Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Faith

No I am not getting all serious or going bananas yet. To those of you who don’t know me, I have a bit of a restless disposition and have always been that way. This does not always manifest itself physically in an obvious way but in my head I have what I sometimes call a cacophony of thoughts going on. I do manage to focus on the things in life that I need to get done in order to lead a productive, fulfilling life. But sometimes you know I gotta let it fly.

This is not at all new, just that I have not always chosen to talk about it. What changed? I won’t go in to all of that. But maybe as a friend said, putting these thoughts down might in a way help get all my ducks lined up in a row. Except that my ducks (a metaphor for my thoughts and whatever that goes on in my head) don’t quite line up in a neat line.

No.. I do not hear voices in my head (keep that straight jacket away will ya?) in case you are wondering. I am currently reading an excellent memoir “Iran Awakening” about the Iranian Nobel prize winner Shirin Ebadi. The principal character has a moment of spiritual epiphany and I wondered why I never experienced something as remarkable or something more prosaic (as befits me). Well if god is speaking to all of us why did he pass me by? It’s not like I wasn’t saying to the god or goddess “I am here..please oh please show me the way “

Clearly I am not among those exalted souls he/she stopped by to save or something…
My parents (bless them both), did a splendid job of trying to make sure I knew all about god and our religion (Hindu by birth.. and not quite sure what I am by choice ..agnostic, atheist, Zen types depending upon where I am at), and concepts of right and wrong.

As a child I remember going to temples. The most exciting part of it was running around on the cool tiled floors and trying to jump up and ring those bells. We don’t wear footwear in temples, but I have no idea why I remember the cool floors. I also don’t recall feeling much, perhaps that is the case with most ppl, but this feeling pretty much continued well in to my teens and adulthood. I did visit temples, churches, Gurudawaras and dargahs which are Sufi shrines built that revere religious figures.

Yes Virginia, Islam has a mystical component! As a religion it is much more layered and nuanced than what some of the idiots in our media give it credit for.

Sorry to digress.. but, I have never felt anything inside and that coupled with my background in the sciences, inherent nature to question things, my skepticism and the desire to not fall under the influence of organized religion contribute in no small measure about how I feel.

Honestly, I can’t answer if I truly have faith in some sort of a god or goddess that sort of has strings they pull that in an incredibly complex cosmic machine. And if we dance to that tune, does that mean we never make any choices and everything in our life is preordained? There are days I suspend this thought and perhaps that is in deference to the benevolent souls that are my parents. I am truly incapable of this on a day in and a day out basis.

The randomness with which events occur around the world and the cruelty with which loved ones get taken away well before their time just deepen my skepticism about their being a higher power. Explain to me what god lets children be raped and abused by some men who claim to speak in his name?

Why are the people of faith quick to blame skeptics and atheists of being the most horrendous ppl to roam the earth, corrupting this place with their temerity to question faith and god? Whilst they wage war in god's name ?

Perhaps there is truth in deism which wikipedia defines as “The belief, based solely on reason, in a God who created the universe and then abandoned it, assuming no control over life, exerting no influence on natural phenomena, and giving no supernatural revelation.. ”

Maybe he saw us pillaging the only home we have and left us to our own devices, which given the way we are at, seems slip sliding on its way to some kind of a dark future with no beginning or end.

But hey we still can shop and watch American Idol or the American Idiot (you know who) eh?

No I am not depressed that’s just me. I will always be this way I guess, it is not like I am not at peace, or don’t have calm. I don’t think the Deepak Chopra brand new agey crap (old eastern spirituality in a new wine bottle) would ever be for me. Sweet oblivion comes to me in the form of sleep.

Don’t get me wrong, I truly respect whatever god you believe in or don’t, but I wonder if any of you ask those questions of yourselves. If you do then what about the fact that you have to take some things purely on faith based on the words in a book or those of a holy man, and little else with no empirical evidence whatsoever? How do you ask your children or yourselves to believe in something that you cannot prove the existence of? Just pure faith?

