Faith = Knowing that if you are created, you will be provided for

When you can’t find a way forward, when it is absolutely dark, look within. That’s where you will find the light. That’s what is called faith.  
We have, for long, been conditioned to understand faith is what we have in an “external” Energy or object, sometimes a.k.a God. So, in times of crisis, when Life comes to a grinding halt, when you are circumstantially cornered, your faith, as you understand it, also becomes questionable. The external Energy, God, whatever, doesn’t physically come to your rescue – at least not in the way you expect it! And so, you question whether there really is a God? Whether there really is a Higher Energy? We have all gone through these tests. We have all, in a fit of rage, when it appeared that Life was most certainly over, declared that God is blind, that the God-theory is all hog-wash and all your faith has been misplaced. There’s nothing wrong with such a response to Life in trying, and excruciatingly painful and hopeless, situations. It is but natural to vent your frustration especially when matters relating to faith are concerned.
So is keeping the faith a really futile exercise? Actually, to answer this question, you must re-examine how you define faith.
Faith is not what you project externally. Faith is a deeply personal resource which can be found only when you look within. You don’t normally understand this because of the way you approach Life. Consider this: something challenging happens in your Life – you lose your job, you suffer a serious health setback, you lose someone you love, your business is badly hit or any other context. Immediately, the focus, the examination of the event, is through external reference points. Any effort to deal with the situation is also driven by external coordinates. Rarely is there an inquiry within. I remember, when things started going wrong in our business, we went around on pilgrimages for months on end. We went to people who advised us how the apartment we lived in needed redesign (actually, re-engineering!), how our Firm’s name had to be changed and so on. We were taken to someone who advised me to wear rings on my fingers, in both hands. I have nothing against any of these efforts that we undertook or the advice we received. Except, to complete the story, none of these efforts helped our failing business – and we indeed went bankrupt! But I am not bitter or ridden by guilt over what we tried. I am only transparently sharing here, the steps we undertook, to reinforce my point that we always look outside for answers, for solutions. My visits to a very learned astrologer were also part of this external-gratification journey.
However, I am blessed that I found this gentleman, a scholar, a maestro in his craft (the science of astrology). He opened my eyes to my soul!
On one of my visits, I remember asking him: “Sir, how is it that you don’t advise any poojas or special prayers to help mitigate the effects of the time that we are passing through?”
My astrologer, a saintly-looking man, in his 70s then, took a deep breath, and asked: “Saar, I see that you are wearing rings, with stones embedded in them, on your fingers. May I ask you why?”
I replied: “Sir, a famous gemologist advised me to wear these rings. He said they will ward off negative influences of certain planets that are not well disposed towards me.”
My astrologer laughed heartily when he heard my reply. He responded with this profound perspective – something that awakened me: “Saar, kallala vidhiya maatra mudiyuma? Can a piece of stone change your destiny? Also, no planet is harmful. Everyone, you, me, everyone, really goes through certain phases in Life. No stone, no special prayer, or pariharam(remedy; atonement) can change what you are ordained to go through. Astrology is a science, no doubt. Yet, it can only tell you what you are going through and what you are likely to encounter in the future. It can’t alter, or help you escape, your destiny. Keep the faith. Know that if you have been created, you will be provided for. Sometimes, what you are provided for, is not what you want or expect. At such times you have to remember that this is what Life has planned for you – so that you can learn and grow from each experience.”
My inward journey was triggered in part by that unintended discourse. To me, ever since, faith has meant knowing that “if you have been created, you will be provided for.” I am not against religion or an external-God theory. But I will champion any day, from personal experience, that in Life’s darkest hours, the road that you will find fully illuminated, and inviting, is the one that leads you within. Being on that road does not mean that all your problems in the external world will cease to exist. Being on that road, however, surely means that you will be more capable, and feel more confident, of dealing with all those problems. Because that road always leads to inner peace.

Celebrating Friday the 13th

Today is Friday the 13th. In Western culture, there’s a superstition that Friday the 13th will bring ill luck to people when they attempt anything on this day. Indian culture too has its fair share of superstitions. Don’t continue with your journey (or work) if a black cat crosses your path. Or don’t take possession of a new house unless you first boil milk in it. Or respect a weekly timetable of “bad” 90 minute capsules (rahukalam). And many, many more.
There are normally two kinds of people. Those who follow superstitions and those who don’t. But there’s also a third category: who don’t know which category of people to follow! They often wonder: Is being superstitious good or bad? Is it foolish to be superstitious? Is being superstitious a sign of being too religious?
Let me share my learnings from my experiences of having been superstitious. Firstly, superstition means accepting something __ or even rejecting something __ without having any first-hand knowledge about it or believing (or rejecting) something blindly without verifying. So, in the true sense of the word’s meaning, a believer in God and an atheist, both are superstitious. A believer because, in the normal course, she or he believes so more by following than by seeking (verifying first-hand) and an atheist because, she or he, again rejects blindly without ascertaining if there is a case indeed for no-God! So, theists and atheists, both are capable of being superstitious. Just as scientists are too. Until Liebniz argued that it is possible to have just three digits in the counting system, as opposed to 9, the world of mathematicians was superstitious too. They accepted a 1 ~ 9 count, just as we have all done, without pausing to verify, question, argue or debate. So, the point being made here is that there is nothing wrong in being superstitious if you are comfortable in following something__anything for that matter__without questioning, without verifying.
To me superstitions are an integral part of growing up – of evolving. I once was sitting in front of a very learned astrologer, who, seeing the rings on my fingers, asked me why I was wearing them. I replied saying that a well-known gemologist had recommended that I wear them to “ward off the bad times” that I was faced with. He laughed and asked in Tamil: “Kallaala Vidhiya Matramudiyuma Sir?” (Can stones change destiny?). He then went on to explain: “Sir, don’t accept anything just because you find it comfortable to believe it or to follow it. Not even what I am telling you. Challenge every assumption, ask, seek…and from the answers you get, pick the one which you feel you can relate to the most. Choose that which you feel is the most common-sensical. In doing that you will always be at peace.” I have followed his sagely advise to this day.
So, the question here is not whether a superstition works or not. Or whether it is right or wrong. The question here is have you verified what you are following? Are you convinced of your line of thought and action? If you have done this check, then what you follow is no longer a superstition, it is a belief. And, importantly, if you have chosen to not believe something, it does not mean that someone else believing in it is wrong. Respect that the person may have as much strong evidence to support her or his belief as you have against it.
Bottom-line: any day, any time is good, but no day, no time is better than today, the NOW, to live and to celebrate Life! So, please don’t let anything – not even your beliefs – ruin this non-stop party called Life for you!