Sunday, February 06, 2011

Explain this to me...

In the recent past, I have spoken with some friends – most of them close to me, all of them intelligent and none of them superficial.

Each one of them is wary of Muslims. Each one believes that Islam, either obviously or subliminally, promotes or condones violence. None of these friends are Muslims. While they are not exactly evangelists, they do believe that their own faiths – Hinduism, Christianity, Buddhism, Sikhism – are superior to this ‘peace at sword point’ religion.

I have strong reasons to refute this belief. However, my point here is not about challenging anyone’s opinion. These are deep and personal matters. Knowing my friends, I am sure they have struggled with their own notions of secularism before they have uncomfortably accepted this belief of Muslims and Islam.

However, when I encounter criticism of another religion, I tend to question my own. I am Hindu for several reasons. The most important one being convenience. I was born into it.

As a child, I found my religion entertaining. Shiva and Vishnu were like eccentric uncles and Brahma was one of those geriatric, polite entities you left alone. Growing up as a Hindu, my notion of God was fairly casual. There was no question that God would forgive my sins. Look how many he’d committed! Anyone acquainted with the Mahabharat would find it a little hard to digest that it is part of religious reading. It has so many scheming, conniving characters. So many heroes with myriad frailties, drunk on lust and hung up on power. These heroes seldom walked the straight and narrow path and when they did, they often wore footwear made of clay.

Apart from entertainment, Hinduism afforded me space. This could have had less to do with Hinduism and more to do with my upbringing. I never hadto do anything. Vegetarianism was not a mandate. Neither was waking up at dawn and doing the puja. I went through a great part of life without reading the Gita, despite having a father who could recite it in 3 languages from memory.

So, basically, I had no reason to think of changing my religion. It seemed fun enough and let me be. That is pretty much what I was looking for at that point, anyway.

Then somewhere along the way, I started getting questioned about some facets of Hinduism. Not so much questioned, but accused. I did think it was a little unfair. If an atheist stood up for science, she was being rational. If a Christian or Muslim stood up for their religions, they were defending as the minority factions. If I spoke in favour of Hinduism, though, I was being a zealot.

Of course, of all the people I’ve mentioned above, I was the most clueless. Much of my perceived persecution could have been the result of an unprepared mind.

Now, I have a little more idea about what Hinduism is about. I can obliquely understand why it can be considered a way of life instead of a tenet-stacked system. That being said, I am still not quite all there with lucid comprehension. Concepts such as Brahman and consciousness, even Universe and soul and karma (terms I use liberally) elude my stoic, total understanding. I often get impatient because I don’t always get it. The idea of a ‘Universe’ or ‘Consciousness’ or whatever it is that mutates into various people and experiences and then dissolves unto itself fascinates. The notion of ‘Maya’ is poetic. But I often want to have a tete-a-tete with our lofty friend, the Consciousness, and ask ‘why the drama?’ Surely the whole deal - births, deaths, rebirths, the entire karmic log and subsequent assignment to appropriate wombs - is a logistical behemoth. Was all of this absolutely necessary? I’m not so sure. Most times, all these ideas get coagulated in my mind and swim around sluggishly.

Yet, one big, big inconvenient learning I’ve gleaned is that I’m God. (Must say, I was exceedingly delighted upon finding that out.) The inconvenient portion is that I’m the same as everyone else. Now, this is a very difficult sphere to operate from. I have tried to resist this latter idea. Frankly, I’d like to be the only God around here. However, it all adds up. You can’t really believe in one portion without believing in the other.

This brings me to my other Hindu friends. The ones who have gone through their own crude journeys through Hinduism and reached the same conclusion. (My understanding of other religions is limited, so I'll leave the non-Hindu friends out of the purview of this questioning.)

If I have accepted the fact that I’m divine and so are you, how can I possibly think that I’m part of a superior religion? So what if you call me a pagan or a kafir? So what if you refuse to accept my prasad or won’t let me have what is served in your place of worship? So what? I may not like it, I may not agree with it, but how can I say that you’re inferior?

If my religion is supposed to be so much more supreme over everything else, surely it can accommodate a less evolved understanding? If my religion is supposed to be so much more mature, surely it can forgive a more restrictive view?

So, the way I see it – forget interacting with Muslims, orthodox or otherwise, at a human level (there are too many misgivings to even conceive it from this idealistic standpoint). Even if I were to bring it down to a strictly religious plane…

If I couldn’t relate to a Muslim (or anyone from another religion or point of view) openly and with trust – irrespective of his take on religiosity – if I couldn’t see him as one of us…forget about human…what kind of a Hindu would I be?


Anonymous said...

Sorry! What was the point again?

Mukta said...

:-) read the last para.

Anonymous said...

Hmm... nope... still don't make sense! But its ok.

I would prefer a ranting chiffonesque over the religious one anyday. Though I always look forward to the happy chiffonesque...