matriwords

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) – Conclusion

35

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

Continued from PART 2

PART 3  (Conclusion)

I remember another conversation I had with my father during this phase.

‘Why does God let good people suffer so much? Is it true that those who reject Him are punished?’

‘What has God got to do with your own deeds?’ father asked me. ‘He gave you the power to think and act, didn’t He? You are only reaping what you sowed, your karma of not just this one, but also many other previous lives. And no, He does not punish anyone. It is your own fear and negative thoughts about your transgressions that invite retribution on yourself.’

That sobered me up further, making me realise that each one of us is responsible for our actions and it is in our hands to shape our lives both in this and the next birth. God merely helped us along, never punished.

“When I look back on my past life, I see that if I had not failed & suffered, I would have lost my life’s supreme blessings; yet at the time of the suffering & failure, I was vexed with the sense of calamity. Because we cannot see anything but the one fact under our noses, therefore we indulge in all these snifflings and clamours. Be silent, ye foolish hearts! slay the ego, learn to see & feel vastly & universally.” (Sri Aurobindo, CWSA, Vol. 12, p. 445)

In the following years, first my father and then my mother-in-law passed away. I had become older and hopefully slightly wiser. But I had no one to bounce my questions off. They both had had similar faith but diametrically different ways of reacting to questions on God and religion. One encouraged them and the other exhorted implicit faith and felt that questioning the age-old beliefs was tantamount to blasphemy.

So by trial and error and of course, tribulations, I came to realise many things in the past decade or so:

  • I realized that God doesn’t ask for anything except complete devotion and faith; how you show it is entirely up to you. I modified my prayers, began going to temples as I realised the powerful vibrations in them due to the faith of those who came there, but I avoided the crowded ones as I needed space and peace to commune with my God.

  • I realized that too often the words religion and rituals are used synonymously and interchangeably whereas they are NOT.Rituals were put in place not only to bring discipline to one’s life, but also take one’s mind away from unpleasant things at times and nurture culture and aesthetics at others.

  • But unfortunately they have been distorted beyond recognition and reason. This has only served to alienate the questioning individual from religious rituals and consequently from religion and God.

  • As a corollary of the above, I realized that disliking rituals and so being put off God is like missing the wood for the trees.

  • I realised or rather rediscovered the power of chanting when I am disturbed or in doubt. I have personally found its efficacy on countless occasions. The monotonous cadence and rhythm have the power to calm and ground me when I am distraught.

  • I realised the meaning of secularism – not in the hypocritical political sense, but in the true sense. I find it comforting when the mullah at a mosque runs the peacock feathers over my head and back while chanting or when a priest makes the sign of the cross over me while invoking God’s blessings — just as much as I find it gratifying to receive prasad in a temple. I realised that these are all manifestations of the power of God, meant to soothe the disturbed soul.

  • I realized that the state of women has little to do with religion per se, at least not Hinduism. Centuries of (mis) interpretation of our scriptures has resulted in the degeneration of the society and consequently the status of women. Our ages old religious texts have been literally mauled by vested interest groups over the centuries. It would be a grave mistake to attribute regressive motives to them and thereby turn you off spiritual pursuits.

  • I realised that rejecting something without experiencing it or understanding it is like saying that a dish is sour or bitter by just looking at it. I had done this mistake during my ‘enlightened’ phase — when I rejected religion without understanding anything about it, because of some unsavory experiences taken out of context. Often we are tempted to create the system based on second hand experiences or rhetoric and theoretical knowledge. If we have no patience or willingness to go through the experiences, the conviction and thereby the foundation are bound to be weak, no matter which religion we choose.

  • I realised that Hinduism is the most democratic religion — perhaps the only one — in the world. One can practice, not practice, be ritualistic, be agnostic or even be an atheist and still remain within the dharma without fear of being excommunicated, penalized, punished or persecuted for blasphemy. (In Hinduism, the atheist is considered the biggest bhakt of all because he keeps repeating the name of God and denying His existence!) That is because, it is a dharma and not a dogma. No one can be converted into or out of it. It is like being born to a set of parents. You can’t deny the parentage even if you abandon them.

  • I realised that the so called rules and rituals are set by vested interest groups and people themselves, and so we are entirely at liberty to reject or adapt them to suit us. Which is what I have done over the years. I have not imposed these on my family, as they are individuals capable of creating their own rituals if they choose to.

  • I came to realise how each one of us has to find peace in his or her own way and in their own time too. I have come to the conclusion that the ritualistic path of Bhakti, is as good as the others and less taxing on my brain, which sometimes struggles to understand philosophical truths and abstract theological theories.

