This year has been one of introspection. A number of things happened, most of them bad that had me questioning my belief system.
I have always believed in God, in the fact that he/she has a plan for the world. However, when I look at the world around me, I’m not a 100% sure if God is paying attention to his/her job. In the face of so many terrible things happening, how do I reconcile my faith with reality? More importantly, what do I teach my child about God, about religion and spirituality?
When I was a child, I always questioned why we celebrated festivals a certain way, why certain rituals were performed etc. My parents, grandparents or even religious leaders were unable to answer most of my questions satisfactorily. I have always been a happy believer in God and as I grew up I followed all rituals that I was taught to the best of my ability. However, as time went on and more so after the daughter was born these questions started eating at me for I was now responsible for the religious and spiritual instruction of another human being.
How would I answer questions about religious wars being fought, about acts of terrorism being committed in the name of God? How would I explain to someone just learning about the big, bright world around her why people persecute each other in God’s name? If there exists such a God that demands retribution and persecution, why am I praying and in turn asking her to pray to such a deity? Wouldn’t she ask that if I asked her to be kind and polite and nice to all around her, how is the God we pray to allowed to have his/her devotees behave so appallingly?
Sure enough the daughter did ask such questions and for a time when she was very young, I managed to muddle through somehow or distracted her. Not my finest parenting moment, I must admit. This trick however, was not going to work when she grew up.
So for a few years now, I have been thinking about this more and more. All my questions and my thinking has led me to the following conclusions. Some of these have helped answer the daughter’s questions successfully. As for the other questions she has come up with, we are working on finding answers together.
- God exists – this has to be taken on faith. I believe God exists and we have told the daughter she is free to believe or disbelieve. There’s no compulsion on her to think one way or another
- God is not necessarily found in temples/mosques/churches/synagogues – If one finds peace and contentment in a place of worship, then by all means one should visit. In our house the husband, my parents and my in-laws all love temples so they visit regularly. I don’t and I prefer praying at home
- God does not insist on rituals – After a lot of thinking and research I believe rituals are man made. We came up with rules and regulations, prayers and certain ways of doing things because we believe they are path to find God. Lately, this has been bothering me tremendously. I don’t understand most of the prayers or mantras or shlokas, I’m not a 100% sure if what I’m saying is in praise of God at all, since I don’t understand the language of the prayer. So I have eschewed rituals. Again, if one finds comfort in the rituals, one should practice like in our house, the husband does.
- There are a variety of ways to find God and there’s no guarantee that one way is better than the other – each religion offers a different path to God. One should be free to choose the path that works best for them. Similarly, if none of the religious paths appeal one can find God through service. If service doesn’t float your boat then all one needs to do is be kind and good to all. Any of these paths could lead to God or none of them may. Feel free to experiment with religions, with spiritual paths. They’re there to be explored and to be experimented with.
- No God has ever advocated violence – Ones who commit violence in his/her name are interpreting their religion and its scriptures to their benefit.
It is only this year that I have felt fully comfortable in the above answers that I have shared. Life long conditioning in religious systems and rituals made it difficult to give up everything at once, but this year we celebrated one of our favorite God’s birthdays a little differently. For Ganesh Chaturthi this year, we did not do the puja that I grew up with in my house. I did not turn on a CD and repeat mantras that I did not understand. Instead, the daughter and I fashioned Ganpathis out of clay and painted them. We made vadas and kheer and offered fruits and flowers and we sang one Ganesh aarti that we all love. It was short, sweet and a labor of love and it gave me the kind of satisfaction that I haven’t felt in the longest time. From here on, this is how all festivals will be celebrated in our household including Eid and Christmas. Like I tell the daughter, it’s best to pray to all Gods of all faiths. You never know which one of them may be listening. 🙂
I’m hoping my quest for answers will help answer some of your questions.
P.S Needless to say, this is my personal opinion. If you think and/or feel differently, I welcome an open discussion. Please bear in mind though, trolling will not be tolerated.