I recite the Gayatri Mantra 108 times. I shake with fear, invoking the name of Gods to save me from flunking the exams. The palm of my hands is swollen and reddish, writing the name of God, like a parrot, more than 1000 times. Pinning for a miracle to save me from the jaw of death. Ultimately, I failed the exams. Oh! God! You didn’t spare me this time. The pain of lighting the diya (earthen lamp) every morning and evening, longing for a change in the tide of fortune.
It’s the diary of a 16-year-old-me, attending the prayers till late in the temple with Mom and Dad. I am snoring, plain bored, listening the Pandit, chanting the name of Gods, narrating stories of Lord Rama and Lord Krishna or religious hymns to the names of Goddesses. You name it, you get it! Mother Kali, Mother Durga and Mother Lakshmi. Trust me, it’s a torture against young children, too scared to say anything.
Does it make sense to me? As I hark back to the past of bowing in deference to God, calamity save me for ignoring the Gods or infuriating their fury. Sinner! I was in my mind or the mind of God?! I was told that not praying to God will mean a curse on my life. Or! The curious me who broke free from the hands of my Mom to dash my way to the Sathya Sai Baba Center as the sound of music pushed my legs to act. Yet! They told me Baba called and I didn’t run on my own will. It makes me wonder on free will as an individual.
The bottom line is my parents have a certain psychosis fear ingrained in them that if they don’t offer prayers to God, they will be punished for lack of deference to God. I don’t blame them for that! The fact is that society doesn’t want us to read, appreciate and assess religious scriptures on its own merit or see, for that matter, the underlying philosophy of religion in an objective and unbiased way. The stark reality remains that the patriarchal society put blinkers on our eyes so that we see reality their way. I believe that all religions, be it Hinduism, Islam or Christianity carry the same underlying message of peace, love and justice. Unfortunately, there are huge misinterpretations in all religions in the world, owing to their own self-serving and selfish interests. ‘Thou shall not kill’ hold true for every single religion.
I remember when Dad passed away, the officiating priest made us spent a fortune on buying items to perform rites of passage, three and ten days prayers, which cost us a fortune. At that time, we couldn’t afford but still forked a cool 40,000 bucks. You name it, you get it. Stacks of potatoes, sugar, chappal (sandals), fruits, milk and what’s not. At that time, I didn’t complain. But, deep inside, I knew that it’s a very wrong interpretation since my study of Philosophy helped me a lot to understand well enough that Hinduism, read, Puranas, is being misinterpreted. No prize for guessing! The goodies and abnormal fees went into the basket of the priest.
I don’t get it why a widow should forever wear White saree, mourning the death of the husband? They keep telling us that a woman who loses her husband should avoid colorful attire. I am aghast when I see the culture of exploitation, perpetrated by the ugly male society and speak about, new age Sarpanch. Whose interest does it serve? Makes me wonder! After reading Hindu scriptures, I have realized that true Hinduism lies in the Vedas and Vedic culture where God is worshiped but not in a given a form. I respect people who pray to deities but I firmly refuse to worship forms of God, in terms of statues. Make no mistake. I respect everyone’s religious beliefs but I feel that one has the right to question things as a human being. I am a free-spirited person. My Mom is a staunch believer in various forms of idol worships and I respect her ideologies. But, the fact remains that I am now an agnostic after reading scriptures and religious books, whether it’s Hinduism or Islam. I believe that one should take good values from the Bhagawad Gita, Bible or Qu’ran. All the different routes lead to one single journey in life.
I recall the caste-based discussion I had with the priest who insist that ‘I am a Kashyap’, according to my Gotra. This is something I vehemently oppose, considering the pride that the priest take in clamoring that he belongs to the highest caste in Hinduism, Brahmin. From an ideological perspective, I am dead against caste-based discrimination, class or religious differences. It’s rather sad how people who are the ‘chosen’ ones to impart religious knowledge revel in casteism. The guy wanted me to say that I belong to the Brahmin caste but I refused, gently telling him that I am a human being and I believe in the religion of love and humanity. The rest doesn’t matter.
Nowadays, I sit in prayers at home just to make mom happy because she is someone who will take offense if I do not sit, fearing calamity. Honestly speaking, I see no point in attending something which I do not believe in but, sometimes, we should make parents’ happy in their belief, no matter how dogmatic it is.
I remember last year, after resigning from my job, I didn’t want to fool myself and didn’t sit in the Katha (narration of God’s name) at home and most of our family members were pissed at me. It was the time I wasn’t getting a proper job and I am still struggling to find something better, when someone belonging to the younger generation told me, ‘You made a mistake by not taking part in the prayer. May be, it’s one of the reasons luck is eluding you considering that your ancestors performed prayers.’ Does it get more ridiculous than that?
I mean, what kind of education, we are impart to our children? How can one instill the fear of God and religion in a young, inquisitive child, telling that they would be punished or go to hell someday. Children grow up with a certain mindset and attitudes which they believe to be a universal truth of life and doesn’t flinch before labeling a non-believer or widower as such. Unfortunately, questioning God or religion is regarded with contempt and when we shunt them, it stifle creativity as human beings. There are also cases where widowed women are not allowed to perform rites at the wedding of a young bride or religious ceremonies, calling them, ‘Achut’ (Outcaste coz they will cast a dark spell). I find it shameful how religion is being used to divide people rather than unite people across the globe. It sucks big time.
This post is in no way demeaning to any religious faith or devotees who pray to God and believe in idol worship. It’s my honest views on the flip side of worship and religion that stifle our freedom of thoughts and creative thinking. I believe that anybody has the right to believe or not believe in God or follow their religion of choice. My only issue is that religion should never be imposed on a free thinking soul. After all, we are all travelers in this amazing journey of life who has the right to question things, doesn’t matter if it has been established by our ancestors or not.
A final word here: With due respect to my fore parents, nothing says that they were right in everything they saw or believed. For sure, they taught us a lot in terms of wisdom but does that mean they were right in all respects?
I leave the question open for interpretation!
PS: I am an agnostic since I am not sure about the existence of God. Yeah! I celebrate Holi, Diwali and Ganesh Chaturthi because I find them endearing and fun in the same way Eid and Christmas is. I may not be a believer but I am a spiritual person, believing in love, peace and humanity. I refuse to bear prejudice against person of any caste or religious faith. This post was prompted and inspired by few blogger friends who wrote honest account of traditions of Gods, religion and traditions.