Monday, 4 February 2013

The Journey To Omnism

I have always found it difficult to define my religious identity. I am born in a devout Hindu family that follows a number of rituals and religious traditions. Even as a child I remember having issues folding my hands in prayer before a deity. I failed to understand how the picture of God was any different from the posters of Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and why bowing my head before idols of Gods and Goddesses was the solution to all my problems!

I studied in a Christian school where I was introduced to the teachings of the Holy Bible. I think my parents were rather aghast when as a child I stated that my favourite festival was Christmas. Christmas was a wonderful time of the year in Kolkata! As children, my brother and I believed in Santa Claus and our parents played along by giving us gifts! Decorating the tree was fun. To top it all, there was no pooja at home on that day of the festival for us to wake up early! My parents were at home and we could go out wherever we wanted to celebrate. In contrast, I hated Holi because I was scared and disgusted by the way people rowdily played with colours. Diwali was fun as long as we were bursting crackers but eating vegetarian food and sitting through pooja was again not something I enjoyed.

I had Muslim friends and I looked forward to Eid because the next day I would be treated to delicious biryani!

Of course as I grew up, I realized that idol-worship and rituals is merely an attempt to bring metaphysical concepts into the physical world through symbols. I read up extensively on religion. I found myself in agreement with Karl Marx that “Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."

I became an Agnostic and for some reason I did not like being stuck in a stance where I was neither denying nor accepting the existence of a Higher Being. Science was able to give me a lot of rational explanations but the evidence was not enough for me to declare myself strongly as an Atheist. The quest made me realize that science is merely an acceptance of what is. It is never a negation of what is not.

Buddhism and its doctrines fascinated me immensely. I think it was Buddhism that made me realize that religion is nothing but just a way of life. Despite knowing the impracticality behind some obsolete belief-systems, I have never been able to force myself to eat beef. I do not believe that eating beef is a sin but such strong has been the conditioning that it is something I have just not been able to try!

There was a period of time when I was a weak atheist. However, that phase did not last long. Every time I was in a fix, I found myself talking to myself mentally, “Please! Please get me out of this!” and each time a problem got solved, I felt the insides of my stomach jumping up and down with gratitude! Reflecting on these episodes made me feel as if I am the Goddess! Whenever we sit down to pray, isn’t it true that we are actually talking to our own self? This self can be given many names. It may be our ‘inner voice’, our ‘soul’ or ‘Higher Self’, or popularly known as ‘God’.
This reflection made me look at God as just a symbol that unifies some metaphysical concept with the physical world. I have observed that it is easier for people to access the intangible through tangible reality.

Even though I hate religious customs and traditions, I always find festivals to be fun and look forward to celebrating them. It is an excuse for the entire family to come together. Celebrating festivals from different religions increases community feelings because it helps one bond with friends and people from different backgrounds.

At one point of time, my Gtalk status would read, “I realized I am God when I sat down to pray and I realized that I am only talking to myself.” Through my course on hypnotherapy, I realized that the status I had put up merely as a quip actually had a lot more meaning attached to it. Even the Hindu religion talks of Brahma or the Creator. We are all Gods, Goddesses and Divine Beings in the sense that we are all creators of our own universe. The same world we inhabit stores different experiences for different individuals. Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva as Gods are nothing but symbols of creation, preservation and destruction. As individuals, we all create our world, preserve those parts we like and destroy the things we do not like. Myths and religious practices are mere metaphors to help us live our life and the fascinating aspect of Hinduism is that it actually follows Newton’s third law of motion – whether one reads the Ramayana or the Mahabharata, one always finds that for each and every action, right or wrong, there is always a consequence.

My mother is extremely religious and likes visiting temples and engaging in regular prayers. Initially, I had a lot of issues with that because I found it to be highly impractical! Today, I do not say anything. I have no issues if people worship one God, many Gods, a piece of rock or a Barbie doll! I seriously feel it is their spiritual journey and they will discover what they need to and move on, if they feel the need to do so, at their own pace. Recently I saw the movie "OMG! Oh My God!". I really liked Akshay Kumar's dialogue in the movie when he tells Paresh Rawal never to attempt uprooting people's faith - if they lose one faith, they automatically start seeking solace by believing in another.

Today, I would call myself an Omnist. I believe in all religions, including Atheism and science. I feel that as human beings, we have an unquenchable thirst for finding answers to innumerable questions. These answers can be found in several religions and I have no issues turning to any religion to find answers to end my soul-quest. Lastly, this post has not been written to hurt anyone’s religious sentiments. It is merely an expression of my own spiritual or religious journey.

