Sunday, September 6, 2015

God Definition - no Delusion

Sometime back, I watched a dialog / debate between a American Christian theologian turned atheist and an India Theoretical Physicist turned spiritual master.   The Indian is a man I respect for his knowledge and wisdom.  The topic was given as God and Science.  The mediator and organizers were all learned people; so I was expecting a serious discussion if not a debate.

Since it was a huge disappointment, I'm not linking to that content.  The debate was a dud even from the word go.  The American played up the body language, legs put up, nonchalant and treated the other person with disrespect.  The Indian was  polite and humble, in spite of his education and achievements.

I realized that they were speaking two different languages.  This blog is an attempt to get my thoughts organized in such a way that an atheist understands what - for want of a better word - the other person means.

First - the definition of the word - God.  In India, this term is used freely - to refer to the millions of Gods and also cricketers, movie stars, politicians and what not.  So, there is no special status for the word God.  So, the term doesn't refer to the super-almighty  or even the manifestation of unconditional love as a Westerner interprets.  Parents are Gods, teachers are, trees, cows, rivers, mountains - anything to which we show gratitude is a God.  This is just one definition.

To an average Indian, God is an entity designated for his personal comfort.  This God can be loved, hated, mocked, chided, even ignored.  The God doesn't give them any commandments or diktats, but just a sense of comfort.  This suits Indians, who are in general against rules.

How did we arrive at millions of Gods?  We have a long history, large land and a long coastline.  With no rule to restrict the creation of Gods, we create Gods.  Local heroes and heroines were designated as Gods in villages.  The annual festivities for these deities ensure social participation and lots of fun.  As people moved from place to place, they created more sophisticated deities.  Typically, a family has more than one family deity - even if the family chooses any spiritual / religious ideologies.   Recently, my son created his God in a three-piece suite with a MacBook Air in His hand.

Do we need to prove that this God exists?

I do not think so.  This God is a creation of man, for his support.  This God is personal and doesn't need a proof.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Statue of Spirituality

You can't miss the similarity.  Tourists queueing from early in the morning for the boat ride, few hundred meters of a boat ride to visit a symbol that is the country's identity.  Yes - I'm referring to the statue of liberty and the Vivekananda Rock.

The tourists are unmindful of the symbols, they take the message for granted.  Like the Americans who take their liberty for granted, the India tourists take their spirituality for granted.

Before I go on and on about spirituality, I must define it, for there are far too many definitions.  To me, spirituality is to be aware of the contradictions.  That's it.  This definition makes it easy for me to define why India is a spiritual place.  To a foreigner, the contradictions that they see in India are unsettling - the rich and the poor, not too far away from each other in Mumbai; the holy and the unholy in every city and town, that pilgrims throng to have a darshan of a deity; the terrains, the weather.  India is a complete package of contradictions.  Comprehending them through a limited mind is hard as the mind is known to categorize information.  With opposites side-by-side, unable to comprehend, the mind can just wonder.  Call it an Indian definition.  But that's the moment of spirituality for me.

Coming back to the Vivekananda Rock, the main hall features a statue of Swami Vivekananda.  He stands with a hand on his hip and right foot set on a platform.  The posture is that of a king, not a monk.  A monk, who owned nothing, won no wars, held no kingdom stands there like a king.  That - is a contradiction.  He was a  monk who traveled far, wore western clothes, free of any dogma, lectured on religions.  The monk swam these couple of hundred meters of cold water to get to the rock to mediate.  Another contradiction there - from vigorous physical activity to being passive.

You also get to see a naturally formed impression of a human foot on the rock.  It is believed to be that of the Goddess as a teenaged girl, who is meditating on Shiva for eons.  The legend is that the girl killed a demon and protected the people.  Another set of contradictions there - a fine young girl exhibiting her resolve in meditation and her strength in killing a demon.

Such contradictions make India.  Just as the statue of liberty is a symbol of American identity, I see Kanyakumari as India's identity.

P.S: During our 15-20 minute stay at the Vivekananda Memorial, they were playing Gambhira Nattai, reminding us the posture of Vivekananda and his vision for the country.