This is an attempt to record my own thought process on faith at this point of my life. Posting it as a blog to get some more clarity from you, readers.
In the matter of faith, I always used to be in extremes. Upto 18 years, I never even had an iota of doubt about the existence of the omnipresent. Yes, there were conflicts in my mind, there were things which I never got answer for, but it was all after taking that one point as ‘implied’. As any church going christian I also used to have a rosary on my neck and I always kissed it, prayed to Mother Mary before embarking on any important work.
There used to be time when I used to attend church holy masses on a daily basis and then one day (around 11 years) I joined the Altar boys at church. I used to believe, I was amongst the chosen ones and always did each work trusted upon me with due diligence and care. Always when the part in the holy mass came, where it says ‘Now let your prayers raise upto God’ , I used to think of the most important ‘needs’ (read prayers here) exactly at that minute imagining that those would actually raise upto God at that point in time. I was blind, totally succumbed to faith. I had so much belief in them. Never ever it crossed in my mind that there could be a chance of God being non-existent. It was next to impossible in my little mind. Being an altar boy made me closer to Bible. I easily covered a major part of new testament in those days and I found those narrations very vivid and interesting. During those days, dad also brought home colored books of Mahabharatha, Ramayana and Eliad. Got so hooked into those, that I read them over and over again. Now when I look back, I remember to having found striking similarities in the stories and narrations in between all these books. But somehow I never took them seriously and brushed aside as mere coincidences. Imagine the surprise I had when I saw those striking similarities being explained by Zeitgeist after so many years.
Unlike many other states in India, Kerala is a place where religions co-exist with harmony, literally. People dont stay in separate places based on their religious identity, neither there is any kind of discrimination based on that. May be that’s why for about 18 years, I was blissfully ignorant about the whole issue of religions. Living in Delhi for few years and then in Ahmedabad for past 3 years, make me realize every passing day that am different here. Yea, there is no direct discrimination but it is not like how I used to feel back in Kerala.
This ignorance or purposeful carelessness about religions came crumbling to ground after attending a Jesus Youth retreat (my first and only retreat). It was a new experience and to say the least it was nice. I remember it so clearly coz on that fateful day Tsunami struck Kerala taking many lives. The very next day I got to hear many first hand testimonials from people who had miraculous escapes from clutches of death. Everyone praising God’s plans and his secret selections. (wish there were some of the dead too, so that we could hear the other side of story :P). Same day I was given the option to attend a ‘Grace counselling’ (meeting with a divine person). He was a man in his late 40’s who sat with a ‘divine’ look in his face. Without me uttering a single word, he narrated my entire family history, some of my personal problems (which I never shared) and asked me to open random pages to read random passages which he claimed would contain answers to my problems. To my surprise, some of them actually were bang on. I was impressed. But it didnt last long. I narrated my interests in sitting inside old temples (just coz I love the peacefulness out there), how I visited Guruvayoor temple twice and totally loved the experience.At Kerala, my home is near to a temple. For 19 years, I woke up in the morning listening to ‘Gayatri Mantra’. I got used to it so much so that, waking up without hearing it used to make me restless. I just love it. But he was not amused hearing it. He told me not to visit temple again because 1) Temple is for Hindus and not for christians. (sad but true in Kerala as non-hindus are not allowed inside) 2) The salvation is only through Christ, need not enquire it anywhere else. I ignored 1st point, but got stuck with second. Hence I asked him, what about my best friend who is a hindu, does it mean, he would never get salvation ? I was being very naive, but he was smart. According to him, my best friend will find Jesus one day and attain salvation. To be frank I found it BullShit. It sounded bizarre to me.
I knew he was bluffing, so I left that day itself and had the same conversation with my uncle (who is a priest, a theologist and an amazing human being). He cleared my doubts saying, those are just tricks by so called ‘retreat mongers’ and never heed to it. Those are just 1 amongst thousands, and ignoring them is important.
That struck a chord with me, I started getting doubts about, Why so much confusion amongst authorities in religions ? Why so many different teachings ? Why so many conflicting interpretations ? Why people ‘market’ religion ? and finally the million dollar question, Is there a God or is it too a man-made concept ?
I left it there. Was too busy with my college that I hardly did any soul searching. But it had an impact on me. I started taking my religious life lightly. Missing a sunday mass was no more over-burdening. I was slowly moving away from being religious, still being spiritual. As someone said, was realizing that ‘Religion is a bureaucracy between man and god which I didnt need’. It took me years to actually understand that ‘Religions are driven by clear economical & political motives and there is no place for God in them’.
These thoughts were cemented by 3 types of speeches I got to encounter.
1) During my brief stint in Kochi, I used to live in some interior streets in dark pockets out there. My very first face-off with fanaticism started from there. Every friday evening a ‘mullah’ used to come and address the muslim brethren in that area, in the name of giving spiritual discourse. But it was more of spiritual bashing of other religions and less to do with God. Though people were very sensitive & careful about such ‘mullahs’ and never invited them again, but this used to continue still.
2) After a stand off between government and church in Kerala on some educational institute issue, every sunday masses in our locality were used as a platform to propagate church’s stupid, illogical and insensitive ideologies to cover up their misproportions of funds. They were literally using their religious strength to muster and play vote bank politics. I got to face fanaticism from a different perspective.
3) Third was my daily encounters with various shades of fanaticism in Gujarat. Problem here is that it is taken for granted. Nobody really cares if Modi or someone from RSS makes a speech filled with inflammatory words. Religion is so ingrained to people’s minds here that literally anybody can play with it and political parties just make use of it, be it BJP or Congress.
Inspite of losing confidence in religions, I continued praying. For me prayers were never a burden and I found solace in them after I was told that prayers are not about asking for your needs, but to have a conversation with God. That was the end of praying for ‘getting more marks in exam’ or ‘asking for a car as gift’ type prayers. Though it was more of a monologue with god and never a dialogue, I believed that one day heaven will open up and god will talk to me. (Oh yea, i actually thought 😀 ). Life went on without me crediting or debiting any of the happenings in my life with God. She remained as a ‘feel-good’ concept in my mind and I never bothered to tinker with it.
It stayed dormant in my mind and I took it in its stride. Coming to Ahmedabad made it active. Not because there is such a dis-harmony between religions exist here, but it made me think about why such an incident took place in an otherwise fantabulous place. Ahmedabad is truly one of the best places I’ve lived in my life and that is mostly to do with the people who resides here. They are smart, cooperative and very receptive to people from outside (unlike many other states). Yet 2002 riots happened here. For me its a matter of concern, and I wanted some convincing answers. Am not getting into those right now, as that is not topic of discussion today.
After coming here 2 things happened in my life. 1) I started reading more of OSHO (one of the most mis-interpreted genius in last century) compilations. 2) I happened to watch Zeitgeist. Both changed my view points forever and my perspectives became more wider. From being very religious to being only spiritual and then to stay as agnostic, it took many years.
Will share my experiences after that, in coming posts.