Radhanath Swami Answers: My guru Srila Prabhupada said, “Philosophy without good character is practically useless.” The whole purpose of religion is to help us in transcending the arrogant ego.
The ego creates such a void in the heart. If we have a full heart we don’t crave to feel superior to anybody. One who really considers oneself the servant of everyone is actually a true master, and one who feels that need to be the master is a servant of one’s own mind and one’s own ego.
If we have an ego and we don’t understand the purpose of our religion, then the very wonderful blessing of religion that we have to go beyond our ego, we use that same thing to be a weapon to conquer others for the purpose of that ego. You could use a knife to kill someone and a surgeon will use the same knife to save a person’s life. Is the knife good or bad? The knife is as valuable as the person who is using it. Wealth, money, academic power, scientific discovery, religion, philosophy, they are all like that knife. If we have the proper character – which is the purpose of religion, to develop that humility, that compassion – if we have that proper character, all these things, including religion itself can save people’s lives, can give people such life through love, through compassion. Otherwise, we just use it according to our own uncontrolled egos. And throughout history, people have used religion for that purpose, but that doesn’t mean religion is bad. It’s the most sacred blessing that we all have if we understand it properly. True dharma is beyond sectarian boundaries, if we understand the essence.