A year ago, I embarked upon a reading spree on Richard Dawkings and Christopher Hitchens. To me, they became both inspiring and revolutionary. Their writings were somehow capable of twisting my religious outlook. My family lineage are among those that believe in Hindu Religion (being Nepali gives me some understanding of Buddhism also). Yet, for better or worse, the present me does not completely believe in the existence of God. I now view Religions as a way of life, rather than believing in the almightily power.
am I atheist?
After spending most of my childhood believing in God, celebrating their birthdays and their great accomplishments, visiting temples, watching and listening to God associated preachings, and reading the epic books of both “Mahabharata” and “Ramayana”, I can firmly say that – Religion is a progressive culmination of a way of life. I can firmly establish (for myself) that, Hinduism has NO fix list of good or bad things to do. Has no hard and fast rules, and no established order of political intervention on my way of life. My answer – I believe in Hindu way of life, but do not believe in the existence of god, but love going to temples. Let me elaborate.
1. no political intervention
Four Thousand years of refinement has made a religion that stays out of my political life. Hinduism, as I see it, does not demand political interventions. I can be a capitalist, a socialist or a communist and still be a Hindu. I do not have to follow laws made by religious figureheads, and what ever laws broken does not entail me to get beaten, burned or buried. However, may be because of its maturity, has tons of examples on good governance. Both the above epic plays has something to teach – something to suggest – but nothing to enforce. It gives me the choice of being right or wrong.
2. not one God/Goddess, but many
I can choose a persona of one particular god/goddess and follow it. Hindu mythology has one of the most elaborated sets of mighty powers. The number of gods in this mythology is said to be “tettis koti” which literally means 33,000 gods and goddess. There are tons of named demons and evil beings also, whom, time and again (as per mythology) have shown greatness and kindness. There are multiple persona (God/Goddess) for every personality type. I can literally choose my favorite powerful being, that I can most relate to. For the record – I love Lord Ganesha. The obese God with an elephants head, a broken tooth, who has a mouse as his trustworthy companion. A God that loves food, well literate, and who loves his parents very much. Kinda like superman and batman of the yesteryears. It even has Goddess of Wrath (Kaali) and somewhat Womanizer God (Krishna).
3. a situational religion that can morph as per time/place/person
Hinduism over so many years got elaborated to fit into every possible culture and society with many geographical variations. A religion that has a set of guidelines (not so rigid) for men and women of all ages. It acknowledges and identifies with third gender, which is still a hot debate in most part of the world (and Nepal too, in recent years). It has provisions for being alone or with family; among society or separated from society; for travel; for happy and sad moments, and well almost all the emotions that I can think of.
4. a culture that gives you options
The best thing about this is, it gives me options. I am not obliged to believe in god. I can be a devil/demon worshiper and still be a Hindu. Somehow will not get kicked out of the Religion, although may be demoted of my social status. For better or worse, there are good amount of Hindu priests who are somewhat negative vibe followers (the evil Tantric stuff). A small clarifications that, there are good Tantras and stuffs too, but I have little or no knowledge on either. Even the demons and devil of Hindu religion worship the Hindu Gods, gain some mystical power, and then go on war with each others and Gods themselves.
oh.. but it’s not all white either
Over the years, with the gradual development and expansion of this religion over our way of living, there have been numerous wicked twisted interpretations as well. Almost every religion seem to have it, and Hinduism is no difference. As I see it, the biggest negativity which developed over the years are – the caste system, and gender inequality. I will write more on these bad habits in due time, but here is one example, which we (me and my wife) are facing recently concerning the gender issues.
example – of gender issue with my religion
(my small personal experience)
I have a small sister, a year and half younger. All our life, in any religious events, as a Hindu unmarried girl, she was (still is) given an utmost respect. She (and all the unmarried Hindu girls) get respect, loads of pooja money, every body bows before them. Girls is treated as Goddess incarnations and it is believed that by pleasing them, one appeases the Goddess of Wealth, Health and Education (among many other stuff).
This was similar to my recently wed wife also, until we got married. As soon after we were married, somehow, the twisted religion breaks this high spirit (which got groomed for years and years) and puts her husband on top. Somehow, I am getting most of the attention these days. An girl never bows down in front of anyone (except may be her elder sister) before she marries, and after that, strangely she has to bow down in front of her husband. what strange culture is this?. Think of the ego that gets hurt.
As a boy/male of the society, I bow down to my parents, my sisters (younger or older) and any other elder, out of respect. Given the dates of festivity, like “Dashain” and “Tihar”, I literally touch my sisters feet with my forehead. And since I have been doing this for as long as I can remember, and since it does not hurt or humiliate anyone, I am glad and know that I will do it for a long time to come. Obviously, her feet should be clean, and with no malodor.
Switch it to my sister’s case who will get married soon (or may be few years later) or my wife’s case who recently got married, they had always received this honor. Suddenly, after this marriage, there is a strict rule, that they must bow down and never receive this honor again. Weird. A girls parent now must respect and appease their son-in-law more, she herself has to touch his feet again and again, she has additional feet-touching-work to her husband’s parents too. It’s difficult to imagine from her(wife) perspective, and as a brother difficult also to imagine from my sister’s perspective. They are two people who were given respect, treated as Goddess avatar all their life, and suddenly post marriage become no one. There ought to be a huge mental disturbance here.
Yes, for all the written complains here, I do not want my wife to touch my feet. I am lucky, that my parents are among those few, who want respect and love not from religious gimmick, but through proper family values. I can proudly and boldly write here, that Dr Aditi has not bowed down to touch my feet after we got married, and neither has touched my parents feet. But, yes, we do love each other, and there is a deep understanding, love and respect from her side to my mother and father. what is my relation with my in-laws?. – this needs another post. A hint – it’s a happy one.
PS – happy Nepali new year – 2070 BS
- Critical Commentary: Reflecting on Hinduism’s links to Nature (worldreligionnews.wordpress.com)
- Vivekananda’s legacy of universalism (thehindu.com)