don’t really want to be taught—so you have to know the proper way to teach them. Although they have the capacity for learning, this is not enough. You have to teach them that there is something to learn. They imagine they are ready to learn, but they are really concerned with learning what they imagine is to be learned, and not what they first need to learn. Understand this, and then you will find the proper way to teach.”
A man named Mojud worked as a government official, then as a fisherman’s assistant, then as a farmhand, then as a wealthy merchant, and then later gave away most of his money, moved to the big city, and worked at a store. While there, he performed many feats of mysticism, and word spread about his powers.
The people there all regarded him highly, and he soon attracted a devoted following of disciples. One day some notable people in the city asked him, “Tell us your background. Where are you from? Who did you study under?”
Mojud replied, “I’m not entirely certain.”
So the people asked, “Well, how did you begin your career?”
“I began as a government official,” he replied.
“So after that you decided to quit and devote yourself to mystical things?” they inquired further.
“No, not really,” Mojud said. “After that, I became a fisherman’s helper, and then I walked out on that and became a farmer’s helper, and then I left that and became a merchant and made lots of money, and then I gave it up and came here to work in a store, and this is where I am right now.”
“That does not really explain how you have all these powers,” they replied. “That can’t be it!”
“It surely is,” Mojud replied.
Unsatisfied with his dull life story, the town biographers instead wrote a glamorous and exciting life story about him in order to conform to what the readers wanted, instead of what actually happened. And thus, that is the way that his life was recorded.
There once was a village with two regions bordering each other. One day, a traveler was walking through one of the regions. The man had tears in his eyes because he had just peeled onions.
Some children mistook these tears for tears of sadness, and somehow, a rumor was started that the man was crying because someone from the other region had died from a hihgly contagious illness. This rumor also spread to the second region, only over there, it was about an illness that was spreading in the first region. Soon, people from each region were terrified of the other region, and no one dared to communicate with or observe the other. Eventually, both regions decided that conditions were too dangerous, and they both moved out and started another village somewhere else.
Centuries later, each village had their own ancient story about how their town originated from somehwere else, where the people had to flee from some sort of perilous condition.
A man had many problems, and made an oath that if his problems were solved, he would sell his possessions and give the proceeds to charity.
But later, when his problems were solved, he wanted to find a way out of his oath. He decided to offer his possessions for sale for one gold piece, but only under the condition that the purchaser would also have to buy his cat for one thousand gold pieces. He soon sold the items, kept the thousand gold pieces, and gave the one gold peice to charity.
Most people’s nature when dealing with a teaching is to act like that man did.
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