You don’t have to agree with me you know, toss a few barbs my way, call me a heretic if you like, flame me, tell me I have a special place in perdition, but I would love to know what you all think. Or laugh at me as I know at least one blogger did, cos I was pompously voicing my political opinions. Whatever dude!

And how do I ever resolve any of this.. I don’t, I come up with balderdash like this from the delirious recesses of my mind. Perhaps there is no answer and I will just go about things forever wondering.

Or as someone said to me.. go forth in your life not hurting anyone and giving yourself to those you love and for things that you care for, and don't expect anything in return.
Is that in some religious book?
I try to live by that simple principle whatever you want to call it, and I know you folks probably do too.
Later..


32 comments:

~River~ said...

Well-said!

ishita said...

hi...long time since i got here or anywhere for that matter (in blogs!)...and what a post to get back to! I agree wid a lot of things u've mentioned. Reading this reminded me of similar conversations with my father ( he had the same thoughts as u)...but I must add that in time as he's aging, my dad seems to have acquired a new found faith in God/religion. Sometimes I wonder whether its the insecurity of growing old or maybe he has reasons of his own (that I am not aware of). I guess when he comes to stay with me next month...I'll satisfy my curiousity and know why.

catching up wid ur previous posts once i put in this comment!:)

deepsat said...

now those are some good words!!

great post sanjay!!!

;-))

listmaker said...

You and I are on the same page, Sanjay.

Cacophoenix said...

I have brought up in deeply religious settings too. I am nto real religious now though. Yes I pray, go to temples and stuff but have alwasy wondered about the things that you mention. I think it is faith to a large extent. Human beings in some way realise that they have shortcomings and can only do so much. they don't come out with these shortcomings, but hope with every fibre in their body that there is something bigger than them that would compensate for these shortcomings. I do not know the answer to the questions you pose,b ut in my little world I go about assuming that for everything good that I do, there will be a bowl of icecream waiting for me somewhere.

Maggie said...

You know Sanjay, this was a great post - very thought provoking. I waiver back and forth between atheism and agnosticism. I was raised in a rather cultish, fundamentalist religion which I left in my early twenties. Too many unanswered questions. But I couldn't reconcile myself to believing in something that I have no proof of and that the world seems to definitively disprove.

Sanjay said...

Hey River.. Thanks and thanks also for stopping by. I sound confused I know.:-)

@Ishita. hi.. Yes it has indeed been a while. Interesting to hear about your conversations with your dad. My dad always seemed religious but we did nto have any conversations, heck we hardly even talked. Very diff personalities. We took a long time making our peace with each other.
It is possible that people turn to a higher power when confronted with their mortality. Maybe I might be blogging and talk about it in say 30 yrs of Imake it that far. ;)

@Deepsat.. Thank man!

@Listmaker, I am glad for the company.. I tell ya. :)

@Cacophoenix. Thank you for your thoughts. I hardly go to a temple any more. I loved how you put it all together, my problem is my background in the sciences makes it very hard to accept anything purely on faith.
Iloved this though b ut in my little world I go about assuming that for everything good that I do, there will be a bowl of icecream waiting for me somewhere.

I am never one to turn down a bowl of ice cream.

@Maggie. More power to you for able to leave that behind. I think that takes a lot of courage to do unlike me who never was anywhere. I am glad I have company. :)

Diana said...

I agree as well with what you've written. I will always question what is put out there as 'the truth', especially if what is claimed as truth is to be taken as a matter of faith. I am not made to blindly follow.

Your last paragraph said it all for me. I guess for me, it doesn't really matter if there is a divine being (and I actually do believe in something like that, I just have a very deep seated suspicion of much that is organized religion) or not. One should live one's life to the best of one's ability because it's the right thing to do, whether or not there's some reward at the end.

Sai said...

Well said Sanjay!

I grew up in a spiritual environment. My parents were not terribly religious. Yet my mother had to teach her three daughters enough about Hinduism. My upbringing was extremely secular.

Today as an adult I follow the philosophical aspects of Hinduism and can confidently say that I am not religious either!

LOL to that comment about Virginia! People are so ignorant about islam and the sufism....it is not even funny. What is amazing is that they are arrogant and confident in their ignorance.

