I have stopped believing in religious/cultural traditions. Well, the thought in itself is not very jarring as much as a fact that it is coming from a person who was her pious-most a couple of years back. I do not know the exact moment when my thoughts and beliefs clashed with each other and i chose the path of rationality. It was certainly an very sub-conscious decision. Or perhaps it was a gradual transition. So one may ask, do I believe in God? And the answer would be Yes, I do.
But God, for me, is not Krishna/Shiva/Allah/Christ/Saibaba. It is just a force. An invisible hand that leads me to my destination. That holds my hand when i am in doubt. That forgives me no matter how wrong I am. That helps me tell the wrongs from the rights. That makes me a better Human. I am no more under any compulsion to give that force a form or a face. I want to believe in that force, irrespective of its gender, its power.. only conscious of its presence, its relevance in my life.
I do not know whether this is right for many. But i can feel that i am convinced about its truthfulness. Going back to the facts that led me to this situation... as i mentioned, I cannot pin point one. Maybe it is when i see how people blindly follow a tradition without attaching a meaning to the reasons behind it or its consequences. Or perhaps it is the way people kill/brutalize/loathe each other in the name of religion/Gods. Or maybe it is just the realization of the way my life has become like a hamster wheel... more about the chores to be finished and less about feeling accomplished/content. Or maybe it is about how the concept of God and Godmen has been so commercialized that it has lost the charishma.. the want of belonging to it.. the want to be unquestioningly following it. So many so many reasons. Or should i attribute it to the inevitable and quite evident mixing of cultures that triggers a want to question something before doing it. I dont know....
But i still believe that this Universal Force sees it all. It is sentient like us.. just more forgiving, more loving, more giving, more encouraging.
As a child, and while growing up, i followed many a customs/traditions without asking my Mom why it was done in the first place. Being an Hindu entails performing poojas/rituals/participating in festivals/social gatherings, etc. And i have happily followed most of them as a youngster. My mom herself was not an extremely pious woman, in that some of these feelings may be genetic, so to say. She never used to light diyas every evening or teach us many slokas/mantras/ tell us loads of mythological stories or anything. I was an avid reader and learnt about many stories on my own.
To be able to think about and talk to God about my problems (which i feel were much less earlier) was quite relieving. To be able to tell myself that Krishna would protect me and that Devi would give me strength made me more confident. And the fact that these Gods had forms that i could relate to made them comfortable to talk to and to be confided in.
Then along came this awesome book (which is now quite ubiquitous too) called The Secret. It introduced the power of Universal Providence into my life. And it actually worked wonders for me! I dont know whether i sound too naive when i say this, but now i have what they call an undivided and absolute faith in the theory of how the latter gives you back what you give it. In due passage of time, i was exposed to the concept of duality - that there are good and bad in every form. Even Gods made mistakes. Even Asuras have their own side/version of stories where they were the right ones and Gods their rivals.
The fundamental paradigms shifted.. and cultural shocks ensued. Characters in mythologies suddenly started seeming false and make believe. Gods were now just extremely powerful human beings.. some of whom could manipulate due to their influence and charishma. Asuras were only people at the wrong place at the wrong time (pretty akin to a youth being transformed into a terrorist.. who would you blame? - the society? the organisation/outift? the terrorist himself?). Stories/legends now looked pretty dreamy and man-made. Then grew hatred towards the 'fear' that was created around not performing a ritual or praying daily to God. And i slowly started disbelieving and then one day just stopped believing.
Above is just half of my problems. As a child, the aforementioned cultural traditions gave meaning to my childhood. The stories built me a land of fantasies and magic. The temple visits, the get togethers, the dance practices and bhajana groups, the songs i learnt and sang and were appreciated... my childhood was built around all this. Even now, some of my best memories are built around all this. It just becomes more confusing when i realise i wont be able to practise all that with my child with the same conviction that i possessed then. How then would my child be able to relate to my childhood? Would her childhood be bland and blase with TV and electronic gadgets that have nothing remotely worthy of being cherished later on? How do i ask her to pray in front of a particular God when i myself am no more comfortable doing it? How am i supposed to explain a tradition/custom to her when i have doubts about its origin and reasons?
While i am usually confronted by such nagging thoughts, i find a window of hope when i ask her to thank God for everything she has. Perhaps that's the way around it. And then a few mantras to keep her in the faith of someone out there protecting her. It is my duty to give her the freedom to choose what she would be comfortable doing. I would surely not make her do things just because everyone else is doing it. What is the use of being a staunch believer of a God if you are not a good human being.. if you cannot understand someone else's pain. What is the use of performing all these rituals if you dont feel gratituous of being alive and being there with your family.
For me, the fact that I am alive and healthy to be able to think about all this itself is overwhelming. Life and time does not wait for anything, Anything can happen to anybody and then you'd be caught unaware. I just want to be a good human being. Not a staunch God believer. Id rather believe in the Supreme force which would give you back all the good that you give others. Id rather be a person who is kind and giving and empathetic, than be someone who would chant mantras and back bite someone.
I am still learning and trying to find out who i am and why i am here. I am trying to fathom where i started and where i am going now. I am still learning. And i hope the God or the Force, as i see it now, shows me the way... gives me strength to keep going and never give up. And is patient with me when i go wrong somewhere... I am still learning.
The haven't yet found the answers to my questions. But i am assuming they will come to me sooner or later. Till then...