What is CLOUD Religion

The word ‘cloud’ generally brings an image of fogginess into our minds. It is either a fogged sky or a fogged mind. Cloud denotes confusion and a general lack of clarity. It also denotes darkness and ignorance. It symbolises uncertainty. Many gloomy moments of despair and sadness are also called cloudy moments. Despair has long been compared with clouds. Spiritual masters have equated clouds with struggle for clarity in spiritual path. In sum, the word ‘cloud’ does not quite generate positive feelings within us. But that is the general meaning of the word.


What could be the other meanings or connotations of the word ‘cloud’? When struggling and sweating in parched lands with parched throats, a sign of clouds on the sky is a welcome relief indeed. Clouds are aggregators, collectors of raindrops. If they do not burst, clouds can bring the essential shower quenching the thirst of the earth with that of the numerous flora and fauna on it. However, in the technological era, particularly in recent times, the word ‘cloud’ has acquired a different meaning. It is used as a metaphor for the Internet and refers to accessing computers, information technology, software applications, and the like through a network, often accessing data centres that are remotely located. So, anyone can access one’s data and software from practically anywhere in the world, where Internet connectivity is available. This means that anyone can have one’s information, that means all work in the present age, independent of a particular physical location. This kind of computing or working with information technology is called ‘cloud computing’.


The wonder does not stop there. Cloud computing has enabled ‘cloud sharing’. Now, anyone having an expertise in a particular field can share one’s wisdom through data to anyone across the globe. Better still, the person sharing such data need not individually know the persons being benefited by the data. Various cloud repositories enable one to just upload one’s data or software to the cloud and make it available for anyone willing to download and use it.


Now we have countless people using data provided to the public, and also improving upon existing data and software with corrections and tweaks, making the data and software better than it was when they received it. There are many examples of this but the popular ones are the online encyclopaedia Wikipedia and the famous repository of software GitHub. This phenomenon of cloud sharing has been developed further and now we have machine services or artificial intelligence services available, albeit for a charge, online, in the cloud. This again obviates the need for having expensive computers working out difficult algorithms when all you have to do is to submit your problem to the cloud machine services repository, the famous being Amazon Web Services.


All this is wonderful indeed. However, cloud sharing and the concept of cloud in general might not be as recent as we might believe. Though the label ‘cloud’ was not used by him, Swami Vivekananda pioneered the idea of sharing ideas free from location and time, as early as 1893 when he addressed the World’s Parliament of Religions in Chicago. Lest the reader be surprised, the idea referred to here is that of religion. How the idea of religion can become parallel to a concept of information technology or the Internet would soon become clear.


For starters, the idea of religion or any idea for that matter is quite similar to data, particularly the kind governed by electrical pulses as in information technology. Ideas are abstract, even the concrete ones are. And the bits and bytes of the computer world are quite elusive indeed. All ideas are in a way ‘uploaded’ to the cosmos. Swamiji believed in the power of ideas and insisted that noble thoughts accompanied with strong mental power could transform the world. Therefore, we can rest assured that ideas are ‘uploaded’ the moment someone can think of them. Of course, the ‘downloading’ of ideas happens in various ways. If the person at the receiving end possesses a powerful mind, then she or he can intuit the idea from the cosmos. If the person receiving the idea is a lesser mortal, then she or he can receive the idea through words, verbal or written.


Now comes the more challenging task of ‘cloud sharing’ of religious ideas. It seems that the free flow of religious ideas amongst human beings would not be difficult thanks to technology, particularly to the Internet. Towards the end of his ‘Paper on Hinduism’ delivered at the World’s Parliament of Religions, Swamiji said that the only possibility of a universal religion was a religion that would have ‘no location in place or time’; in other words, it should be independent of place or time, much like cloud computing. The core idea that is the reason behind the increasing success of cloud sharing in computing is the willingness to be open to share, without insisting exclusive copyrights, and also the willingness to be open to scrutiny from other users and programmers.


If Swamiji’s idea of a ‘cloud religion’—though he never called it so, he definitely had the same idea—were to become a reality, all practitioners of all religions and religious traditions should forego one’s claim to be the only proper religion and instead just share or ‘upload’ their ideas to the world at large. This would mean that all religious texts, scriptures, rituals, dogmas, doctrines, traditions, artistic portrayals, sculptures, temples, churches, mosques, and all other imaginable symbols and motifs of religion be made accessible and available to one and all. Every religious thought ever conceived by humanity should be spelt out in vivid details and made understandable in every tongue that human beings have known to speak. All this should be open to scrutiny and modification by anyone who wants. While the traces of the original would be continued to be preserved, all this could be adapted to suit the tastes and temperaments of any individual. All this would be done without anyone’s exclusive claim to religious truths and without any fear, even of the slightest criticism.


That would be true cloud religion. There is only a small caveat though. Just like cloud computing or cloud sharing in computing should be used to further the aims of technology in general, Swamiji wants that this universal religion, which we prefer to call ‘cloud religion’ should ‘recognise divinity in every man and woman’, and naturally in every transgender, ‘and whose whole scope, whose whole force, will be created in aiding humanity to realise its own true, divine nature’. This caveat is necessary in order to prevent fundamentalist theories of religion being put into this cloud of religion or destructive forces trying to preach their doctrines as a religion, as is the wont of many cults. This is similar to cloud sharing in information technology, where vicious programmes like viruses or trojans should not be given place in the cloud.


The question is: How many are ready to contribute to and be a part of cloud religion? Are you?


Author is Editor Prabuddha Bharata

To read all articles by author

 This article was first published in the November 2018 issue of Prabuddha Bharata, monthly journal of The Ramakrishna Order started by Swami Vivekananda in 1896. This article is courtesy and copyright Prabuddha Bharata. I have been reading the Prabuddha Bharata for years and found it enlightening. Cost is Rs 180/ for one year, Rs 475/ for three years, Rs 2100/ for twenty years. To subscribe http://advaitaashrama.org/pbSubscription

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