I better end this long rant right now! Enjoyed reading your post.

beenzzz said...

Great post. Good question about spiritual people blaming skeptics and aethiests. I guess when you become VERY spiritual, there is a bit of arrogance that goes alone with it. Some self-righteousness too. I firmly believe in having a good relationship with God or with whatever you believe in. This however, does not make you better than everyone else.

lalitha said...

I have had these thoughts for a long time and have tried to understand the concept of God but to no avail.I just cannot understand that God is up there looking at all the chaos in this world and not doing anything about it.Thousands of innocent people killed in the name of war, what does he/she think about it.Like you said all those hungry and abused children what sin did they commit.There is a turmoil within me.I have so many unanswered questions and I just cannot believe in something just by faith alone.I know millions of people do without ever questioning God. I was brought up in a religious family also but as I grow older I feel that I have more questions and cannot accept anything with Blind faith.I like what you said"go forth in your life not hurting anyone and giving yourself to those you love and for things that you care for, and don't expect anything in return.I think thats what I believe.

Aditi said...

hmmm interesting thoughts all of it..first of all I dont think God is the same thing as organized religion.. that is a whole new ballgame...
Besides I dont necessarily think God passed u by.. u have A, parents and what a lot of ppl would call a good life.. maybe that is God touching you. Maybe u should be thankful he didnt turn his wrath on u?
Who knows.. I am not sure I am the best person to talk abt all this..
but it was well written

ML said...

Could NOT have said it better myself.

I find for me, instead of looking on the outside for something to make my life better (ie, religion or a higher being), I need to take care of my innerself first. Like you said, call it Zen or whatever...

I also think that people should be allowed to believe in what they want to believe in. I'm not going to judge their beliefs. What I don't like is having someone try and force their beliefs down my throat and feel superior to me somehow. I don't do that them and I don't want it done to me.

Sanjay said...

@Diana, Wondering if some of what you believe is because of your background and prefession?

@Sai.. Thanks, In a way I am glad there is a lot of agreement here. maybe I am waiting for someone to wish my soul (there is nothing like this I think) eternal damnation.lol
You are right abt sufism.
You remember that saying "Grey is the new black", back when fashion trends changed and grey became cool?
This seems akin to saying "Ignorance is the new black"
I am glad you retain your spirtuality too. :)

@Beenzz, thanks. You make a great point too. I have to remind myself to not succumb to the same. Just cos I like to see empirical evidence of my beliefs and those of others, I tell myself I am no better than any of them.

@Lalitha.. Thank you,I take comfort from what you say. I know we may not find answers either.
You know what the tough part with the last bit you mention is?
Knowing you broke that rule and then you have to live with the consequences, and not those confessional things don't really help.

Asha said...

Hey!Waddaya know!!We have something in common!:D
My grand parents are "real" Hindus,wouldn't drink water from outside or fro others but my parents are like hippies although dad was a respectable Judge.
We went to Churches,temples and Hajji Mustan Durgah in Mumbai too!:) I am very proud of that and I choose to be a Hindu and believe in one GOD!Cool,eh?!I love cool stoned Temples and the aroma of Camphor in there.
I did think of all these when I was writing MeMe and I don't want to be a Atheist but got to cling on someone!When ppl hurt you,you got to have some divinity(not talking abt southern cookies here)to hang on to!!:D:D
There were some Evangelists at my front door,unlike Jeh..,these ppl are agressive and arrogant too.They almost verbally attacked me before I stared at them coldly and ask them leave and not to come back.
They are building a HUGE church 2 blocks away which is 7th church in 6miles viscinity!!Shiva!!Help me!!!:D:D

Sanjay said...

@Aditi, thank you for being so perceptive. It's not that I am not thankful for what I have, that is not the problem. I think it is a big picture issue for me.
I cannot just think about being happy just cos i have been blessed (I am always thankful for this) with *A*, a family and good frnds and the works. I thank my stars everyday for that.
I think it is selfish to say hey it works for me and I am happy thank you.
My Qs tend to be why as a society and civlization we tend to ignore the greater good, and use religion/god as a way to assuage our guilt? Or even turn it upon the unfortunate blaming their ills upon their acts from a time before?
I think I thoroughly confused myself and everyone :)

Sanjay said...

