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Research, Essays, Commentaries – Inspired by the Social-Cultural-Political Thought of Sri Aurobindo (PLUS a bit of photography too!)

Coming Full Circle (by Zephyr Nag) – Part 2

35

Hriday Kamal (The Lotus Heart), painting by Bindu Popli

Continued from PART 1

PART II  

“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)

 

TO BE CONTINUED…

Have you read Part 1?

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About Beloo Mehra

Beloo is the author of two books, one on Indian Education, titled "ABC’s of Indian National Education" and an ebook featuring a selection of her essays, titled "The Thinking Indian." She holds several degrees in Education and Economics, has extensive teaching experience at school and university level in India and the US, and has a keen interest in the educational, social and cultural thought of Sri Aurobindo. She currently lives in Pondicherry, spends her time doing some reading, some writing, some teaching, some gardening and a whole lot of reflecting on life, living, society, politics, religion, art, literature, India, the World, and everything else under the Sun and the Moon.

19 comments on “Coming Full Circle (by Zephyr Nag) – Part 2

  1. Pingback: WHEN A JOURNEY LEADS TO A SACRED SPACE – 2 | The Cybernag

  2. Zephyr
    January 14, 2016

    Thank you Beloo, for clarifying some of the points. There is so much depth and truth in a simple sentence of Sri Aurobindo that it would take more than a lifetime to read and imbibe the wisdom in .his works. The lessons have begun in earnest, thanks to your taking this post up.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 15, 2016

      Thank you!

      I completely agree, we need more than a lifetime to read and soak in the wisdom and truth of Sri Aurobindo’s words. Every time I read the same quote or passage there is something new I discover in it.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. themoonstone
    January 14, 2016

    This is such a rich read Zephyr ! Thanks to Beloo’s deeply spiritual introduction to your piece and the fact that this got published again, that I got to read it. The piece reverberates with me as a lot of what you mentioned, is something I remember having gone through too. Though I come from a deeply “ritualistic” family where I prayed everyday, I have stopped going to temples and praying for a good while now. I went through a very similar cynical phase as you described with my family and relatives who followed very rigid brahminical customs. I failed to understand how religion instead of elevating people out of rigidly set caste systems, could further lower them into the depths of bigotry and hatred.The lines from The Human Cyle differentiates the true religion and religionism so well. And when most people I met got immersed in only the “religionism” aspect of things, it just served to increase my cynicism.
    I dont know if I have come full circle yet, but my quest is still on. While I dont have answers to many questions, I am now more amenable to people who choose to follow a more ritualistic way of doing things. At the end of day, its every person’s own quest and nobody can actually be the best judge of which path to follow but oneself. Through some of life’s difficult times, while I relied on reading books on spirituality and developing detachment , I saw my mother bear with fortitude, when her only arsenal was faith. That gave me a lot to think about.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 15, 2016

      Thank you for this insightful comment, and for sharing your experience and perspective. It is wonderful to see how that this post and the selections from Sri Aurobindo’s writings have helped some readers to share a bit about their own journeys of faith, their seeking and quest.

      Thank you! And welcome to Matriwords.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Vidya Sury
    January 15, 2016

    Beautifully expressed, Zephyr! (Beloo – what a lovely treat! :)) I think you just spoke for most of us – first the implicit faith, then the confusion and then the settling down to what we feel most comfortable with. Hugs! So happy to see you in Beloo’s space! As alway, you enthralled and moved with your writing.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 15, 2016

      Good to see you here, Vidya! Zephyr’s words always come from such deep place. But this post of hers is absolutely a gem! I am so happy to feature it here on Matriwords.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. rationalraj2000R
    January 18, 2016

    Thank you so much for this wonderful post!

    Like

  6. Bikramjit
    January 19, 2016

    MAMIIIIIIIIIII (Zephyr) .. too hi fi for me

    I have come from a family whose house was next door to a Gurudwara and that too one of the historic one’s which ahs a prominant stand in sikh history.. my Great grandparets were very religious .. but then they gave birth to a rebel my Grandfather who came to a city and I never saw him go to a religious place or maybe he did I just dont remember…

    My mother is again very regligious and I can remember her forcing dad to go to gurudwara every now that then , she would make us go toooo .. and now coming to Me.. I am not sure what to say about me I think I am still trying to figure out the spiritualism , or still trying ot figure religion I find so many issues with it but then some statements that were written hundreds of years ago make perfect sense …

    I got my hair cut done and its been about 19 years since then BUt I think sometimes I do get up in the morning and think I will start to tie a turban and grow my hair and be proper sikh.. I DONT KNOW 😦 😦 lets see what future holds ..

    Liked by 2 people

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 19, 2016

      Hello Bikram, thanks for sharing so candidly and sincere about your struggles, about your journey in this path. I think the fact that you are aware of this struggle itself shows you are on the path, so to speak 🙂 It doesn’t really matter what outer practices one follows – like wearing a turban, keeping hair long etc – if they are not done with full sincerity and with faith. We can keep doing things mechanically but once faith and trust enter into those outer practices, rituals etc only then they become meaningful and sacred. I guess in the ultimate analysis we all, each one of us, has to find our own path. Or perhaps when we are ready, internally, when we are open and receptive, the path finds us. Till then, to be in a state of ‘non-surity’ is also fine. Thanks again for your heartfelt comment. Love and best wishes.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Zephyr
      January 20, 2016

      Thank you Bikram, for reading and the comment. I loved Beloo’s reply to your dilemma. No one could have explained it better. Take care!

      Like

  7. Pingback: Coming Full Circle (by Zephyr Nag) – Conclusion | matriwords

  8. Pingback: When a Journey Leads to a Sacred Space – 3 | The Cybernag

  9. raju070
    January 22, 2016

    As I was reading through this, I found myself nodding at several places. I have had a similar phase where I went from believing to questioning and then doubting. I am still at a different place and definitely don’t have the maturity or wisdom that you have about faith. But I also do not question other’s faiths if they don’t match mine. May be age and experiences will take me down another phase of my tryst with faith. 🙂

    But a beautiful and enlightening post as always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 22, 2016

      Thanks for this wonderfully sincere comment! Much appreciated. And I fully agree, Zephyr’s posts are always enlightening.

      Like

  10. Sandhya Kumar
    February 1, 2016

    You are too good, Zephyr! The explanation about transition is beautiful! I too come from a very orthodox family. I had the Madhwa mudra when I was a small child. Though going to temple was not compulsory, we were made to sit in front of the god and sing bhajans in the evenings and we did do it. Later on, after marriage, I used to visit temples during weekends, since I was working..but except reciting Vishnu Sahasranama and lighting diyas, nothing was done. Festivals were celebrated sincerely, children were taught to pray which went off later! Don’t like to go to temples which are too crowded or new. Otherwise, I am a normal Hindu woman…I was never a rebel in any way, I think. Went with the flow all the time! I think I will be like this always!

    Enjoyed reading your writing and Beloo Mehra’s beautiful replies to comments. Nice to know you, Beloo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      February 1, 2016

      Thank you Sandhya for sharing your experience and perspective. Appreciate it very much. Glad you liked the post and the comments.

      Like

  11. shanayatales
    February 12, 2016

    I come from a very religious family too, and while I do consider myself deeply spiritual, and take pride in my religion – mostly because of its inclusiveness, I am not very ritualistic. I have never understood the reason for some rituals, and many seem very discriminatory to me. Maybe someday, I may be able to understand them better, or not. Either way, I do believe in a superpower that watches over us. 🙂

    Like

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