Why then do we need churches and religious institutions? Why "religions"? I can see at least two kinds of reasons:
- 1. encountering God is not something you can foresee. It might depend also on you, but must depend primarily on Her/Him. While waiting for that to happen, you might try to get prepared through a certain discipline. The discipline will forge you and make the encounter possible. It creates, so to say, the empty space within yourself where the epiphany might take place.
- 2. you might think you did encounter God just because you had an intense experience. For instance, I am inclined to think that this happens to many people who fall in love with TV personalities, no matter whether rock stars or "reverends". Religious institutions should guard you from the risk of confounding God with what is just emotionally intense. They should deny all your claims, unless they fit into their narrow path of well-established ways of encountering God. If your encounter is sincere, they explicitly claim, it will fit within it. Maybe, many of their authorities also secretly think that if you really had a genuine experience of God and this did not fit into the standards, you will receive from Her/Him enough strength to explain to the Church/to your spiritual master that it has to change its/his/her standards. These have to exist, hence, to test the genuinity of your faith.
And what would be the purpose of executing difficult rituals in an exact way —imagining that you no longer believe in Vedic Deities, but in a personal God? 1.
How do readers conceive the role of religious institutions in India? I am not speaking about their political role, but only of the theological rationale of their existence.