An atheist or an agnostic can be as good and eligible for ‘qualifying’ for realisation as a deeply religious person. What does that convey? That religion is not a must for ‘nirvana’ but only one of the ways.
The Dalai Lama’s latest book, ‘Beyond Religion: Ethics for a whole World’, says one can be a good, kind and compassionate person without being religious. But be sure nowhere does he say that one should not be religious. To be religious is a great thing; but not to be religious too can be a great happening.
The book attempts to discover life and happiness beyond religion. It goes into the search for a new religion that would produce more than religious persons in terms of human values and acceptable to all kinds of people - religious, atheists or agnostics.
The author says in today’s globalised world, sticking to one’s particular religious thoughts could create a hell of a world in which there could be nothing but disputes; and our hope for peace and harmony would go for a toss. Only a religion of humanism will be capable of burying the issues of ‘us’ and them’ once for all. You would be very right if you ask how can one be good and loving towards one’s enemies and the so-called complete strangers. The answer is that the feeling that someone is your enemy comes up only when you nurture such a thought in your mind. If you change that or replace that kind of feeling or thought in your mind, your enemy will cease to be there. He /she is then left out there as a mere reflection of your self.
True, it is not going to be that easy. But given the will, you can always find ways to make it happen. Regular meditation is one way. It has the magic of moulding your mind into a state that you will see nothing but good and beauty in everything around you.
And that would be the point of realisation.