I’m innately a sceptic.
Growing up has been a move away from religion. As a child I hoped to reverse this flow, feeling scared or ungrateful. Scared of what? Ungrateful to whom? God, Of course. I feel grateful to my parents for the liberality they allow. We are free not to join in for vacations to religious spots. We are free not to bow down in temples. We are free to pray, not pray. Though my mother does her Puja for a solid hour everyday, and it is a beautiful vision, the sweet incense fragrance, the tinker of bells and my mother’s loveliness inspire my main attachment with it.
Do not understand me as an non-believer. I look for a word between atheist and religious- I suppose the English language lacks one. Western civilisation intricately links the Church with God and lack of faith in the Church as atheism. In the East, there is the widest scope for spirituality minus religion.
Certainly, I lack the zeal which draws millions of ‘believers’ to vast religious gatherings such as i witnessed recently. I was there for the Maha Kumbh this year at the first bath (nahaan) on khichdi, purely for reasons of photography. However, I’ve never known myself to be steadfast to a cause, and nor did I alter my temperament this once.
Staying on the mela ground in a tent of acquaintances of neighbours of relatives, I rushed myself through the task of getting accustomed to a hard bed (aka floor), food with sand grains in it, and an indian loo (the majority of indians abide by this style of s(h)itting). The endless walks I underwent each day, all in failed attempts at photography suitably relieved me of any passion I associate with it in romanticised contemplations.
Standing knee deep in the Ganga Sangam at dawn to capture the approaching akhadas*, I realised that while I removed my shoes out of concern for.. well, my shoes, for the many domicile photographers the concern was to not disrespect the Ganga. On a similar note, a lady in my tent wanted to see my photographs to have a ‘darshan’ of the babas. Etcetera.
Really, you may scorn at my defining the above as religion and not Faith.
For I do believe that a number of people have realised absolute faith by combining religion with a scientific temper. But I have my doubts where religion is passed as a heirloom, generation to generation, unquestioned.
Is it simplicity of heart, which allows for such untainted faith or merely a dullness of mind which rejects all questioning of established norms. In the best form, I believe religion makes people helpful, pure and humble. At it’s worst, it creates a stagnant stupor. And at its brainwashed best? A riot or two, perhaps.
That said, I do believe that unadulterated Hinduism encourages active and questioning minds.** It is as liberal, as a set of standard guidelines (isn’t that what religion eventually is) for the masses can be.
But I shall ever look for the sweetness of the Divine free of religious shambles.
As God is my witness.