  • I realize that I have just gone back to the days when I did those as a young girl. If I have come back to my childhood state of utter faith in God and His powers, I have done so only after a long and eventful journey. I have not studied philosophy or theology or the Vedas, but my convictions are born out of my own experiences.

 

Let me tell you, coming full circle has never been so fulfilling!

“God within is leading us always aright even when we are in the bonds of the ignorance; but then, though the goal is sure, it is attained by circlings & deviations.” (p. 444)

In conclusion, I want to say this: Don’t ever be tempted to reject or condemn something without trying to understand or experience it, to the best of your ability. This has to be a personal discovery as every experience necessarily is, and therefore is bound to be varied. I rediscovered implicit faith; you might discover nirvana. Therefore, the most important thing is to open our minds as we go through the journey, avoiding cluttering up our minds with preconceived notions, and soaking in the experiences along the way, before deciding if we want to accept or reject the findings. Till then let’s hold our peace and let the world be.

“There are two for whom there is hope, the man who has felt God’s touch & been drawn to it and the sceptical seeker & self-convinced atheist; but for the formularists of all the religions & the parrots of free thought, they are dead souls who follow a death that they call living.” (p. 441)

Missed the previous parts?

PART 1                 PART 2 

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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.

24 comments on “Coming Full Circle (by Zephyr Nag) – Conclusion

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

  2. Zephyr
    January 19, 2016

    The last quote is like a soothing balm to the restless mind. I feel happy that I have hope yet 🙂 And did I say, I have come full circle? Well, i can see a small bit sticking out of the circle. Maybe it is going to lead me further in my journey. Perhaps this was a halt during the journey that looked complete, but now looks like it is going to take me into newer and higher places.

    “God within is leading us always aright even when we are in the bonds of the ignorance.”

    That feels so reassuring to hear it reiterated by Sri Aurobindo, even if one has experienced it. Thank you Beloo!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 20, 2016

      I also love that last quote. In fact, I love all his aphorisms. These are like tiny jewels that are so precious, each illuminating the mind and purifying the heart.
      And I agree, this journey is an ongoing one, for all of us. Opening new paths, new detours, new bends. Enriching us with the views as we keep going.
      Thanks Zephyr for adding so much ‘heart’ to matriwords!

      Like

  3. Suhas Mehra
    January 19, 2016

    Thank you Zephyr for this excellent post, I think many people of our generation can relate with what you say here. The list of realisations at the end is great!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Zephyr
      January 19, 2016

      I am happy to know that you could relate to my experiences. Thank you and Beloo for giving me the opportunity to share this space, Suhas.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. upasna1987
    January 19, 2016

    Yes really Chanting has healing powers.
    I experienced it.

    I could only bear the pain in the delivery room with ‘Jap’ aka Chanting.

    Thanks for sharing the wonderful experience.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 20, 2016

      That’s wonderful to hear. Thanks Upasana for sharing your experience with japa. And welcome to matriwords!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. KP
    January 19, 2016

    You have echoed what my thoughts are on the subject.To realise that the soul in me is part of supreme by intellectual process is beyond me.Chanting the name of my favourite God is easier for me though I do it mechanically hoping one day that my mind would be focused and not be restless.I have not experienced the grace of God or directly by a guru.Some traditional rituals i follow blindly according to my convenience because I have no wisdom to argue for or against them.Being a believer in the karma theory,I try to avoid negative traits.
    It is a very nice post that seems to come truthfully out of your heart.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Zephyr
      January 19, 2016

      As Beloo keeps saying, we are all seekers one way or the other. I am plagued by doubts from time to time too as many of us are. Reading the posts in this space gives me answers to many questions. Thanks for reading KP!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 20, 2016

      Thanks KP for sharing your perspective and experience. May I add that as far as I know, which is hardly anything, it isn’t possible to realise that inmost being, the soul, with the intellect. One has to move beyond intellect in order to even have a glimpse of that inmost truth. Which is the biggest struggle for intellectual types. That’s why those who approach the Beloved through a purified heart are perhaps closer to the real truth.

      Thanks again for adding your valuable perspective. And welcome to matriwords!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Soumya Prasad
    January 19, 2016

    Never been the chanting type of person, but your story does sound miraculous!

    Thank you for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 20, 2016

      Thank you Soumya for sharing your perspective. Each one of us has to figure out what works for us. Or perhaps the right path or practice picks us when we are ready!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. meenamenon
    January 19, 2016

    This karma of previous life is something that is not easy to wrap my head aroun! Bu yea ta times when fate seems against maybe that is the only solace?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 20, 2016

      Thanks Meena for adding your perspective. This topic of rebirth and karma and fate is indeed a really complex and deep one. But the challenge is not only an intellectual one, but also whether we can ever be ready to ‘see’ any of these deeper truths.
      Happy to see you here on matriwords!

