Friday, July 29, 2016

Religion, Faith, Belief, and the Creator

The world is passing through a phase of moral turpitude where in violence and even killing is being justified in the name of religion, and this phase has accelerated in the last couple of years leading to nearly daily news reports of violence/ killings all across the globe. I have been trying to jostle with this issue for a long time, since I have always believed that the only purpose of religion is to uplift ordinary humans to extra-ordinary levels.My thoughts were suddenly channelised into four sentences while commenting on an interesting post on facebook. My comment is reproduced below.
  • Interesting post. My take: many paths, same destination; each chooses his own. Belief just happens to be the starting point, based on birth. Belief is strengthened through rituals and mythology, so that one can undertake the final journey alone by turning inwards, where the communication is between you and your Creator only, without need for any ritual, mythology, or external help.
I now wish to elaborate further on these comments so that I can share my views with other humans across the globe with an aim of finding an answer to the wanton violence killings. I need to start with defining terms as I go along. First religion.

  • Religion implies, "the belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, especially a personal God or gods".
Next belief.
  • Belief is "an acceptance that something exists or is true, especially one without proof".

Next faith.
  • Faith is a "strong belief in the doctrines of a religion, based on spiritual conviction rather than proof".
As I look back at my life I find that I was born in a Hindu household and thus was exposed to the Hindu beliefs and faith from birth. In case I had been born in a Muslim household, I would have been exposed to Islamic beliefs and faiths. I had no say in the matter of my birth, and thus of my belief and faith. It was, I believe, pre-ordained. By whom? By my Creator, who also happens to be the Creator of every one and every thing else on this, and other planets. How else could we all humans have been designed in the same mould with very minor variations, of course. The evolutionary process put us in the top of the heap, or so we think; we have a powerful brain, which unlike our physical characteristics can be quite different in two humans, and this is where faith and beliefs reside.

My parents and other relatives taught me some rituals and gave me a dose of mythology, which became my belief, as I trusted them; they cared for me and looked after my every need; there was no reason to distrust them or even distrust their beliefs; they always had my best interest in mind - they had proven that by ensuring my survival and growth against all odds. My parents also told me that there is only one God, and He is known by different names, based on the attributes. It is much like I am one, but am known differently by different people - a son, a brother, a husband, a friend, etc. I display different attributes in different relationships depending on who I am interacting with. 

My parents also told me that God was Omnipresent. When I was about 8 years old I asked my father if it was necessary to go to the temple, if God was omnipresent. My father had given me the confidence to question the beliefs that he had passed on to me. He said No, it is not necessary. Looking at the beauty of the world and the scientific principles that sustain it, I was convinced and had faith that God existed. Every belief though was open to question. Being born in a Brahmin family, I was expected to put on the holy thread around my neck. I was not convinced of this, and thus never adorned it, except during my wedding rituals to respect the belief of my parents. I never believed in untouchability, which my grand mother believed in and practiced.

I never ate non vegetarian food, as part of my belief system in childhood. When I grew up, I questioned my father about this. He gave me a logical explanation, which stated that "to survive we need to eat; eating the least evolved food does minimum damage to the Creation, and is thus desirable". Plants are the lowest form in the evolutionary chain. Every animal is higher up, with mammals being the highest in the evolutionary process. A ban on eating beef is probably part of this, as also that cow milk is closest to mother's milk, and has sustained human offsprings for generations now. This probably is the reason for cow to be considered sacred in Hinduism.

The world has seen many great people being born, and giving their own interpretation of this Creation. Each of those interpretations have been codified in to texts and has spawned a new religion. I believe, it is not the texts that are at fault, but, it is the interpretation of those texts that needs to evolve. Great and wise people never ordained violence or killing in the name of God. Gita is a sacred text for the Hindus, and is basically philosophy which is common to all mankind. Its origin can only be conjectured as it happened much before we came in to existence, in this birth. Only faith and reason can help one understand, and maybe interpret what is written in the text of the Gita. I have read many an interpretation by knowledgeable people. When I read it, my mind interprets it in its own way, based primarily on my experiences of life. An objective book like the Gita becomes subjective with each human, as each one of us evolves differently based on our unique circumstances and experiences. 'One size fits all' is not true for religion and beliefs. Rituals may be common, mythology may be shared between co-religionists, but the essence of religion and its texts cannot; the objective texts do become subjective based on who is trying to read and interpret them; the interpretation is space and time sensitive, as the mind cannot interpret any thing that it has not experienced. I cannot read any text written in Tamil or Sanskrit, as my mind has never been exposed to them. The meaning of every thing changes with interpretation/ translation by someone else. What is true of Hinduism is also true for other religions.