@Ml..Word! you hit the sweet spot with what you said.
I used to be very laid back about this stuff, I still am, but the fake regiosity and the increasing use of religion by some as being said to be essential to public life (esp their version of religion) is something I find disturbing.

Sanjay said...

@Asha, you turned out to be mighty fine :)
Good job dealing with the evangelicals. :)
Call me biased but I refuse to ever live South of our nations capital.
No I am not painting with a broad brush. Have several good folks I know in the Carolinas. But yes you can tell you are in the bible belt.
Have you considered getting a HUGE dog? I know you have one now but you know.. :)

Lotus Reads said...

Hey, Sanjay, beautifully written!!! I think you've given voice to what many of us think about but don't always get an opportunity to express.

My parents (and I hope so much they aren't reading this,lol) were very confused when it came to religion. They couldn't decide where we should worship - they tried temples, churches and even Rajneesh's ashram. They never found fulfillment in any one particular place and as a result I grew up confused about God and religion.
Anyway, to cut a long story short, I now believe in a higher power/God/Force, whatever you want to call it. Belief in this higher power allows me hope, and without hope, life is bleak, isn't it? About destiny, free will etc., I believe we are co-creators with this Force. SOrry if this smacks too much of Deepak Chopra's new age stuff! :))

Really enjoyed this post - it made me think.

Lucia said...

Fascinating post. I kind of feel like I'm right there too with religion most of the time.

People in the U.S. know SO little about Islam...the level of ignorance amazes me. Most of the Muslims I know are doing an amazing job of giving back to the world and doing good things which are motivated by their religion.

I love it when you talk about your childhood!

Carrie said...

Very thought provoking. I admire you.

One of my friends had asked why I didn't believe in God and then is what I said:

My father is a Christian and my mother is a Pagan (she prefers witch or heathen). I was forced to go to church at a very early age because my parents wanted their alone time. I went, I sang and I read the bible. I was very involved in my church until I was 13. I however never felt God. I never believed in any God. It started with just a feeling. I stepped away from the church after a good friend was rejected because he was a homosexual. The church was teaching that God loves all except if you are gay. Anyway the church was what I loved and not particularly a God. He never talked to me and I never talked to him.

As I got older this stuck with me until I realized how f*cked up religion is. Or should I say organized religion. You see, I wanted to believe in God but I just was unable to. It wasn’t a choice. It just didn’t happen. College helped with my understanding of why I didn’t believe. My humanities courses really were the best. I visited over 10 churches one year to just learn. I was a guest and not a member. I wanted to understand everything there was about each religion. Nothing changed me. When I got more into science it was all there. No proof that God ever existed. It is just something that has been passed down from generation to generation to inflict fear so that we will do the right thing.

I have soul power. I believe in me and the earth. That is all I need to respect other people and their beliefs. I would never tell someone how to believe or what is right or wrong. Nobody really knows. I have great soul power. It makes me a very strong person. I also love the Buddhist teachings and read a lot of books by the Dalai Lama to get perspective on how to be compassionate and loving. But you know what? Why does it really matter? We should love all, regardless of their religion or there lack of.

(Sorry this was so long.)

Sanjay said...

@Lotus..Thank you for your kind words. Your parents and you sound like me when it comes to religion. If you want to be all new agey thats cool too. May be you can impart some of that eminent wisdom of yours to this fella? Do you see salvation for me? :)

@Lucia..Thanks. I agree re Islam, it's so much more diverse than what most Americans know.
As for hearing abt my childhood, are you sure? I can keep going on and on. :)

Carrie.. I admire you too esp after reading your post. You put it so well. More power to you. Your thoughts about you and the earth are really cool and you have nothing to be sorry about.

Sanjay said...

@Lotus..SOrry if this smacks too much of Deepak Chopra's new age stuff! :))

Hey buddy, you got nothing to be sorry for ok? :)

Beach Bum said...

