Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)
“Faith in the heart is the obscure & often distorted reﬂection of a hidden knowledge. The believer is often more plagued by doubt than the most inveterate sceptic. He persists because there is something subconscient in him which knows. That tolerates both his blind faith & twilit doubts and drives towards the revelation of that which it knows.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 12, p. 458)
Coming from an orthodox and ritualistic family, I had gone through the entire gamut of religious rituals as a child — visiting temples and taking part in sundry religious activities including classes of Bhagavad Gita chanting, shloka classes, bhajans and prabhat pheris in the chilly winter mornings of Nagpur. One had no choice in the matter, but I enjoyed most activities as any child would, even showing off my talent in these classes. My faith in God was so implicit that I was certain that He would protect me from all dangers and solve my problems.
So when even after frantic appeals to God, I found the street dog still chasing me, or when the teacher asked for the homework copy which I had forgotten to bring — I didn’t for a moment question His existence or berate Him for letting me down, but believed that it was only by His grace that the teacher had just scolded and not punished me or that the dog had only chased and not attacked me.
“This is how God in His love teaches the child soul & the weakling, taking them step by step and withholding the vision of His ultimate & yet unattainable mountaintops. And have we not all some weakness? Are we not all in His sight but as little children?” (p. 488)
As I entered teenage I was beset by confusion, doubts and questions. Having gained a half-baked knowledge of everything including religion and God, I discarded all my prayer rituals and adopted a superior stance. I believed that I knew everything about religion. Hadn’t I gone through the drill and found it wanting? Temples with their commercial approach put me off them completely. And, when I heard bigots of other religions extolling their own faith and abusing others, I was put off the idea of religion too. I sported a permanent sneer when matters pertaining to religion were discussed.
“How much hatred & stupidity men succeed in packing up decorously and labelling “Religion”!” (p. 456)
Fortunately I didn’t sneer at God or question His existence, even during the most cynical phase of my life.
“God is inﬁnite Possibility. Therefore Truth is never at rest; therefore, also, Error is justiﬁed of her children.” (p. 432)
At the height of my cynicism, I had had the temerity to even question my father’s devotion. After all I could think of God without any prop, while he needed his murtis and pictures. Didn’t that make me qualified enough to question his faith?
‘Do you actually think of God for three hours that you do puja? I can meditate on God even if I pray for one minute,’ I told him, the superior tone and sarcasm scarcely masked, with scant disregard for his age and wisdom.
“Thou thinkest the ascetic in his cave or on his mountaintop a stone and a do-nothing? What dost thou know? He may be ﬁlling the world with the mighty currents of his will &changing it by the pressure of his soul-state.” (p. 460)
“Because thou wert given at ﬁrst imperfect conceptions about God, now thou ragest and deniest Him. Man, dost thou doubt thy teacher because he gave not thee the whole of knowledge at the beginning? Study rather that imperfect truth & put it in its place, so that thou mayst pass on safely to the wider knowledge that is now opening before thee.” (p. 488)
Anyone who was deeply devoted to ritualistic worship, would have been offended and angry at my impudence. But father’s reaction and reply took me by surprise.
‘You have really attained gyan if you are able to do it and are infinitely greater than most of us who need an image, a murti or a place of worship to be able to meditate on God. As for the elaborate puja, if it keeps me busy for three hours, what is the harm? Otherwise I will drive your mother crazy sitting at home’. The last was said with a smile, as he had retired recently.
I looked up at him quickly to see if he was being sarcastic, but he was not. He meant every word in his infinite wisdom. He must have seen through my bravado but had felt that I had to find my own way and that I would, eventually. Had he scolded or put me down, I would perhaps never have had the courage to stumble along on the path of learning. And yet, he was a very simple man, who didn’t let his knowledge make him unapproachable.
His reply should have humbled me, but I am ashamed to say that it didn’t — drunk as I was with my ‘enlightened’ state! If anything, it only made me cockier.
“One of the greatest comforts of religion is that you can get hold of God sometimes and give him a satisfactory beating. People mock at the folly of savages who beat their gods when their prayers are not answered; but it is the mockers who are the fools and the savages.” (Vol 12, p. 430)
I grew up, got married, had kids, went through the ups and downs of life — all of which greatly toned down my cockiness. I had by then realised the power of prayer. Articles and scientific study reports affirmed the same and these appealed to my ‘scientific’ mind. I prayed to God when I felt overwhelmed, I prayed when I was happy. And I taught the children to pray too. They had the freedom to pray in whichever manner they wanted but they were taught to acknowledge a God. After following all the rituals during festivals and important days half-heartedly for a few years post marriage, I finally told my mother-in-law that I didn’t want to do them because I didn’t believe in them. She, like my father, was understanding but unlike him, was disappointed and upset for a while.
I had also started my descent to earth. I still didn’t go to temples and didn’t do any religious ritual save the lighting of the lamp in the puja, but stopped mocking those who did. It was the beginning of the slow transformation. I soon realised that I was but a miniscule dot in this vast universe and that I knew next to nothing about anything, leave alone religion and God.
“This I have seen that whatever God has withheld from me, He withheld in His love & wisdom. Had I grasped it then, I would have turned some great good into a great poison. Yet sometimes when we insist, He gives us poison to drink that we may learn to turn from it and taste with knowledge His ambrosia & His nectar.” (pp. 488-489)
I believed that I was following the path of karma that Swami Vivekananda advocated as I busied myself with the job of life. Here too, my ego was supreme, as I thought that I was in control while going through the daily routine, working outside and inside the home. It was a while before I slowly began understanding that I was able to do all I did, only with God’s help. With this realization, finally came some humility, I am glad to say.
“The sign of dawning Knowledge is to feel that as yet I know little or nothing, & yet, if I could only know my knowledge, I already possess everything.”
“When Wisdom comes, her ﬁrst lesson is, “There is no such thing as knowledge; there are only aperçus of the Inﬁnite Deity.””(p. 431)
Have you read Part 1?