I am the New Minority. I am young and I am deeply religious. I am not God fearing but God loving.
I am a little weary of the ongoing litany, that non religious is the harbinger of peace and religious means trouble. I agree with the seperation of the religion and the state but fail to see the reasoning behind distancing the individual from faith. I need to make a case for myself and people like me.
I was born religious, then I became indifferent and then rediscovered my faith and became religious again. Religious and secular are not two opposing forces. Though this holds good for those alone who understand and practice the tenets of their faith in all honesty.
I am not in a position to write about this journey or my faith in absolute terms because I am still learning. I will touch on some things which change color and content for me as I slowly discover.
My Approach: "Sarvasya Chaham Hridhi Sanni Vishto" Bhagvad Geeta, which translated means: All are equal since He resides in all of us.
I believe in One creator. Hence everyone irrespective of color, race,religion,caste or creed is a creation of that One Supreme Being.Will I hate/kill another human being because they belong to another faith.? Never, because I believe in Divine Brotherhood under the Fatherhood of God. And it is my religion which teaches me that God is within me as well as in others.
My Temple: My Temple is certainly not one for which I stand in line for hours and could, maybe cut that wait short by bribing the priest or making a handsome donation, where they have a separate line for people based on the amount being donated, where one jostles amongst unruly crowds and is afraid of one's modesty and wallet, where the Idol is adorned with gold and diamonds and Rolex watches when there is a line of starved beggar children outside.
My temple or 'Amrutalayam' is Vedic in its concept and character. It is made of local materials and by local resources and is a socio economic center too.A place where all are equal in the eyes of God. It is simple and peaceful enabling a conversation with God and fellow human beings. Its a place where one could study the Geeta/Bible/Koran. Its a temple where the 'Brahman' teaches and simplifies the scriptures for me and not just chants Sanskrit shlokhas which make no sense to me.
It is a place where people donate because they believe the wealth they give is Gods share and that wealth, then is given to those who need it as Prasad, most likely in the dark of the night,anonymously.The concept of this impersonal wealth leaves no room for any feelings of superiority/inferiority between the giver and receiver.
My Caste: 'Brahman/Kshatriya/Vaishya/Shudra'...Caste was not an adjective but an adverb. I am not a Brahman because my father is...I am not born into a caste category , I become one due to my 'work'. I am a Brahman if I selflessly teach, I am a Kshatriya because I am responsible for the socio-political running of the city/state, I am a Vaishya because I am an entrepreneur, and I am a Shudra if I am a service provider...a engg./doctor etc.
When the scriptures talk about the glory of a Brahman, it is not the Brahman they talk of but "Brahmanatva"...a quality...a teacher who selflessly teaches the scriptures, an educationist who moulds the future generations, imparts life skills and not livelihood skills alone. And all this and more is done as a non commercial activity. Hence the Vedic society protected and cared for its Brahmans. Gurudakshina was not a compulsion yet something everybody did. A child would not be refused admission to a particular Gurukul because of a paucity of funds. State interference in the education system was unthinkable. The brahmin was free and independent and hence the best teacher. The society provided for him because he did not ask anything in exchange of what he gave. Our education system is a failure because it is a commercial enterprise, because state interference is the norm of the day. Because as a society we fail to take care of our teachers and as people we confuse education with livelihood training.
All varnas/castes are interdependent and there exists no hierarchy.
My Feminism: The Royal Guru Vashishtha saying that Sita is the most able to rule Ayodhya, in the absence of Ram, is my idea of feminism. Sita choosing to follow her husband into the forest is love. I did the same I left my work, my life to follow my husband across the globe. Does that make me a weak woman? Is my worth measured only by the amount of money I bring in at the end of the month? I do nothing, if I do not have a pay slip/fancy designation to show for it? Do I need to abuse my body by drinking ,smoking, showing my cleavage to prove that I am emancipated? Must I leave my 6 month old baby with hired help/day care to prove that I got an excellent education.Those are choices and definitely not a show of my freedom.
"Stree Shakti/woman power has been recognized and worshipped in my faith. I am an 'Ardhangini' or an equal half in the partnership of marriage.The hand that rocks the cradle rules the world is amply visible in the stories of so many great women...Aditi, Anusuya,Jija Bai etc.
Vedic theology conceives God as bipolar, having both male and female aspects.Vedic religion treats man and woman as equal.
P.S do not waste time reading the countless and completely wrong translations (sanskrit is a language in which 1 sentence could be understood in 3 different ways) and interpretations (there have been both conscious and un conscious efforts to malign vedic philosophy and literature). I can only suggest,get a Teacher who is well versed in Sanskrit and is a Vedic Scholar.
My Environmentalism: The Tenth Adhyaya of Geeta talks about the presence of God in the mountains, rivers, trees, land, air, water. If we only understood this without just casually brushing it off as nature worship/pagan religion, we would not be wracking our brains to reverse global warming and climate change. We need to look at the deeper thought than getting put off by the idea of watering a Tulsi and doing circles around a tree or worshipping a cow. Doing it mindlessly of course, also serves no purpose.
My religion teaches me to take nothing for granted and certainly not abuse what is a precious gift.
My Self Worth: Ishavasya Upanishad warns of becoming a victim to "vishay". Subjective happiness versus objective happiness.I am not incomplete because I do not have a fancy job title. I am not incomplete because I do not earn a jaw dropping salary. I am not incomplete if I do not own a fancy apartment or car. I do not become less if I am not vacationing in Europe. Should I wallow in self pity or spend thousands for plastic surgery if I do not meet the ever changing societal standards of beauty. List is endless and from the society's perspective I cannot please all and never will...and since the society at large is misdirected, should I care?
I am complete and I strive for subjective happiness ( easier said than done, but I am practicing...and God, is it tough or what Phew!!!).
My Fasts: The many fasts where people eat more than on reguar days are senseless. My fast is a way to detoxify and to not waste time on cooking. That time is to be used for doing God's work which of course does not mean bhajan keertan and prayer beads. It could mean amongst other things going out and meeting someone for no reason at all. Connecting with another human being, where no 'len'den'/ transaction is involved.To develop a relationship with another human being and to do something for them selflessly. Try it out... I was surprised by what doing for others,did for me.
There are many more things...........but I am still learning and loving every step of it. I am religious and deeply so and I am not sorry for it. Do I seem like a threat? And yes years and years of contortion and corruption will not stop me from researching and re-learning. I have a brain and I can distinguish between ritualism and religion. Thank God for an excellent teacher. For how do I learn my religion if not from a teacher, a true Brahman. My parents could not teach me all. I saw rituals and no religion around me...everywhere. Thats was and still is very unattractive.
My religion teaches me reverence for everyone and everything. This reverential attitude towards the world is a direct and natural result of acceptance of God who resides in one and all. Some fools who do not understand and practice my faith in its true essence, cannot stop me from doing so.
True Bhakti for me is a powerful positive social force which inspires me to pray everyday for universal peace and happiness.
"Sarvetra Sukhinah Santo Sarve Santo Niramaya
Sarve Bhadrane Pashyantu Ma Kvashchit Dukhmapunyaat"
"Everybody here should be happy. All should be free of pain and problems. All should see only good. No human being should suffer."