Sanjay, awesome post. It was a terrific thought provoking essay and a joy to read. I had a rather long comment that somehow vanished into the abyss when I hit the publish button. Right now I'm really ticked at blogger and going to get a beer.

Aditi said...

because as humans we need someone to blame.. a power we cannot see or control...its easier to say that my life is shitty because of something i did in my past life and have no control over, its an easier thing to accept then just the fact that your life is shitty for no reason at all...
and the reason why religion isnt used for greater good but rather against it.. quite simple.. power corrupts..u hand the power to sway the minds of millions to a handful of ppl and it will corrupt.. be it religious leaders or otherwise

Keshi said...

Some very deep thoughts and very valid questions from u there Sanjay. r ya catching Keshi germs? ;-)


** And if we dance to that tune, does that mean we never make any choices and everything in our life is preordained?

I always thought abt that. I dunno wut the ans is. But just tell me why do some good ppl die way b4 their time?

As to ur Qn, wut kinda God allows kids to get raped etc...I ask the same qn as above. Why does it happen?

Most prolly its not that some kinda God lets all this happen to us. My belief is that it's our own actions that lead to such events. We r all energy forms. Every actions has a reaction. So it maybe that whatever we do, is coming bak to us??


Keshi.

Teri said...

Religion is such a deeply, intensely personal thing, there's no one true way, and anyone who attempts to convince you that their way is the only way to the truth or to God or whatever you might call some omnipresent deity is probably wrong. There are as many ways to truth as their are people.

Goodness is, or should be, I think, the ultimate goal. Whether that comes out of a Christian or Islamic or Buddhist or Hindu or atheist framework matters not one bit to me. Your quote in the last paragraph has it right.

Mona Buonanotte said...

You took the words right out of my mouth!

Ash said...

Interesting post....very thought-provoking!

MONA said...

