Friday, November 16, 2012

Faith - Lack Thereof

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.


  1. Nicely handled. I appreciate your even-handed treatment of both your views and the topic at hand.

    1. Thank you. I wish we could achieve this even-handedness in everything in life.

    2. Even as there can be no argument on the fact that one does not believe after endorsement by others,it is also true that one should believe after proper study and intuition.It is in this light that I request you to read further.The action of banishment of Sita has to be studied in proper context. The background is that a citizen of Awadh cast aspersions on his wife and said "Do you think that I am Ram who accepted his wife even after she spent time in Ravana's city". If the Uttarakanda and other commentaries are studied, the torture that Ram goes through, while taking this decision, is evident. Then, why at all, did he take this decision? This is due to Rajadharma(code of conduct for rulers)which prescribes that the ruler shall be an example of all virtues to his subjects and not a slur shall be attached to him or his own.That a citizen of his realm could even entertain a doubt on the chastity of Sita was not some thing that Ram could entertain. Ram had no doubt on the character of Sita but the perception of his subjects was a matter of grave concern to him.This may look very strange to us, now, as we take the stand that as long as the individuals concerned know the truth,what business is it of anybody else? But what may be true for a common citizen, does not hold good for rulers. Why else the adage" Not only Ceasar, but also Ceasar's wife should be above suspicion" ? There is a traditional way of studying our Itihasas, Puranas and other texts,which, if not followed, can lead to grievous results. We need to go back to our originals and start there, under able guidance.

    3. I am so pleased to have this response here, thank you.

      It is true even today in our individual lives as we try to set an example for our children and many a times sacrifice a lot of personal preferences keeping their conduct and future in mind. And for a king, his subjects were his children.

      Though one of the questions that comes up in this context is - why did not Rama follow Sita too to the forest, abdicating his throne? Can you throw light on that too, so that the context and the situation become clearer?


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