On Facebook, I recently saw a debate sparked off by a comment on the movie Oh My God. I am yet to watch it - just like many other recent movies. I was told by my friend that it is a must watch, a Hindu friend.
And then this debate where some opposed the movie, questioning the Hindus for remaining silent at the movies criticising Hindu beliefs, or babas, and the others defending saying it reflects realities on the ground and is really a non-issue.
But religion itself is not a non-issue, and I wonder why. Can somebody's criticising things I believe in bring down its value? Do I find the worth of the thing/god I believe in only through validation by others? I believe in Lord Ram and a friend of mine, a Hindu, was very surprised. "I have not come across anyone who so specifically says they believe in Ram," she said. I was not surprised. For, amongst many women, he is the epitome of MCPism - exiling his wife being the prime reason. And as I performed a dance ballet on the Yuddha Kandam, I was amused that thrice Ravana's army manages to kill him/render him helpless and yet, in the end, through divine help, he manages to come back and, again through divine help, kill Ravana. He treats Sita shabbily then, and later, when she is pregnant.
I am aware of all this. But it does not shake my faith in Him.
Has he personally given me darshan? Does he speak to me or send his monkey army for my protection? Nothing of the sort.
So, do I pray to him everyday, diligently? Sometimes, I take comfort in the fact that the theist and the atheist all go through the same travails, so if I skip my prayers one day, I will not be punished any extra because of it so long as I don't make my life hell by agonising over it.
But when my heart beats fast in fear or anxiety, His name gives me peace and calm. When I find myself over excited and want to become detached as prescribed in the Gita, I take a deep breath in and try to feel Him within me, and that grounds me - if I am able to acheive that connection, which is sometimes very elusive. When I hear words of abuse that makes me want to shout back - and if I delay it for a fraction of a second and take His name - I am able to fight my anger better. I find my hell and heaven here everyday depending on how I feel and act, and the days I feel the presence are heaven. The same day can turn into hell for some obscure reason, if I let that dominate my mind.
Do you believe in Him? That is of no consequence to me. Your loving or hating or indifference to Him have nothing to do with me. It is between Him and me, and you don't even enter the equation.
So am I a Hindu? I love a lot of things associated with the Indian culture - the alpana in the morning when my mind is only on the design, pushing all other thoughts out. And with age, I can understand why it was prescribed as a morning activity, though in the rush of getting children out of the house, I do miss doing it sometimes. But that is step one to doing something on your own and connect with yourself first thing in the morning. The lighting of the lamp - though I don't do it on most days - again, the act focuses one's mind. The flowers, the dot on the forehead - the time taken to dress up modestly, naturally, and feel good. No, no, I don't do those either but I know the sense of rootedness it gives one.
And isn't that the purpose of religion and associated traditions - to root one and not rout out others? If one has faith, and faith in that faith, how can others' views matter. It is unscientific, of course. When even I can't understand why it gives me strength, how can I expect others to understand it then? Why should I be disturbed by your questioning it either?
And by same logic, how can I understand what you believe in and why? Who am I to question it?
Maybe, this is how a majority of Hindus live, and so it doesn't bother them when a movie tears Hinduism apart. For the religion shown in the movie may not be the religion they practice at all!
Organised religion has a place in organising life. But when it disrupts life and becomes a cause for anger and frustration - do we blame the religion or the narrow mindedness of the people who build rigid walls around themselves? Such people, I sincerely believe, will use some excuse or the other to vent out their anger on the world. Religion is just an excuse.