The beauty of questioning

I spend a lot of time vacillating between an agnostic secular person and a religious person, who doesn’t believe 80% of what my religion has become over the ages. Suffice it to say that the days I spend in my former state far outnumber the days I spend in the latter.

Here is my problem: I like to believe in the power of hope and if belief is what brings hope, I am all for it. On the other hand, over the ages, I can categorically state that religion has done more damage to mankind than good. The moment religion ceases to be a personal experience, I can see it wreaking havoc.

I quite like the idea of finding yourself. Easily, that is the path taken by all the “founders” of religion – be it Buddha or the Sufi saints of Islam or the Bhagavad Gita. But how does one explain “finding oneself” to the masses? That is where the problem begins. So, the explanation became finding one’s moral conscience – still good. But a few centuries later, moral conscience evolves into a set of rules written by the elitist community of the religion. Slowly, the congregation becomes more of a unifying force, one to forge your identity with, than to use as a tool to better yourself.

At my wedding, the priest was a person who was my grandfather’s friend. My grandfather was a kind-hearted, generous, loving, able teacher, caring husband/father and he was a pious man. But somehow, whenever people described him, they put his piety ahead of his other virtues. This priest came to my wedding and said he would do all it takes in his power to make sure that great man’s grand-daughter lived a fantastic life, and put us through the most grueling wedding ceremony in recent times. I didn’t understand more than a few words of what was said – there was no need for me to elongate the proceedings by asking for clarifications in between on a hot day in front of the fire, with no food in my stomach. The ceremony lasted a good 9 hours of listening to things I didn’t understand. Everyone who came to congratulate me, said the priest was excellent, he hadn’t missed a single thing – who would understand how my intestines were reacting at the time? Which religion?

What I am trying to say is, some people are ritualistic by nature – to them, rituals become religion – this isn’t orthodoxy, this is just an interpretation of their own religion. It is also show-case worthy.

I have spent my growing years chanting some prayers that my mother taught me on the way to the school in the morning, as we ran for the train. That is all I know today, and probably that is all I will ever know – who knows? Every now and then, I think that just because I am part-agnostic, I should not deny the experience of a religion to my daughter. So, I take her to the local temple. She asks a million questions along the way as usual. We are in the temple, and she looks at the statues and asks – “If Ummachi (God) made everything and gave us everything, how come he isn’t even moving?”

I savoured the question – the beauty of questioning always delights me. I am sorry that when it comes to religion so few people still have the power of questioning left in them.

18 thoughts on “The beauty of questioning”

  1. Oh, my favorite topic. Well written.

    The Story of India PBS documentary that ran in January said that the reason why Buddhism failed in India was because it was the closest to Atheism an Indian religion has come to and that the is the one thing Indians never could digest.

    The beauty of Hinduism is you can follow it any which way. Interpret Gita and approach the Adwaita philosophy and suddenly the religion is vastly simplified into ‘Finding the God in yourself’.

    When you apply this filter to every ritual and ceremony and visiting temples, everything appears fake and meaningless.

    Strictly following the principles of self discovery, you realize that the target God or religion is immaterial as well.

    Religion is the best example of how FUD rules us. Along with FUD comes enablers. Astrologers, God Men, Vaasthu shit, all follow.

    What really pisses me off is the last generation and the current one in India are going in the reverse direction. There was no Vaasthu shit in our grand parents generation. I know a couple of fools who demolished their homes and reconstructed them.

    I am half waiting for a yagna that removes layoffs :~).

  2. As you said, if religious belief gives people something to hold on to, so be it.
    Children do ask the most thought-provoking questions sometimes as they are not imbibed with the rules and biased thoughts yet and also because they don’t hesitate to ask when in doubt.

  3. HI Saumya,

    Though I am unable to agree FULLY with you, I appreciate your talented writing. “Gurur Bhrumma, Gurur Vishnu Guru Devo Magehswara, Guru Shashath parm Brumma Thasmaishree Guruve Namaha”

    Professor V. Sankaran

  4. Very thought provoking blog.
    Esp. the point about expanding “finding oneself” philosophy to masses.

    At the core, humans want to do better than others. We would like to claim we are superior than others..
    Because of this reason, we like to teach others what we found to be “our” religon. That is where everything starts…

  5. Well Brainwaves did have an excellent answer:

    He said, “You don’t see the sun near you, or the sun coming near you right? It is millions of miles away, but its light everywhere gives life right? Plants use sunlight, we use sunlight. Like that, Ummachi is there, and we all get what we work for from him!”

    I looked at him with a new light in my eyes.

  6. BTW,

    I have read your post 3-4 times now and I find it the least offensive way of putting your thoughts across. I found it very mild mannered yet making your point. Very very well written.

    I wish I had your nuance to write in such a topic. I have been writing and re-writing this for months now and no matter how I edit it, it appears to be offensive :~).

  7. Nice blog !!Look at it this way. You have a problem and no living mortal around you has a solution to it nor an answer to your questions!! I can remember countless such situations and I think without the faith in ‘God’, I would have been insane by this time!! The kids always ask me these questions and this is my only answer to them is- “God can be a picture, a piece of stone, a spirit, whatever.You can imagine Him to be anything you like but remember He is the only one who can offer you a ray of hope when noone else can.That is why you need to remain in some Faith!”

  8. Jayshree,

    IMO, this blog does not say it is wrong to have belief in God to give a ray of hope.

    It ponders about how it became a taboo subject to question religion (specifically)

    It is almost ingrained in us to think it is a sensitive subject which should not be touched.

  9. @ Jayashree,
    I think kids should unravel the aspects of God, religion etc on their own. By telling them that “He is the only one who can offer a ray of hope”, are you not forcing them to believe in God.
    Having faith is a must as you said. But, I think kids should learn it on their own. And ,IMO, I don’t think it is necessary to have faith in God, one can have faith in oneself and that should suffice too as long as it helps that person. We need to have faith in something and for most of us, it turns out to be God.

  10. nice post. jai is tmailian from a very ritualistic family. i am malayali. i refused to have a tamil iyer wedding. a wedding in my nair community takes 10 minutes and has no priest and is conducted by the maternal uncle. win all around.

    i have no use for religion in my life though i respect the need for others to have it in their lives.

  11. Agnosticism is nice, but it comes with strings attached, so to speak. Atheism frees your mind – and lends a whole different perspective on life and the universe.

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