A regular reader of
this blog (they are rather rare to find and Choti Mata is insanely grateful
whenever she can locate one. So, thanks a ton, Vagabond!) asked Choti Mata to
answer this simple question. So, Choti
Mata did. Try to answer the question that is. It is still a try because no
matter how simple the question sounds, it just isn’t and by the time Choti Mata
was done with this post, she thinks she had figured why truth seeking ascetics
tend to end up in the Himalayas. She is still not sure if Himalayas do really
hide those elusive answers in their frozen caves but she definitely relates to
the frustration that might lead to the belief that they actually do.
Do you believe in God?
It is a trick question. Almost…if you take into account the
fact that this question, if not in so many words than in some form, format or
variation is perhaps the single biggest reason behind few of the bitterest and
often the bloodiest discords of our times.
This, however, is not a post about those discords and their
nuances. This post is not about theists and atheists. Or about seculars and
This is personal. And I shall answer it, personally.
Personally, this is perhaps the best time for me to answer
this question. Personally, this is also
the worst time for me to answer this question.
This is not a rambling paradox. And this is not a contradictory
statement made for impact. The timing is indeed complicated. There are real
reasons behind this complication. Perhaps, at some point of time in future, I
will elaborate on those reasons.
This post, however, is not about those reasons. Or about my
abstract philosophical musings. I chose
to touch upon them because timing is relevant.
For a question that follows us along the crests and troughs of our life,
timing is fundamental. Because it is easy to say ‘YES’ when you are at the
crest. And it is awfully easy to go with ‘NO’ when life has thrown us into a trough.
The answer is variable and every version
is as true as the other at least in those given circumstances.
The best time to answer this question is when you are
neither at the crest nor at the trough. When you are on one of those never
ending curves that are so complex that you don’t even know if it is a
definitive rise or an outright fall or somewhere in between. The uncertainty of
that journey is the true test—the point where there are no easy answers. Not to
that question at least.
I am at that curve right now. Which why, this is the best
time to answer this question. Because the answer would be a lot more accurate.
And this is the worst time, because the answer is not easy.
Or maybe it is.
Before I get into the rambling, philo-spiritual discourse
that this question warrants, I will give a straightforward answer to this
Yes. I believe in God. Absolutely, unequivocally…and
I believe in God…or more accurately, I believe in the idea
of a Higher Power or Higher Consciousness. I also believe, as do most spiritual
disciplines in some form or spirit, that while this Higher Power/Consciousness
is universal, its manifestations are a matter of personal faith and hence
variable—not just on the basis of our religious/cultural beliefs but our
experiential realities as well. And hence the multiple identities that are
attributed to it—God, Universe, Life, Destiny or Self.
Each of these manifestations is as true as the other, as
powerful as the other and as divine as the other. It is this fascinating
multiplicity of the Universal that makes this whole idea so enthralling and intriguing and yet, so difficult to comprehend.
But as I said before, this post is personal. And I am going
to focus on the God that I believe in.
God for me is not an idea borne out of religion—although
religion does play a crucial part in how I identify the manifestation of my God
that I can relate to and also dictates, broadly, how my initial relationship
with my God was formed. This is further bolstered by the fact that I belong to
a family that is extremely culturally inclined and where daily prayers and
elaborate rituals are, to date, a sacrosanct tradition.
Traditions are a part of the culture I
belong to. They are a part of my identity. And they add value—not necessarily
the kind of value that conservative fundamentalists tend to insist on—but there
is undeniable value in social, familiar and spiritual currency. The value that continues to justify organized
religions in our societies despite their evident drawbacks.
I enjoy traditions. I am well versed in them. There have been many memorable occasions
where I almost ended up in an altercation with the priest designated to perform
a certain ‘puja’ because he had messed up the order of the said ‘puja’ or done
something that I knew was not what was traditionally done.
Yes, I am that well versed.
I am aware of the rituals and pujas and all sorts of traditional practices. I am also a professed liberal who prides herself in her open mindedness and who doesn't believe in most of those traditions. I participate in a whole bunch of those very traditions because they are fun. I have no affinity for long drawn rituals that make no sense.I don’t subscribe to senseless taboos and illogical superstitions. I don’t perform rituals just because I have been told that performing them will ‘please’ certain Gods or not performing them will ‘anger’ them. But I do perform/participate in the ones that I really and truly enjoy (usually because there is great food at the end of it and/or the whole family gathers for it and ends up having a blast).
Yes, paradox is the theme of my life.
Personally, my culture/tradition repertoire includes several
chants, Rudraksh and quite an
elaborate establishment of Gods that my mother has lovingly created at our
home. Again, I don’t do this because I want them to fulfill a wish. Or because
I am scared. I do this because it helps me make a real spiritual connection
with my God. I do what feels right…and what makes me happy. I do what I think helps me connect with my
God. And that is a conscious, personal choice which can vary drastically from
one individual to the next.
I believe in God. But I don’t believe in heaven or hell. I
don’t believe in the commonly perpetrated image of the God where he is
projected as some sort of a strict guardian with a stick in hand, waiting for
us to make that minor/major slip up so that He can bash our heads at every
available opportunity. I do not believe in the idea of a God who is cruel or
capricious; who hands out harsh punishments and needs to be placated and
pleased with bribes and offerings; who is unpredictable and who needs to put us
through rigorous ‘tests’ to ensure that we are up to some sort of an elusive
That is one scary God. And definitely not the God I believe
If there is a Higher Consciousness…if there is a God, I
think He would be an embodiment of infinite compassion and understanding. Given
the sheer scale and diversity of the Universe that He has created, I believe,
He has to be infinitely liberal and open minded…and empathetic beyond all human
limits. To attribute human follies to our God—human follies like anger, greed,
impatience, narrow mindedness and hatred—is not only problematic but
fundamentally wrong and against the very idea of having a God in our Universe,
no matter what religion, sect, timeline or geographical location is being taken
God is a beautiful idea. My
God is a beautiful idea. He (yes He…irrespective
of my feminist bearings, my God is a He…and for good reasons). He is the reason
why I exist…why I can get up in the morning and fight for my dreams. He is my
biggest support system…my greatest strength…the light of my life…the peace for
He is my soul.
He is my everything.
Believing in God, for me, is like breathing. You take Him
away…I am as good as dead.
Some of the most powerful spiritual traditions of the World
talk about having a relationship with your God—a relationship that is rooted in
pure love and faith. That is the kind of bond that is considered to be truly
spiritual—the real path to peace and happiness.
To think of God as an overbearing, almost scary force
alienates us from His love—prevents us from understanding the spiritual depths
of our souls. A bond borne out of fear, no matter how pure or sacred, is bound
to be fragile and to a large extent unfulfilling. If we seek fulfillment and
joy, we need to stop being afraid of our Gods. We need to start forging a
relationship with them. In my limited
experience, uncomplicated faith and unconditional love are the simplest and
shortest route to our God, no matter who He maybe.
Believing in God is fulfilling and sustaining. Those of us who have been blessed with this
gift of faith are lucky.
The true bliss, however, is for the luckiest of them all—the
ones who are in love with their God. Sufi traditions believe in an all
encompassing version of love that they feel for their beloved, their God—a love
that has no boundaries, definitions or segregation of any sort. A love that is
so complete that it transgresses all limits of human understanding; fills every
void in the human soul and is enough in absolute terms. It sounds a little
impossible but I am more than a hundred percent convinced that it is not. That
love of that kind is exists and is attainable.
That love…that is my kind of aspiration.