Guided by religion!
I was born in a family that practiced Hinduism, and before I knew what my name or age was, I was already a practicing Hindu, with ‘mundan’ ceremony on the few strands of my hair, joining hands when I saw a deity and jumping to ring bells in the temples. I am not very religious but some aspects of life are still guided by religion like the festivals I celebrate, the name I take when troubled.
In current times, when our political decisions are guided by religion it is important to understand how much of our lives are really guided by religion for it to play a role in the decisions for a community.
For long, I too believed that it is almost essential for one to have a religion to guide through the moral and ethical dilemmas of life. But as I ponder, the more specious the argument sounds. many a time I share some story from Panchatantra, Ramayana to drive the point of doing the right thing, and this is where the ideas of inspiration got jumbled with the genesis of the idea itself.
The story of a race between a tortoise and hare from Panchatantra is a very good reminder of how one should not leave focus unless reaching their goal, something I keep reminding myself in the long arduous journey to lose weight. Perseverance is the key to success but would I have never learned it had it not been a tale with animals partaking in a competition. Storytelling tells an idea in an entertaining way. Stories are the medium to share an idea, are created to drive the idea forth, but are not the reason an idea was born.
We choose our morals and pick the religious ideology selectively to justify these choices. Lucky for me, Hindu mythology provides several contradicting ideas on the surface. Lord Rama upholds all rules of warfare and society, while Krishna bends and sometimes even breaks them. One could choose to observe or flout rules and still be following one of Vishnu’s avatar. Espousing Rama’s path does not mean abandoning Krishna. Sometimes we follow Rama, sometimes Krishna, and at times from so many other deities Hinduism has to offer. We select the inspiration after reaching a decision.
We need the inspiration and justification of taking the right decision because just like the mythological stories, the choices one makes are difficult and come at a great cost. Like in Mahabharat, Karna’s insistence of not refusing charity to anyone, leads him to the path of giving away the armor protecting him, which eventually leads to his defeat and death in the battlefield. Similarly, at times it is easier to lie or cheat for monetary or other gains. It becomes easier to fight the temptation by reminding ourselves that this is the path that god advises. We get so consumed with the idea of god’s guidance that we refuse to see it as a decision that we made ourselves driven by our sense of ethics, morals and not because of the influence of religion
At times, detaching oneself from the role of decision-maker makes it easier to follow a path, because telling oneself that we do not hold the steering wheel, does make us believe that turning back is not an option. Hence choosing to lie or cheat ceases to be an option. We create illusions to make life easy, but should not be consumed by them so much, that reality starts to blur the stories and the stories begin to guide us.
We love and respect our parents not because religion preaches it, but driven by the sense of affection and gratitude towards them, and hence we seek inspiration in stories of Sharavna Kumar. If one is to believe the idea that we are obedient because religion taught us so, then what stops us from following Parshurama who in an act of obedience to his father, beheads his mother. It is because we seek the story to match our idea, not seek a story to derive the idea, unlike what Hindutva wants us to believe. We are kind, compassionate, and adjusting not because religion taught us so, but because that is what we aspired to be. So let us not be pushed into the idea of bloodshed, mindless violence, and hatred because a religion wants us to.
One looks at a map to find directions for a chosen destination. One who looks at a map in hopes it will point out a destination for him will always be lost.