Tag Archives: Religion

A One-Man Religion?

The best reward for me in life is the disproportionately large share of good people I collected around me at different times in life – class-mates, friends, colleagues at work-place and, of course, relatives; people with different strengths, exemplary in their own ways and inspirational to those who care to look; from many of whom I’ve benefited in ways with no capacity or ability to repay in equal kind or measure. I have in the past featured some of them here and there are more to be talked about before time runs out.

This man whom I had wanted to capture and present here for a long time wasn’t easy – the thoughts would not coalesce into a coherent narrative. I have been/am favored with so many acts of his kindness personally that it is easy for me to slip into singing his paeans. Like how he (and a dear cousin) stood by me at my mother’s funeral – it was his birthday, I learnt much later. But I did not want this glimpse of him to be one dimensional, vis-à-vis with me. It would be so unfair for he was/is much more.

While there’s much to be said and written about, I’ll settle for this one incident to reveal the man:

He recently retired from a very senior executive position from a company that owned, operated a chain of medical diagnostic centers that included expensive high-end equipment, a field he had spent all his career in. Post-retirement he took up his first consultancy assignment a month ago; not a son of some industrialist, he needs money like you and I. And yet, he shot this off on his own:

Dear Dr M, as there is a directive for 65 plus citizens to practice social distancing, I am constrained by my family to travel for work and contribute only remotely. As a small gesture from my end I would like to forego my professional fees for this month of March during this time of crisis.

Frankly it didn’t surprise me; for, with him, it couldn’t be anything but…

He goes to the temple almost daily and has his own private talk with the gods therein. Like me, not deep into pooja-paat, Gita and scriptures; wears no distinctive mark on his forehead. What does he do in the temple besides praying? Well, helps them in their banking issues using his contacts, gets them a plumber or a lock-smith they urgently need, brings immobile old folks to the temple in his car and drops them back home…When prasadams are freely distributed in goshti’s, only a small portion for him – anything more or a second turn meant some late-comer would go without, he believes.

It’s almost like he is actively on the lookout all the time to jump in and help in ways he can.

Not a preacher, a social-worker or a breast-beating, placard-holding, glory-hungry, funds-seeking, high-decibel activist. Just an ordinary family man like you and me who makes a difference to someone with a legendary attention to details not many of us are capable of.

One of these days, though it isn’t going to be easy, I intend to find out how did these high personal standards – the very goals of orthodoxy – come about. Parental attention? I doubt, though affection, yes, a lot of it. He grew up as the last child of a large family household that also served as a transit/temp camp for a good number of relatives passing thru or visiting Chennai, helping his mother in her chores. Fetching these guests to and fro railway stations at odd hours, yielding his place to a guest and going up to the terrace with the pillow for the night, waiting for an elder sibling to be done with a single-copy school text book before he could peruse, four years spent in the hostel away from home and not visited even once by his ownso were his younger days. And yet a very balanced and practical head screwed onto the shoulders, combining empathy with expediency,  without a tinge of bitterness or self-sympathy

I see him as a religion by himself, all in action, without the usual accouterments of a holy book, highfalutin theology…

Will certainly revert if and when I gain some insights on what has kept him going!

Presently signing off with prayers for his health and long life and a fervent wish he actively grooms many more youngsters in his ways and with deep gratitude for being blessed with his association.

End

The Hindu Ethos

A very well-articulated article, I thought, from Keerthik Sasidharan capturing what many of us feel within. Appears in The Hindu of November 19, 2017 (there’s no way to reblog onto WordPress, hence…). It’s neither jingoistic in the ‘Hindutva’ sense nor ‘secular’ in the Congress sense.

Here we go:

Away from the heat of reactionary furies and banal identity politics, seeing how Hindu beliefs are formed, sustained and changed

Last week, I visited my ancestral village and found myself listening to family stories told by my aunts who are well into their 70s. These were stories I had heard before. Nevertheless, like always, they were repeated at family gatherings, attesting to the axiomatic truth of all collective storytelling since Vyasa in the Mahabharata: repetition endows potency. In my head, I often divide these family stories into two categories: stories of the times and stories of people. The former are tales of perilous years when hunger was common and scarcity the rule. These aren’t moral tales but merely their recounting — a survivor’s sigh of relief — of how far we have all come from the India of the 1950s to this day. The latter stories about people are invariably morality plays — tales filled with ethical breaches, betrayals, and comeuppance.

This time, I heard a real-life story about a man who was a shrewd and feared feudal presence in their village — the kind who had managed to be both a functionary of the young Communist party and also relentlessly acquire land and wealth. Now in his 80s, after being felled by a stroke, he lay in coma, while, as my aunts described not without some schadenfreude, his children squabbled over his ill-gotten properties even as they refused to shoulder any responsibility towards his care. It all seemed a bit squalid, but none too uncommon, familial tragedy in play. What struck me vividly, however, was a statement by one of my more religious aunts: “It is inevitable given the [bad] karma he accrued by unconscionably fleecing illiterate Mapillahs [Muslims of Malabar] off their lands.”

Everyday secularism

Irrespective of the truth of her statement about his purported actions, what struck me was the ease with which a religious Hindu woman could imagine that a Hindu man could “pay” for his actions towards Muslims. The doctrine of karma, as she understood it, supplemented her intuitions about justice towards a fellow citizen, irrespective of her fellow citizen’s faith in the very same doctrine. It is this generosity of her theological interpretations, made on her own — without the sanction or permission of a clergy, without the approval from a book — that allowed her to be secular in practice without any supervised tutelage of the state regarding secularism. In many ways, she is not unique for a practising Hindu across India. But hers is the kind of everyday secularism borne from the generosity of her religious piety that is often mistaken by Hindutva ideologues for weakness and is often ignored by Left liberals who have little use for religion, far less religiously inspired ethical commitments.