Like Hinduism, every religion has its own belief systems,. The rituals and mythology which are part of every religion are only to develop faith in the individual. There is however no proof provided. Every individual has been given a powerful brain to question what does not make sense, or goes against the basics of Creation. In case we are all the Creation of one God, then we should all be living in harmony. However, our brain loaded with divergent belief systems and faiths create a divide. This divide is strengthened by people who benefit from the profession of teaching/ imparting of different faiths - be it the Pandit, the Moulvi, the Priest, the Granthi, etc. They cannot trudge your path for you. They can only teach you the rituals and give you the mythology. Their interpretation of the written text maybe at total variance to what was intended, as their brains may not have evolved to the level that is required to interpret those texts.

Once an individual has developed faith that a God exists, then it an inward journey, as all questions and answers are within your own consciousness. No external help is possible, as no one can trudge the path for you. You have to develop your own link with your Creator, in whichever form that you wish to. There are no intermediaries is my firm belief. Once you develop faith, I do believe that you would then respect all of God's Creation, and would be very averse to violence/ killings, as no faith can profess destruction of the Creation of one God.

Life has taught me.........

It is quite a paradox but life has taught me that.....

Your biggest strength,
also happens to be your greatest weakness.

Do you agree. What are your views? Would be delighted to hear them.

NDA - A Memory

While cycling to Sudan block, my friend Amrit confided to me that he had not done his home work and thus would not like to study any new topic today. He said that he would do something to ensure that the teacher does not start any new chapter. I too secretly wished that he was successful, as it had been a tiring day thus far; double outdoor days were always tiring. We had just finished the physical training (PT) class, after a drill class, and were heading towards Sudan block of NDA for a Mathematics class. This was the third, and the last class, before the sumptuous breakfast that all of us cadets looked forward to, especially after the outdoor days.

Drill at the Drill Square
Image: Courtesy Google Images

Our day started with a fall-in (roster call) every morning at 5:45 am in the squadron, and the first class at 6 am, either an outdoor one, like PT, drill, or equitation, or an academic class in either the Science or Sudan block. The siren at Science block sounded on the hour, every hour, to indicate the commencement of every class. Double outdoors and maths was a bad combination, but we had learnt to just follow the schedule, physically at least. The classes itself were of 45 minutes duration with a 15 minutes break in between. In these 15 minutes one is expected to leave the present location; pick up the cycle; wait to form a squad of 4 to 6 cadets, in twos, and then cycle down in an orderly manner to the new location; park your cycles in the designated spot, and march up to your class room. 
Sudan Block at NDA
Image: Courtesy Google Images

Our maths teacher with the initials D.D. (affectionately called Daddy by the cadets) was a professional teacher: a teacher, who besides being good at his subject, also had two eyes in the back and could thus sense any untoward movement behind him, while still facing the blackboard. Those were the chalk and blackboard days. Daddy had this unique knack of being able to write with both hands. Also, he could break a piece of the chalk with one hand, and send it shooting like a missile towards any inattentive cadet. To his credit, he always hit the bulls eye.  

He would start writing with his right hand and had the ability to turn the upper part of his body while still continuing to write on the board. His upper body would be twisted away from the board through about 180 degrees, so as to enable him to face the left half of the class. Half way through the equation that he was writing, he could switch the chalk to his left hand, continue with writing on the board while facing the class once again, now covering the right half of the class. In this way he could cover the entire class with an overlap in the centre, where he would make the most troublesome students of the class sit. I believe many a cadet who had passed through his hands before us had helped him perfect this technique to ensure that he could do his job, despite the troublesome and unwilling students.

Each one of his classes started with the standard questions. Have you all done your home work? The answer was always a full throat-ed yes from all of us. This was followed up with, ‘does anyone have any doubts on the chapter covered in the last class? The answer invariably was a, 'no sir'. Like every other day, we went through the same ritual today also, except that after a loud yes to the first question, when the rest of us were singing ‘no sir’ to the second question, my friend had raised his right hand high up in the air. 

Daddy asked him about his doubt, and my friend said, ‘sir, I am not too sure how to do the 10th question, could you please show me how to do it’. Daddy was a seasoned teacher in NDA and had seen many students like Amrit. Daddy counter questioned him with, ‘have you done sum number 1?’ The answer was ‘No’. Have you done sum number 2? And so on it went until, number 9. It was now quite evident that Amrit had not even attempted to do the home work. Every 'no' was met with a missile thrown at my friend by Daddy. At the 9th no, even Daddy got very upset and now wanted to shake up my friend for firstly not doing the home work and secondly for disturbing the set routine of the class. He walked towards Amrit; Amrit got up from his desk and moved towards the rear of the class, with Daddy following him. Amrit got to the rear wall, climbed on top of the last row of chairs and crossed over to the other aisle in the class hoping that he would be safe now, but Daddy followed him around by climbing the chairs too, and with the chalk missiles being launched at regular intervals, until the chalk finished. The entire class was witness to the chase scene that had turned really hilarious. Every one was having a great time. It continued for some time and ended with an apology from Amrit. No fresh topic could be covered in that class; Amrit had achieved his aim.