I have a love-hate, ‘it’s complicated’ kind of relationship with God; I like to call it a ‘convenience’ one.
Now that the festivals are over, I am trying to figure out my relationship with Him, yet again.
My Life had become busier, less disciplined, fast and careless and so there was very little time for God. Sometimes I forgot to pray because I would have eaten already (and you’re not supposed to pray with an unclean mouth, is what we were taught rolling my eyes), other times I had to rush because I had to get to work on time which was more important you know, and sometimes I just forgot. But I knew He wouldn’t mind. Besides, we had become friends now, and I spoke (prayed) to Him/Them in my prayers. However, I remember that at times of distress, I did turn up rather shamelessly, knowing that I was being selfish, to pray and ask for solace.
My father always says, always be grateful and humble for all that the God has given to us, for having helped us stride out of troubled times. Our parents of course have perhaps seen more difficult times than us, and so are more grateful, I guess. But as the number of times I forgot to pray increased along with my miseries, I started to lose faith in the ‘act of praying’ and slowly on the existence of the ones who were ‘supposed to be there’ for me. While the Shiva Trilogy had glorified things for me, I began to also wonder if the entire mythology was but a fiction?! I could not make out Time for either the Bhagwad Gita or the Holy Bible, nor did I light incense sticks anymore, and every little connection I had with God slowly stopped with my ‘act of praying’ no more. Then there came a time when I was sinking in my own miseries which was also the time I was questioning a lot of things that existed or did not in this World, and one of them was Faith and Religion. During that same time, a colleague lent me Karan Bajaj’s, The Seeker which became the spark to my path towards spiritual rediscovery. I have always loved spiritual non-fiction books but this has touched me in so many ways. Eat Pray Love did too, but at that time I was younger, not really on my ‘path’ and guarded from any miseries or tragedies in Life; so it was just a fun read which offered me plenty to look forward too, but not relate to in an enlightening way.
I was finishing The Seeker, and that is when I finally realised that, what yogis and gurus did was not the magic that I thought, and that perhaps with such strong meditation and devotion to the one within, every individual would be able to see the future or levitate. I made my mother promise not to give in to the yogi beggars who came asking for alms or donations, for it all seemed a waste. It also gave me the affirmation towards spirituality, yoga and meditation that I had taken a tiny step towards. For, I did believe that there is a God within ourselves and It is the most Supreme. I came to this understanding from another aunt who practised Vipasana, meditated and introduced me to it, a Jai Gurudev bhakt. Although I despised her devotion towards her Guru, I wholeheartedly accepted the importance of meditation and inner peace. Yoga was just gaining importance then, thanks to Baba Ramdev.
Around the same time, we happened to make a very short trip to Sarnath-Varanasi too. The timing could not have been better, I think. A look into Theraveda Buddhism first hand made me realise the importance of kindness and compassion, and the message that the Buddha would really want us to follow in Life. It seemed much simpler and practical than blind faith and idol worship. That does not go to say that the Buddhists do not entertain idol worship, but I understood that things could be kept more simple.
I came back and began to ask a multitude of questions to myself. Did God really exist? If so, in what form? If God, the scriptures, the holy book and everything else associated to God aimed to ultimately turn us into good human beings, then why was praying necessary after all? Why couldn’t I just try and carry on being a good person?
Who defined these rules about praying, fasting, idol worship and pleasing the Gods? God never asked anybody to do any of that for him, then why do people feel so obliged to follow certain things?
And the more I questioned, I slowly let go of the act of praying. However, I became more open towards spirituality- I readily read and listened to the Dalai Lama, Sadhguru and BK Shivani from the BrahmaKumaris. I decided that it was no harm listening to people who spread wisdom in a tolerable way than just blind faith. I loved being at Auroville while taking a break in Puducherry. I visited temples, mosques, monasteries, churches and gurudwaras on my travels, and even as I maintained a distance with the Gods, I couldn’t help but see how all of them preached the same- doing good for others, and being kind. That seemed rather easy at the outset, but as humans, greed, materialistic desires make us forget all of that, and that’s when we need to remind ourselves of the good deeds and wisdom by way of a God or religion. Being human is more difficult that it sounds, and may be that is why it is far more difficult to find the God within. It’s much easier to do say, idol worship and follow someone else in the form of a God.