32 comments:

  1. Whoa! A lot of thought summarised in one post. You should do a Part II on this.

    For me, festivals are synonymous with coming together. After all, aren't celebrations meant to be celebrated with people?

    My belief in God has been impacted by my family as well as my peer groups. I started out as someone who believed in God as the rest of my family did. Later, for reasons I can't quite pinpoint, I became agnostic - I simply thought reasons such as not eating meat at a particular time / day, were ridiculous.

    Over the past two years or so, I have questioned the existence of God. The saying that, 'God helps only those who help themselves' is so true. The only way one can fulfill one's goals is by placing responsibility only on oneself. That way, regardless of the outcome, I have only myself to blame. It actually motivates me much more than when I was telling myself, "Bhagwan sab kuch thik kar dega!"

    Love,
    Sanika

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    1. "God helps those who help themselves." If you help yourself, everything will work in your favour because you are already putting in effort to reach your goal! It is good to not be Fatalistic and leave everything on fate or God...In my family as well, we do not eat meat on Thursdays - of course, when some things don't make sense, we give it up. I stopped following Navratri once I moved out of Bangalore because it did not seem feasible...Some people who are pure vegetarians do eat eggs once they go abroad because they do not have an option!!

      I know it seems to be an overload of banter..Not sure if I will do a Part II on this :P Let's see!

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  2. I feel religion should be used to unite people, not to separate them. Each religion has purity and goodness in it, helping us find our answers !!!

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  3. Like Sanika said... a lot has been surmised.

    I believe I can be called partial religious( if there can be such a phrase). I love rituals... well... some at least. As a child when I got curious as to why my mother was following one ritual and omitting another(that I saw someone else follow)... she would explain to me the significance of some of the gestures. Those explanations fascinated me and enticed me to those particular rituals.

    But there were others... that I abhorred... like making a "mannat". Promising god a dozen coconut in exchange for passing an exam/a promotion?? Eeew! I felt that kind of cheapened ones whole relationship with god(no matter who you consider god... me, soul, almighty, or the rock in the temple). At some point early in life... I realized.. I wanted god and me to have a mutually respectful relationship. So I get what I deserve(worked for) and I don't bribe or complain to him. In return... there have been occasions where I get think just by chance. Those are occasions I feel blessed.

    About eating meat. I was a vegetarian by birth. But as I grew up... I realized... I had a natural aversion to eating meat. It could be that I have been pre-conditioned to feel so. What ever the case... I stuck to being a vegetarian for more reasons than mere religiousness.

    PS: I loved this post. Your thoughts and the evolution of them felt like a projection of my beliefs in your dimension.. your world. :)
    Having said that.. I pray. I constantly talk to him, ask him questions... and many a times.. arrive at the answers( how.. does not matter).

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    1. "Partial religious" - I like that term :) I liked rituals but not all of them :D The explanations always fascinated me but as I delved deeper into science, I felt they were rather obsolete and had no relevance anymore...

      Hindus have a funny relationship with God :D Perhaps bribery and corruption are so ingrained in our society because we do not spare even God - even He is not beyond this!

      Thank you for loving this one :) :) I am glad that you were able to get a sneak peek into my world!

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  4. We all have only one destination. But take a different mode. Like some one takes a train, some go by bus, and then some one else go by car. Same is the religion. To reach the same destination, some follow Hinduism, some follow Islam, and some follow Christianity. Some even follow Atheism. History shows even "Nindha Sthuthi" is also acceptable.

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    1. Who decides what is acceptable and what is not? To each, his or her own...

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  5. Wonderful summarisation of your falling into peace.... :-)
    Much love and blessings, honey!

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  6. Wonderful post! You have so beautifully described your spiritual journey so far.
    I think prayers and religious practices are all meant for creating positive vibrations. The atmosphere of a temple gives peace of mind because of this.Rituals usually have a meaning and if followed in spirit, it creates and emanates positive vibes. One also has to validate the practices followed to see if they still hold good in this day and age. Sadly, people blindly follow rituals without understanding the meaning behind and make it a total waste of time and energy.
    I simply loved the way you have solved your inner turmoil and the realizations that have dawned thereafter. I felt so enlightened after reading this.
    You should consider publishing your writing Divya. Have you read the magazine called infinithoughts? You can contribute your writing to that journal.

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    1. Thanks a ton for appreciating my writing :) I have not heard of this magazine - do share details on how to contribute...

      I never used to be at peace in a temple - I found it to be rather crowded and, excuse me for saying this, dirty - the pandits were only interested in collecting dakshina or donations - a glimpse of the idol didn't last more than 2 minutes while standing in queue could go on for hours....For such aspects, I found churches to be more peaceful :) But then I guess, to each his/her own...

