RITUALS AND BELIEFS
In her blog post at http://varshaukenagpal.blogspot.in/2013/12/think-and-question.html ‘Think and Question’ Varsha has raised certain issues with regard to rituals. She says –
‘We all have grown up with a lot of beliefs ingrained in us. Most of us blindly follow what our parents tell us”.
She says that the gullible amongst us are being exploited in the name of superstition and rituals. She ends by asking us ‘For once please think and question these rituals’.
Yes, we have grown up with a lot of beliefs and values which have been passed on to us by our parents. We have retained some and shed some of them in course of time when we find that these are not really relevant and acceptable in our lives. We start living our lives with new beliefs and newer values and try to pass it on to our children who in turn may accept or reject them. Beliefs are an integral part of our living. We cannot do without beliefs. Whether what you believe is right or wrong is always judged by the next generation as you pass the mantle to them. But despite all this the one reality that has not changed and continues to occupy our thinking is our end.
It is man’s innate fear of termination that has given rise to a belief in after life, superstitions and rituals. That death is the final frontier and there is nothing beyond is something that is not acceptable to most of us. The existentialists believe that there is nothing beyond this life but they do seek redemption in their own way.
So when someone comes along and says ‘I shall show you the way to immortality and redemption’ you willingly follow. I believe that’s how religion was born. It is when you are shown the path that, rituals come into existence. By definition, rituals are ‘a religious or solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions according to a prescribed order’. The problem arises with ‘prescribed order’. This by itself would mean subjugation of the individual ego and following a path without protestations in accordance with the prescription. The next question is who is the prescriber? We have seen that blind acceptance has led to exploitation and discrimination down the ages. This still happens in some form or the other and will continue as long as man’s desire to dominate and possess is present. Exploitation can never end till human greed is completely wiped out and which does not seem a possibility, for I do not believe that an ideal world can ever exist. Old rituals in course of time get replaced by new ones.
I have myself undergone some harrowing experiences in the name of beliefs and rituals. I consider myself as a rational person who does not accept without questioning. Still I have allowed myself to be consumed in the vortex of certain situations despite my efforts to avoid them, whether it was in
or the Kali
temple in Kolkata, the Jagannath temple in Puri or some of the temples in the
south. I am sure that this is a universal situation. Varanasi
Whether religious ceremonies and rituals have any relevance at all is something that we should ask ourselves and find the answers. We cannot be dismissive of people who do follow and believe in them. The ultimate yardstick is whether they are good people. We find good and bad in all spheres of life. I can talk for myself and say that I am totally a non religious person under the value system in which I have been brought up but I am an extremely religious person as per the value system I have created for myself. We will always find exploiters and discriminators whether in the places of religious worship or outside them.
I remember when my father passed away fifty years ago, I sat alongside my elder brother who was performing the thirteen day ceremonies as per our beliefs. At that time as I listened to the chanting of the mantras and the explanations regarding the soul’s journey to the other world, I found great strength and solace in overcoming my grief. As a rational person now, having seen and experienced life in its entirety, whether I believe in a God or not, or in those ceremonies, or in a life after death, I have to accept that those religious ceremonies did serve their purpose and helped me back to normalcy. I am sure that despite the exploitations of ‘Guardians of God’ they still continue to serve their purpose to the multitudes. Sometime ago I had posted in my blog ‘Letters to God - 3’ where I talked about the ‘Guardians of God’, which I think relevant to reproduce here –
“Your Guardians have made you into a commodity and sell you and you keep watching. Of course you can be sold because there are buyers. The number of people wanting to see touch and ask you for favours is ever increasing. So you see the demand is far outstripping the supply and maybe that’s why you have these Guardians. But how many come for your sake, to understand you and be with you?”
I am a very religious person when it comes to my meditation. But I do observe certain rituals before I start. I chant the Gayathri mantra while doing the pranayama. It not only keeps time regulating the entire exercise, but also creates an inner vibration.
It is the individual’s angst and anger against these ‘Guardians of God’ that has produced religious and social reformers from time to time through the centuries and I am sure that they will be appearing again and again. Though they have been successful to a certain extent in bringing about a change in the thinking process and uplifting the exploited, we find that rituals and beliefs in some form or the other will continue to exist.