The inner lives of devout Hindus gains all the more salience this week as Kerala begins to celebrate the next three months as a period earmarked for expressions of bhakti. Public and private forms of religiosity will soon decorate the streets. Millions of men from all of south India, dressed in black, heady with vows of brief asceticism, will trek to the temples at Sabarimala. Innumerable festivals at large and obscure temples, performances of various temple arts, concerts and processions, readings and discourses that run for days, if not weeks — it is all quite extraordinary. All of these are public reiterations of a way of living that has evolved over decades, if not centuries — a way of bookmarking human existence as seasons change and time flows.

Being a Hindu

Given all this, it is tempting to think of these external displays as the sole marker of being a Hindu. But unlike Islam or even doctrinaire forms of Christianity, what is less explicitly understood are the set of beliefs that constitutes one’s self-identification as a Hindu. What does ‘being Hindu’ mean? This is a question whose answer goes well beyond any worship of a god or belonging to a specific constellation of traditions (sampradaya). The answer — not in an academic or anthropological sense, but as a lived practice — is inescapably tied to the question of what does “being” mean? And then upon answering that, asking what does the descriptor “Hindu” entail. There are maximalists who argue that being human and being Hindu is the same. On the flip side, there are those who deny — usually after suffering from various inequities within the Hindu society — that one can’t be Hindu and human simultaneously. For most people, the truth lies in the proverbial middle not because that is the easy way out but because most human experiences are rarely at the extremes. To answer what it is to be a Hindu in our times is then ultimately an exercise to reduce an archipelago of subjective understandings into an island of objective knowledge.

The result is that most writings about being Hindu, even by “insiders”, is indistinguishable from historical accounts of concepts, a cornucopia of myths, or are explorations of high philosophical subtleties. All of these are important, of course, but ultimately they are merely the scaffolding inside which Hindu identities learn to organise their inner worlds. If we are to be students of modern India, then this means learning to see how Hindu beliefs, commitments and affiliations are formed, sustain and change. To do this, away from the heat of reactionary furies and banal identity politics, is to learn to see the world for what it is.

End

 

 

Source: The original article appears here. Thanks, Siddharth for the forward.

In Search of Truth

A story from Paulo Coelho:

The devil was talking to his friends when they noticed a man walking along a road. They watched him pass and saw that he bent down to pick something up.

“What did he find?” asked one of the friends.

“A piece of Truth,” answered the devil.

The friends were very concerned. After all, a piece of Truth might save that man’s soul – one less in Hell. But the devil remained unmoved, gazing at the view.

“Aren’t you worried?” said one of his companions. “He found a piece of Truth!”

“I’m not worried,” answered the devil.

“Do you know what he’ll do with the piece?”

The devil replied, “as usual, he’ll create a new religion. And he’ll succeed in distancing even more people from the whole Truth.”

End

 

The Tiger And The Fox

A fox who lived in the deep forest of long ago had lost its front legs. No one knew how, perhaps escaping from a trap. A man who lived on the edge of the forest , seeing the fox from time to time, wondered how in the world it managed to get its food. One day when the fox was not far from him he had to hide himself quickly because a tiger was approaching. The tiger had fresh game in its claws. Lying down on the ground, it ate its fill, leaving the rest for the fox.

Again the next day the great Provider of this world sent provisions to the fox by this same tiger. The man began to think: “If this fox is taken care of in this mysterious way, its food sent by some unseen Higher Power, why don’t I just rest in a corner and have my daily meal provided for me?”

Because he had a lot of faith, he let the days pass, waiting for food. Nothing happened. He just went on losing weight and strength until he was nearly a skeleton. Close to losing consciousness, he heard a Voice which said:

“O you, who have mistaken the way, see now the Truth! Instead of imitating the disabled fox, you should have followed the example of that tiger .”

End

Source: Massud Farzan from spiritual-short-stories.com

His Sense Of Fair-Play

It was D-day – the boy had a test to give for earning a scholarship.

The grandma did what most grandma’s do – she taught him a simple Hayagreeva stotram (a mantra in praise of and seeking blessings from god of learning). It was sure to help him ace the test.

The boy quickly learnt the stotram.  To grandma’s delight he could recite the Sanskrit stotram with great spashtam (fidelity).

It was time for them to leave for the school-bus.

As he boarded the bus, she reminded him to recite the stotram without fail just before taking the test.

The boy was in good spirits when he returned from the school in the afternoon. The family mobbed him immediately to know how he fared in the test.

The boy confirmed what was already evident – he had done quite well, he thought. Much better than he had expected.

Amidst the excitement all around, ‘I knew all along,’ beamed the grandma. ‘It had to be so and nothing else with the blessings of Hayagreeva.’

‘But, Paatti (grandma)…’

‘Yes?’

‘Am sorry…I did not recite the stotram.’

‘What? You didn’t? You forgot the lines?’

‘No…’

‘Then?’

‘Wouldn’t be fair for me to benefit from the stotram. None of my friends has learnt it.’

Paatti’s explanations, arguments and theories that followed till-date have not won him over unreservedly.

End

 

 

PS: Based on a real-life story. The youngster is growing up in UK away from the traditional Hindu eco-system (though the household is) and its influence and edicts.