      Cheers to your enlightenment as well :)

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    2. Now that you asked me, I did a task that I was putting away for quite a while .. I found out how to contribute articles :)
      You can email your writing to them at online@infinithoughts.com
      Also, I suggest you buy this month's issue to get a feel of the kind of articles that appear in the magazine.
      Happy writing!

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  7. Superb post Divya! Love the way you have described your journey and the way you have resolved so many questions in various beliefs. I love the sentence on science - The quest made me realize that science is merely an acceptance of what is. It is never a negation of what is not. I am happy you've found what works for you!!

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  8. Wonderful post Divya. I think we all find out what being religious means to us as we grow older and start questioning some of the beliefs and rituals that seem to make no sense to us. Religion is a way of life and in that sense all of us humans are religious. As to whether God exists and the related questions, God for one may be an idol or a book or science or a higher power or a person, something that you subconsciously reach out to whenever you feel you are in a dilemma and believe that whatever it is you are reaching out to will help you in your quest.

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    1. Thanks Rashmi :) I like the way you define God - "something that you subconsciously reach out to whenever you feel you are in a dilemma and believe that whatever it is that you are reaching out to will help you in your quest" - It's all about faith :) Isn't it?

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  9. A lovely post Divya! Anything that gives us strength to move on in life and handle adversities is a power which can be called by any name!! The personal beliefs are more important than blind faith!!

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  10. Great post Divya.. I too believe in all religions, including Atheism and science!! There's more than meets the eye...
    BTW loved the background of your blog....starry night....positivity and beauty and mysticism!!

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  11. I love this post of urs seriously...i do not beleive in god. i hate going to temples to offer prayer to a statue made of stone ; and the most ridicolous thing is that we need to stand in a line for so many hours. its a torture. tanvi prayes to Doremon!! lol!! but its true!! As u knw i am born in hindu family but u knw even if i say the name of beef in our house i get a scolding. i dont knw why?? And i remember u not playing holi ; but holi is fun u should try playing it someday!! i am sure u will like it!!

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  12. Like I said, it is everyone's religious journey...We can start off anywhere - some may turn to Doremon, some can choose to be non-believers - it is not up to us to laugh or make fun of people whose beliefs are not the same as our's....They will explore all options available and choose what is best for them :)

    I don't enjoy Holi :) Don't intend on playing colours any time soon - but they say "never say never" - let's see what lies ahead in future...

    I know standing in queue can be boring and torturous but for some people, it is worth it! Imagine waiting in line for 5-6 hours just to get a copy of your favorite Harry Potter book that is releasing on that day - the feeling is like that for some devotees :) I respect that!

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    1. Ya...u are right..absolutely there no dougt in that. I dont make fun of them but neither I am following it.

      I tell u...Holi is a nice festival. yes we should 'never say never' but let me tell u if u are visiting Kolkata in Holi which u usually do not...but if u do this time then we should try some. at lest not with water colours but with the dry ones.but i wont force u in anything!!

      yes.I have seen that. people when comming out of the temples after their prayers and every rituals ar over and they come out of it. they do not have the angriness that they needed to wait for 3hrs for just worshiping the god which took not more than 10mins. Instead they enjoy and they happly go away by saying "bhout achhe se darshan hua". so yes you are right some people are worth it.
      But when it comes to Harry Potter; i think i would have done the same. showing off my copy of the book in school. As far as i knw u also stood in line for ur copy of Oder of the Pheonix..din't u??

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    2. No plans of visiting Kolkata anytime during Holi and no interest in playing with colours :P You can never force me so don't even attempt :P

      Yes - they see the idol for less than 2 minutes and state "bahut ache se darshan hua" - and their face is so soothing and peaceful :) :) You and I probably don't understand what they mean because it isn't something we relate with...But for them it is worth it!

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  13. Hi!! sorry for d late reply;
    Opps!! u are not visiting kolkata during holi. and i wont force u into anything. and tell me when are u visiting kolkata next?? I have got a ample of questions to ask!!

    yes u are correct again it something we could never understand.

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    1. You shall find out when I come - I have full faith in your spying abilities...You can mail me the questions you want answers to :P

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  14. ya of couse i will do and u knw are even right that u have faith on my spying abilities...so shall i start spying for some one or shall i be espionage?? Lol!! But this i have seriously got to ask something and i am mailing u inn.:D)

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    1. Got your mail and replied! Let's continue our discussion there instead of spamming here :P

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  15. Check out I Omnist on amazon.com. I am currently working on a book version and it is nearly complete. Good introspective post btw. Very hard to look deep within and be able to share so kindly

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