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Eli
    January 19, 2016

    That was an inspiring read- Yes, we should always try to understand something before giving it up. Living with an open mind and curiosity makes us constant learners, and to me thats one of the greatest things about life:-)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 20, 2016

      Well said, Eli! Thanks for visiting, glad this post spoke to you. Zephyr certainly has a way to reach open minds and hearts, because that’s what she brings to her writings.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. chestnutandacorn
    January 22, 2016

    I really enjoyed this, thank you! xx

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Raj
    January 23, 2016

    And what a fitting conclusion! You have shed light on a plethora of things about religion, faith, biases and myths. You have dissected the various aspects of religion and how it is perceived and practiced in the society and in our own houses and even in our minds. And all along you have imparted some very important and unbiased wisdom and opinion that will help people gain a better understanding of faith which will assist them in their own tryst with it.

    I haven’t come full circle yet, though my journey somewhat mirrors yours. As I said before, age and time will help me get there. But your wisdom has certainly showed me light and help put things in perspective.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Beloo Mehra
    January 23, 2016

    Thank you Raj for sharing your thoughts. I agree completely, Zephyr’s article is indeed a marvelous read giving us so much to contemplate on – in our outer and inner lives. Good to have you here on Matriwords!

    Like

  12. Shantala
    January 26, 2016

    I have mixed feelings regarding rituals. The thing is – I do not fully understand the logic behind most of them,and some are just downright pretentious and discriminatory. But I agree that we need not put something down, merely because we are unable to understand it. But on a similar note – Is it required to follow something that we don’t understand?

    Having said that, I have always been a believer in a supreme power. My feels towards rituals have never ever made me doubt the existence of a God.

    However, I have a non-conventional way of connecting to the supreme power. I prefer to talk/pray at home – in solitude and peace. Though I have nothing against temples, and the times that I do go there, I love the positive vibrations that I feel there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Beloo Mehra
      January 27, 2016

      Shantala, thank you for sharing your honest perspective here. I can see why many people would feel the same way about many of the religious rituals. Leaving aside the few specific ones (very few I would say) that may have any kind of discriminatory practice built into them – and there again we will need to do thorough research as to how and when the seemingly discriminatory practice entered into the custom/ritual – most of the religious rituals serve important purpose in building concentration, one-pointedness of mind/heart (which otherwise are running in all different directions all the time). They are often outer expressions of something deeper – it can be a spiritual/psychological truth, an intellectual truth or even an emotional truth. And yes, sometimes there can be a logical explanation for why certain actions have to be performed in a certain way. But there are two important things here – one, that we should try to find out what the deeper truth is that a ritual is supposed to represent. And two, that if we are doing a certain ritual we do it with full self-awareness and concentration, and not only as a mechanical thing, because that has no value.

      Even if we leave religion aside for a minute, in many other spheres of our lives also we have and develop certain rituals. Why? An interesting question to ponder upon.

      Having said all this, I completely agree that for many people who do not see any value or don’t want to follow any rituals there are many different paths available to get in touch with something higher, something transcendent. And that’s the beauty of our dharmic spiritual and religious traditions – there is no one-size-fits-all or this-way-is-the-only-way dogmatic element. The only requirement is a concentrated sadhana with as much sincerity and self-offering that we can muster. And all that is a progressive thing, I suppose.

      I hope Zephyr too will weigh in here when she finds some time, esp because this is such an important perspective that you bring in here, Shantala. Thanks again for your valuable comment. Much appreciated.

      Liked by 1 person

      • shanayatales
        February 12, 2016

        Beloo, first and foremost. I am sorry, I mixed up my comments. I read this series of yours several times – the 3 parts, and even discussed it with my spouse, and this comment was meant to be on Part 2 (which I felt had gone missing), and now there is another repetitive comment there. Sorry! Nonetheless, this is very relevant here too. Thank you for your response.

        I just need to add here – I agree with what Zephyr said about Hinduism being a very democratic religion – that is the single most important reason why I take so much pride in my religion – it is so inclusive and tolerant at its core (never mind what the media decides to portray!).

        Liked by 1 person

        • Beloo Mehra
          February 14, 2016

          Thanks Shantala for the clarification about the comment. And I agree, this inclusivity and tolerance is part of the essence of Hinduism. But it is sad that often this very thing is used against it by those with sinister and divisive agendas.

          Liked by 1 person

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