Religion is not conformity because all conformity is mechanical. You do certain things because you are expected to do them. You do them because you have to live with people and you have to follow their rules; you do them because you have been conditioned to do them. You go to church, you go to the temple, you pray, you follow rituals, but everything is empty. Unless your heart is in it, everything is dead and mechanical. You may do everything exactly as it is prescribed, with no error – it may be perfect – but then too, it is dead.
I have heard that President Kennedy had to sign so many letters, autographs and personalized pictures that a small mechanism was invented for him. The machine used to sign for him, and the signature was so perfect that no expert was able to say which was mechanical and which was true – not even President Kennedy himself was able to say which was false and which was true. Malcolm Muggeridge reports that when Kennedy was killed they forgot to turn the machine off, so it continued. The President continued to sign personalized letters even when he was dead. A mechanism is a mechanism.
You become a Christian: then you become a mechanism. You go on behaving as if you really loved Christ, but that “as if” has to be remembered. You become a Buddhist: you go on behaving as if you follow Buddha, but that “as if” has not to be forgotten. Your signature may be perfect, but it is coming out of a dead mechanism.
Religion is not conformity. Conformity is between the individual and the past, and religion is something between the individual and the present – poetry is something between the individual and the future. Conformity means to conform with those people who are no more, the dead – to conform with Moses, with Mahavira. Now to conform with Jesus is a dead thing; you are conforming with the past. If you relate to the present, it is totally different. It revolutionizes you; it gives you a rebirth.
Conformity is between the individual and the society. Religion is something between the individual and existence itself. Society is our creation. God created Adam – not humanity; God created Eve – not humanity. God creates individuals; humanity is our fiction. But the fiction can take possession of you and you can forget the real and you can cling to the fiction. I know persons who want to love humanity and they cannot love a human being. Where is humanity and how are you going to love humanity? You can only make empty gestures in the air. Humanity is no-where. Wherever you come across it, you will come across real, concrete human beings. Humanity is an abstraction, a mere word. It has no reality in it – a soap bubble, nothing more. You can only come across real human beings. To love a real human being is very difficult, but to love humanity is very easy. It is almost as if you love nobody. To love humanity is equal to loving nobody. Then there is no problem, no difficulty.
Religion is something that happens between you and the concrete existence. It is not about fictions. Also, religion is not about tradition. Tradition belongs to time; religion belongs to eternity. To move into religion you have to move in the eternal now. Religion has no history – there the West has to learn something from the East.