Saturday, March 27, 2010

I need help

Recently, a dear friend’s father was admitted in the hospital. Thankfully, he’s out of the ICU now. Sharing any further details would be inappropriate, so let’s just send healing energy his way.

As a part of her update on Facebook, she wrote couplets from the Quran. Beautiful words about faith and healing directed towards her ailing father. Her scribble made me realize how limited my knowledge is when it comes to my religious texts. My mother is unwell, and needless to say, I pray for her speedy recovery every day. But I pray in English - the way I was taught in my convent school when I was a child – head bent and hands folded, intertwined together. I understand wishes and good feelings don’t seek religious identity. But today it matters to me as I continue my search. 

As a Hindu, aside from the festivals and customs (most of which are presented in a way demeaning to women -- thanks to opportunists who have skewed the religion to suit their fascist attitude), I don’t know much about my religion. I mean, I have read the Gita and several books on the history of the religion. I know why Diwali is celebrated or why Holi is my New Year, but I am talking about the Vedas. The true preaching of Hinduism. The core essence of the religion. Its beauty and caveats.

As a woman of today, maybe I need a better reason to pray to Lord Rama, who was the epitome of failure – as a husband. At least from where I stand. He was the ideal son and an ideal ruler, but an insult to marriage and fatherhood. Because of him, women have had to prove their worth to their husbands and their families. Why didn’t Rama have to prove he was chaste? I seek answers, but who do I turn to for them? Shouldn’t there be a place for a disbeliever as much as a believer?

Unlike the Muslims, Jews, or Christians; Hindus don’t have Sunday school so to speak. I wonder if it is considered “uncool” to teach your kids about Hinduism. I don’t know. Honestly, aside from pundits, how many other people know the religion inside out? And frankly, I am not sure all pundits represent Hinduism properly. Many Indian women, from the older generation, have memorized Hanuman Chalisa and Gayatri Mantra. But can they break it down word-for-word and explain the meaning and significance of each utterance? I don’t think so. If they could, would they be blindly following traditions that denounce women?

So how do I find out more? I don’t believe in pundits because I don’t think I need a money-sucking mediator. Who do I turn to if I want to know about one of the oldest religions in the world? We don’t have educated representatives in Hinduism like rabbis, imams, or priests.  Someone who would sit down and level the field with me over biryani and wine. Books help only so much.

I play mantras in the mornings because they have a calming effect. But until “Koi Mil Gaya” was released, I didn’t realize there was a scientific reason why “Aum” was the core of any meditation. You would think these basics would be discussed in a society that obsesses about everything else. I like having a temple in my house because I like the feeling of someone watching over and holding me responsible for my actions. It instills humility. But I am curious about what the texts have to say about keeping a temple at home.

In my world, there are two people I can think of who truly understand Hinduism based on their research and reading habits: my father (who’s also read other religious books and debates with me) and a mausa in Detroit (my mother-in-law’s sister’s husband). But other than them, most other people, I know, follow Hinduism like a hand-me-down obligation. They don’t quite understand the significance of the rituals. They are shackled by fear-based beliefs. No God would ever say, “If you don’t pray to me every Monday, bad things will happen.” That’s a doctrine only humans would instate.

To me, religion is a part of my identity. It’s not above humanity. Never. But it definitely keeps me grounded. At least gives me a perspective and a sense of definition. But how much of my religion do I know?  

Here is my question: Are most Hindus ignorant and blindly believe what’s told to them, like the small number of Muslim fundamentalists? Both these groups exhibit lack of understanding of their own religion. I don’t know if it’s out of choice or if it is involuntary. It could be argued that the Muslim fundamentalist end up hurting others and giving their entire community a bad name. But aren’t the Hindus who follow their religion without questioning do something similar – kill their inner voice? Isn’t that a sin too? Can we ignore the emotional suicide? I am not trying to make a point here; I just seek answers.  


More until next time, 


Copyright © 03. 27.2010


“Religion is not something separate and apart from ordinary life. It is life -- life of every kind viewed from the standpoint of meaning and purpose: life lived in the fuller awareness of its human quality and spiritual significance” – Powell Davies



rajiv said...

Well i guess things change with times.
The way you think about Lord Rama, I used to question my Dad about Lord Krishna ; I mean how could you justify an eye for an eye sort of warfare ? That if u were doing something for good then the bad was allowable- end justifying the means ?

He'd take pains to make me understand that what Lord Rama was showing was the "aadarsh" (ideal) way of living, in the case of Lord Krishna, it was the "vyavharik" (practical way of living life - which i feel is relevant TODAY , especially given his romping around with the gopikas etc.That one should form an ideal blend of the two if one was striving for the perfection of living life as a "good human being".

I don't think answers are possible - only views of point. For Hinduism is no religion as far as I understand ; it's a WAY of living life. We don't have a common God or Goddess - we have 33 crores of them - and as i just said , even the two main ones show entirely different paths. I have not even started on Lord Shiva......... the various incarnations etc.

And in this age in time, religion has already been reduced to a mockery just to serve as a stepping stone to glory via politics or business.

Essentially, religion is something too personal for any human being. Even as a Hindu by birth -and I am proudly so today - I had tears in my eyes the day some of our people tore down the Babari Masjid. Would any religion worth its salt allow such blasphemy in its name ? It rankles even today - as the shame of sharing a country with such people is enough to make a man lose faith in any religion - forever.

I for one normally say a silent prayer whenever i pass a place of worship - irrespective of the religion concerned ; but i avoid actually entering one because i do not feel i am sufficiently clean - inside me - to enter a holy place.

I prefer to pray inside my bedroom facing a wall.

P said...

Hi Sweta,

I really love reading your posts....all of them, but this post on religion and Hinduism , in particular, is a very well written piece. When [my son] asks me the significance of a festival, for instance, I always end up feeling that I am not able to explain everything..... I agree with you when you wrote that it may be considered uncool to be inquisitive about Hinduism...

Hena said...

Hey Sweta,

Don't beat yourself....most of us today live on borrowed knowldege of religion. The reason I call it borrowed is because we follow things without knowing why we do what we do.The worrying thing is if someone down the chain made and error of judgement in following the tenets of religion, we keep following that error as we don't question....or would it be better if I said we are discouraged to question.... also some people benefit for all of us not having the real knowledge.....benefits of imbalance of sarci self.

This reminds me of an incidence where my grandfather refused to have a mulla come down and pray as he was laying the foundation stone of his expected few of my family members were surprised and annoyed and this is what he had to say "I don't need a mediator between me and God"...this thought has stayed with me ever since and that is the reason I emphasize on real knowledge. Pray his soul rests in peace. Ameen.

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