It had been more than a year, and the idols on my praying table began to collect dust. I struggled to make time for meditation and yoga, and not everyday did I read or listen to a saint. Even so, as this year began, I began to feel as though something was waiting for me and that very soon I would have to answer or give a decision with regards to whether I wanted to stop believing in God altogether or start afresh. I felt like I was answerable to someone and that the time was near; but it seemed as though I was waiting for that appropriate time. Weird.
One day, on a casual phone conversation with mother, who blamed the reason for my sister and I still being single, to because of us not praying or showing devotion to the Gods. If only that were true! But something she said struck my chord. “You don’t ask anything to God. Ask and may be he will try to give it to you. You don’t ask at all”.
I wondered if this may be true. “Ask and you shall have it”. Didn’t the Bible say that too?…
I thought to myself, I stopped asking God for anything, forget a spouse! May be that was the reason I was so incomplete despite my completeness. No money, happy but not content with the new job, nothing enlightening in terms of knowledge either, no more friends, no lover, just a broken heart. It seemed like a good way to bring in some reason to all of that.
And then I thought, in my attempts to explore my relationship with God and religion, perhaps I had given in to becoming over-confident with my Life, no more reverence, gratitude. A trip to the Spiti Valley this year reminded me of compassion, leaving me wanting to imbibe this quality as well; but it made me wonder how people who are always grateful and believe in compassion are also those who have someone to be grateful to- to a Supreme being for their existence. Unless, I accept and have something or someone to give thanks to, where would I get the love and compassion to share with others?
And so, a month before the festivities were to start, I decided to get up and dust myself off the sheet I had wrapped myself with, and start anew. I tried to give Faith & Religion some introspection.
Given the roots and cultural values I belong to, I concluded that I could never completely get away with religion, and all things associated with it and God. But like once someone said to me, unless I choose a path, I will be wandering forever, so I chose to follow God again. But God no longer stand as the representation of my religion. In fact, least of all that. So, I decided to strike a balance for the sake of my sanity.
I don’t think I really understood the essence of praying earlier. I have redefined my relation and belief in God. I believe in being grateful and giving gratitude in order to be able to feel and share the same way, and I need something or someone to thank. There are certain things or instances in my Life when I have had nothing but someone, which I have been bound to call as God, to thank. For my mere existence, my destiny and well being, despite of who and how I am. And so, as a practice I pray and give my thanks, simply in the hope of becoming a better person each day. I definitely do not believe in blind faith any more, rather in the act of doing good, remaining hopeful and positive, kindness, forgiveness and compassion, having better morals and believing in my values.
Also, as an introverted person, very rarely do I share the strong emotions I go through. Although I do share my problems, I tend to reserve the best parts of them for someone- that person for me is God; someone I can talk to to make myself less-burdened, to talk to someone so that I can reflect and find answers to certain situations. It is a way for me to make myself heard, without disrupting my comfort. Eventually, I know I’m going to be alone, and even though I love my own company, I wish to get used to finding solace within myself.
I do ask now. Not that there’s anybody to give me what I ask, but because I think by asking, I am in a way trying to fulfil what I have asked for by myself, or trying to find the answers. If there is something as a positive energy, then I’d rather send more waves to the Universe than hope it be heard by a ‘being’ somewhere there. I do believe in positive energy. I continue to talk and have conversations with God when I’m praying, I thank and ask; I ask for forgiveness, for strength and wellbeing, and the wellbeing of others, but I do so, not because I believe it will be granted to me, but because it continues to remind me of the trials and tribulations I have to overcome as a human. I understand that nothing in existence is or will ever be perfect. Accepting faults and flaws is more important than we ought to believe.
As for the path, although I am inclined more towards Buddhism, it doesn’t matter much to me who I pray as long as I take in the good bits of whichever God or religion. ‘God is One’ is what I thought as a child, and that’s what I have begun to feel, years later again. I still think to a great extent that God is indeed one- just in different forms and names, as deemed as acceptable for different sects of the society.
Full circle? May be.
I feel like I’m on my way to a better place of late since I restarted. It’s like having the lost friend back again to have your back when in need. It’s rather selfish of me, but it’s as though now I have someone again to bank on, to share, to look up to, to guide me, to keep my confidence in check, as someone for reverence, to hope for and to be grateful for- only this time there are no rules or expectations.
I’ve found a practical approach to my faith in religion.
So, keeping the faith for now…
P.S.: Here’s the first time I ranted on Faith & Religion: Part I. Also, since I understand gratitude more now, I started a Thank You page to give thanks to people who I forget to thank in person. Follow My Thank You Notes and share some of your thank you stories with the world 🙂