I am no expert on the matters of god and religion. My relationship with god is a bit awkward. Sometimes I don’t know if either of us believes in each other all that much. At other times I think He has more faith in me than I do in Him. Earnest deals have been struck where He has kept his end of the bargain and I haven’t. Others where He has been a no show thereby ignoring promises I have religiously fulfilled. Over time we have grown into the habit of giving each other a respectful amount of space. I don’t get into his business and if I am His business, he keeps it very quiet. Understandably.
Does God exist at all? My dad once told me that as human beings, we are always on a quest, ever restless, looking for reasons and answers and anguishing over solutions. But there are times when it is necessary to have faith in something larger than ourselves. A bit of help in recognizing that some things are simply not in our control. That’s where God comes in, a superior being with a ton of patience, unconditional love, and a plan. This plan may or may not make sense to us at the time but by allowing ourselves to accept that, we give ourselves permission to set down a load too heavy and to just be. Secretly, I thought god sounded a lot like my dad. I found that comforting.
I am a restless human being too, though I have the attention span of a goldfish and don’t anguish over anything for too long. But as a child, I went through a phase of wanting to know for sure. I looked for signs and secret indications of the existence of God. The adults seemed completely convinced so obviously God had to be real. Devotional songs, the fragrance of incense and sandalwood, the routine of lighting the lamp at dawn and dusk, the quiet chants of prayers, all of this was very much a part of my world. I prayed sincerely and it felt good, it felt safe. It was familiar. God was everywhere. Pure as the thoughts in my head and invisible as the breaths I drew.
That certainty didn’t last very long. Ironically, temples cured me of that. In fact, the bigger and more popular the temples, less likely I would feel the presence of God. However, the presence of perverts who targeted women and children alike in crowded places, were plenty at these big important temples. Lost in prayers and praises of a divine being that I couldn’t quite see, the grownups in my life were quite blind to many things right in front of them and around them. Under such circumstances, it was difficult to focus on God. Instead, I focused on people and as a result, temples taught me more about people than about God.
Many seemed to regard temple visits as their quota of good deed done. A personal tally with the almighty. A required amount of visits and prayers performed thereby earning a good pat and the right to be off leash to roam around and defecate on society. Some people had an aura of intense sadness that made me want to pray too. With them and for them. I prayed for the existence of a divine force who was listening. There were some who seemed to believe god belonged to them and them alone, yet others who were there because of their unquestioned faith, an undisturbed direct connection to the lord. There was peace around them. Or within them. I could never tell the difference.
Among them me. A bit of an intruder in any place of worship, my curious head crammed full of unasked questions. The grownups said that in the eyes of God, all human beings were equal. Clearly, human beings didn’t agree. I saw subtle prejudices all around, based on any and all differences, caste and religion and color of skin. Faith is a personal matter and I should respect that, I was told. If only everyone practiced what they preached. A man who prays is a good person, was the understanding. But I had met too many pious men for that myth to hold good. God surely casts his gaze on all of us, his creatures great and small, and sees one grand potential for goodness. But grownups insisted on seeing many gods and losing much of the goodness in the process of establishing that.
Of course, I am now a grownup too. Educated and experienced in the ways of the world, I no longer have the wisdom of a child. I don’t have many questions and have learnt to accept, to compromise, to work out answers for myself. I understand much better now, the complexities of humankind. We thrive on problems, competitions and resolutions. There is no longer a need to fight for the common cause of basic survival so we look to our rifts, our differences, our many gods to first divide us so that we can then fight to stay united. We fall for the problems our politicians pretend they didn’t help create. Good and bad feed off each other just like progress and politicians. Necessary evils on the road to change without which society would be stagnant.
As for God- I still wonder. This firm belief in a universal force larger and stronger and kinder and wiser has been our compass since the beginning of time itself. It has dictated every spiritual, social, political and moral aspect of our lives. The perception of God, altered along the way in accordance with the need of the time, has guided us as we bumbled along on the edge of chaos. Today, mankind prides itself in having come a long way from the age of ignorance. Yet in this age of logic, information and technology, we embrace the same notions and accept the same definitions of god. All the rituals and practices intact.
Personally, I think there is a little bit of god in each of us, waiting to be discovered in the truest version of ourselves. And what we find within ourselves opens our eyes to what there is in people around. Usually the universe is quite fair and throws back at you what you throw at it. Sometimes it has a warped sense of humor and throws at us a few tragedies and the occasional Trump. But after letting us dangle for a bit it also gives unexpected joys and people who believe that right matters. A check and balance for everything. The demons of childhood has made me wary. I don’t trust easily, either man or god. But life has been kind and my problems, people sized. The evil I have encountered also helps me recognize ‘godliness’ everywhere. I walk among people who quietly go about doing good and feel blessed.
But we continue looking towards the skies, seeking blessings from an almighty who exists because we believe he does. Where does this certainty come from? What inspires it? Is it in the whisper of a divine voice from above that I don’t quite hear, a presence that can only be sensed? Do we believe in magic and miracles because without it life would be without hope? Is it all an illusion created by artists of destiny, those exceptional story tellers who came before us? Is it really the object of our beliefs that keep us going? Or the belief itself?