In a very traditional scenario, when a child is born into a Hindu family, she grows up with the fascinating mythological stories of numerous Hindu Gods and Goddesses. She is taught to idolize one or few of the Gods and believe in their supernatural mystical powers. One cannot simply decide to follow the faith of Hinduism. You are either born a Hindu or not. This impermeable wall is a matter of pride for the lot of this faith. Perhaps, it makes you feel like the chosen one. An exclusive club if you will.
Before I go any further, you should know that I’m not putting Hinduism on a pedestal of a different level. Being born a Hindu, I happen to know more about Hinduism as opposed to other religions. Hence, I take the liberty to find faults in it. Not Hinduism, but the idea and purpose of religion.
I am a Hindu. I don’t practice Hinduism but because I was born to two Hindu parents, I am a Hindu. Till the time my thoughts were thought out for me, you could say I did practice it. I knew chants better than my mother did. I’d sit by my grandmother annoying her to tell me stories from the Mahabharata. Sometimes when she’d make a slip in her stories, I’d stop her and correct her. I was an eager participant during pujas. I was obliging, abiding and unquestioning. I was God loving. I was God fearing. I was not thinking.
Then one day, maybe when I was five or six years old when my mother let me decide what I would like to wear for somebody’s birthday or a wedding. I can’t remember too clearly. It was my mother’s way of making me think for myself. That day, I made my first decision of my life! A tiny inconsequential decision, but a decision nonetheless. It made me feel like a grown up and I clung on to the opportunity to decide. Today, I have pictures from that day to embarrass the living day lights out of me, but on that given day, I was convinced that it was a right decision. Why I share this irrelevant episode of my life with you is because more than often, we do not appreciate the liberty of decision making but it is one of the few things worth valuing in life. The only thing that makes you your own person, is your decisions. Good and bad, right and wrong, consequential and inconsequential.
As I learnt to think and decide for myself, I learnt to understand and analyze ideas, notions, philosophies, theories regarding the things around my world. I learnt to agree to disagree and not just obey.
My beliefs of Hinduism changed grossly because I was “permitted” to think for me. I learnt to adopt things that made sense to me and in due process, learnt to adapt to ideas that made no sense at all, because I loved my sanity too much to set out on a voyage to change the mindset of the world that didn’t sit well with me.
I am an only child with very few hobbies. Implying, I have a lot of time with my thoughts. Because it has been a while since I was a deranged teenager, my thoughts began to revolve around more grown up things unlike worrying about a paper or two that I might be failing in class or some boy or some friend who wasn’t talking to me at school or other things I consider today, to be frivolous. My lack of too many hobbies, and my time with my thoughts, changed my notion of a lot of things that I initially believed in just because they were introduced to me by people I loved and admired.
So how did this God loving, God fearing girl come to dramatically change her views on her faith that she held so close to her heart? Well, it was nothing theatrical. She was only fortunate enough to have parents who respected her opinions and her debates. Not necessarily agreeing to them all but nonetheless open to her thoughts.
Again, before I say anymore, you must know that I am not an atheist. I am indifferent. Big difference! I think it is foolish to believe in anything that might be omnipotent and omnipresent. It constricts you. It is not the philosophy of Hinduism or any other religion that I have issues with. As philosophies, they are all humane and beautiful. They are nothing but pleas to be a good human. However, religion in my opinion is only and only for the purpose of governance. If you can make the world believe that some being that you cannot see or touch or hear or smell has the power to reward or punish you, it is easier to have order and peace in the world we live in. If you aren’t reprimanded for your sins in your lifetime, worry not! That will be taken care of after your life is over. A round of applause for this brilliant concoction please! Only if we humans weren’t such strange beings and only if our actions didn’t carry shades of grey.
A good deed done out of fear, screams reluctance as does a bad deed done out of fear. A righteous person in action need not necessarily be a righteous person in thought. Everything we do or want to do, is situational and conditional. Nobody needs religion to do right or be right. Sure, the belief in something/someone omnipotent and omnipresent has the ability to keep us hopeful for a while longer when we sometimes find ourselves hit rock bottom for whatever reason. And hope gives our soul strength. That is the only positive I see. It is otherwise, just another reason to hate, to kill, to exploit and sadly to limit.
We are all fools and sinners in the name of religion. What is more powerful than any god, is the power we all possess to soothe and to love and to care for, and to help a stranger or an animal or even a plant for that matter. Nothing is as powerful as our ability to be human. Love. And then love some more.