Sanjay. I do not know whether this is going to answer your questions..nevertheless...Here I go.
Belief cannot give you the truth. Truth is already the case.Belief only PRETENDS to give you the truth, and this is no philosophy, just a fact.Belief has nothing to do with truth. You can belie3ve that this is night, but just by your believing it does not become so. You can believe and you can close your eyes and for you it is night...but ONLY for you, not in the truth.
Believing is like hallucinating and there is this danger in belief: it makes you feel that you know the truth; and just becaue of that reason, thios becomes the greatest barrier in your search for truth. Believe or disbelieve, and you are blocked, because disbelief is nothing but belief in a negative form. The catholist believe in God, the communist in no- God: both are believersGo to Kabba, Comintern, Kailash and Kremlin, it is all the same. The believer believe it is so, the non believers believe it is not so. And because they have both settled, without taking the trouble to go and discover it, the deeper and stronger is their belief and the greater is their barrier. Such will live surrounded by their own illusio, self- created, self- sustained. It may be consoling, but it is not liberating.
Millions of ppl are wasting their lives in belief and disbelief. The inquiry into truth begins only when you drop all believing. When you can know, when knowing is possible, why settle for believing? But again, society would like you to believe, because believers are good ppl, obedient and law abiding, follow all formalities and ettiquette and are never troublemakers[?]They simply follow the crowd; whichever crowd they happen to be in. They are not real men, they are sheep.Humanity has not yet arrived. We are still groping between animality and humanity. We are in limbo: mas has yet to be given birt to, & we have to prepare ground for man to be appear.And the most significant thing that will help that man to come will be if we can drop all our believing..if we can stop being christains, hindus, muslims, jain, buddhists and communists etc.Once you stop believing, your energy will take a new turn: it will start enquiring, and that will be your pilgrimage to truth, your pilgrimage to growth. Growth is a by- product of inquiry into truth. believers never grow, they remain childish. But you have to be childlike [ and there is a great difference btwn the two], to be childlike is ultimate in growth, because it is when we are childlike our consciousness is at its ultimate peak. On the other hand, you are childish, when all your growing has stopped, when you have been fed with readymade facts of beliefs.We have drilled concepts and ideologies into the minds of innocent children, and by the age of seven the child already knows fifty percent of all tat he will ever know, and by the time he is fourteen he has almost arrived because then there is nowhere to go, Then he only vegetates. Only labels may go on changing [ the cabbage with a college education may become a cauliflower ;)] but mental age is approx. twelve.
A real Man never believs, he learns. A real man never becomes knowledgeabe, he always remains OPEN to the truth. He always remembers, that 'it is not the truth that has to adjust to me; I have to adjust to truth'.[The believer tries to adjust truth to himself]Remember the difference, it is tremendous. If God appears not as Christ but as Krishna in front of a christain, not on cross, but playing flute and dancing girls around, he will be appalled. girlfriends? God with girlfriends dancing around him, and the flute?The world is suffering and the ppl are hungry and need bread and this god is playing flute and flirting?He seems to be utterly without compassion, He is indulgent...then they will say, this is not God.Similarly for a hindu, the idea of God will not be christ God..so sad, long face, gloomy, hanging on a cross, so much suffering on his face...He will feel that this is some kind of nightmare. he is not god, they will say.The believer cannot even trust his own experience. Even if truth is revealed, he will reject it, unless it fits with him. He is more important than the truth itself: truth has an obligation to fit with him. He is the criterion, the decisive factor. This kind of man can never know the truth, he is already prejudiced, poisioned.
The Man who has to know the truth has to be capable of dropping all concepts about truth. Know well, that to know about truth is not to know truth. PPl are conditioned to believing any kind of nonsense because they can be convinced, and the more nonsensical the belief, the more important it appear to be.Man is basically a coward, he does not want to enquire and he does not want to say'i dint know' either. To accept ones ignorance needs courage. To accept that you dont know is the beginning of real knowledge. You go on believing because there are holes in your life which have to be filled. And belief is easily available. There are more than three hundred religions on earth. One truth and three hundred religions?One God and three hundred religions? one existence and three hundred religions? PPL have a certain need! The need not to appear ignorant. They fulfil this need by gathering beliefs.If belif were all that was needed then the world would be full of truth, not lies. You would have come across truth EVERYWHERE, with EVERYBODY. No, belief is not the truth, it is infact barrier to truth, and what the mind believes never becomes true because truth is not becoming, truth is being: truth is already the case. You can see it, or you can avoid seeing it, but it is there. Nothing has to be added to it. It is already there.
What is more important is, that even if truth is told to you, dont BEVIEVE in it. Explore , enquire, search, experiment experience, but dont believe in it. Truth believed is a lie, because belef turns truth into a lie. Dont believe in anybody, not even me.[ for what I have seen cannot become your experience unless YOU see it] When you know, you know.You know it is so, there is no doubt left. Your experience has expelled all darkness and doubt. Truth is, and it fills you.And it is not the belief , but the Tryth that delivers you, from ignorance, from bondage, from misery.

Anonymous said...

warning
This is a very important message about an Islamic terroristic Attack.

کیر بزمجه عربستان و مصر تو کس ننه هرکی سیده.
سنده ملت جهان تو کس ننه حافظان شریعت اسلام

کیر خوک تو کس ننه فاحشه => پاسدار یا بسیجی یا اطلاعاتی یا جاسوس اسلام یا سید یا حزب اللهی

گوه خوک تو ننه امام حسین شد امام حسن

سنده شیطان تو حلق محمد رسول الله قرآن شد.

خرطوم فیل تو کس ننه پیامبر اسلام.

الله اکبر
خامنه ای عنتر
مرگ بر دوست ولایت فقیه
درود بر آمریکا

Anonymous said...

warning
This is a very important message about an Islamic terroristic Attack.

کیر بزمجه عربستان و مصر تو کس ننه هرکی سیده.
سنده ملت جهان تو کس ننه حافظان شریعت اسلام

کیر خوک تو کس ننه فاحشه => پاسدار یا بسیجی یا اطلاعاتی یا جاسوس اسلام یا سید یا حزب اللهی

گوه خوک تو ننه امام حسین شد امام حسن

سنده شیطان تو حلق محمد رسول الله قرآن شد.

خرطوم فیل تو کس ننه پیامبر اسلام.

الله اکبر
خامنه ای عنتر
مرگ بر دوست ولایت فقیه
درود بر آمریکا