God has to be enjoyed, not feared! Live your Life simply, purely, being present in the moment, and you will experience the God that you always seek. Today is as auspicious as any other day. This moment is as sacred as any other. It is our beliefs, primarily conditioned through the medium of religion, that have taken us away from enjoying Life for what it is and have led us to fear (a) God! And anything that’s feared cannot be enjoyed!
Mandarins of religion, historically, down the ages, have written or propounded principles that are aimed at scaring people that something grave will happen to them if they “disregard or ignore” an external God! As a child, I was warned, by my grandmother, that if I don’t eat my meals on time, “sami vandhu kanna kutthum!” (God will come and pierce or gorge your eyes out). So, the first conditioning we often receive is to “fear” God. More recently, a family member who lost her mother, was not allowed to attend the obsequies by her husband because someone else (a distant relative) had died in his side of the family – and per traditional “religious” practice/protocol you must mourn your husband’s loss first over your own! What kind of a religion is it if it prevents a daughter from mourning the loss of her mother and being with her own siblings and father in a time of grief? But such absurdities abound – and worse, they are adhered to because the protagonists “fear” God will harm them if they “dare to disregard, disrespect” or “sin”!
There’s a story from Guru Nanak’s Life that delivers an awakening message. It is said that, per Islam, sleeping with your feet in the direction of Kaaba, which is one of the most sacred sites for Muslims and is in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, is not permitted. Now Nanak is believed to have visited Kaaba and was found sleeping with his feet pointing to the Kaaba. The Imam, the holy priest, of Kaaba came over and angrily shook Nanak awake. He asked Nanak to explain how dare he point his feet at the holy site.
He thundered at Nanak, “Whether you are a Muslim or not, can’t you obey the rules? Shame on you! Now change your direction and go to sleep.”
Nanak replied humbly: “Sir, I have tried but it is just not working out. Why don’t you try pointing my feet away from the Kaaba?”
The Imam was furious. He violently dragged Nanak’s feet away from the Kaaba. But however much he tried, the Kaaba moved too, to be always ending up facing Nanak’s feet. The Imam tried a hundred times. But a hundred times, the Kaaba moved following Nanak’s feet.
Nanak laughed and said: “This is my problem. I also tried. And I also gave up. In which direction do I point my feet? I realize that every direction is holy – and all creation, existence, is divine.”
So it is. A memorable point-counter-point among three famous Urdu poets, spread over 200 years and three generations, further amplifies this message!
The venerable Mirza Ghalib (1797~1869) was once caught drinking alcohol in a mosque. He said, when asked to explain himself, “Sharaab pene de masjid mein baith kar, ya who jagah bata jahan khuda nahi…” It means: “Allow me to drink in the mosque or tell me a place where God isn’t present (so I can go drink there!).
Allama Iqbal (1877~1938), perhaps offering a counter to Ghalib said: “Masjid khuda ka ghar hai, peeney ki jagha nahin, Kaafir ke dil mein ja, Wahan khudaa nahin…” It means: “A mosque is God’s abode, not a place to imbibe alcohol, go to the heart of a non-believer, as God does not reside there”
Ahmed Faraz (1931~2008), offered his take on Iqbal’s, saying: “Kaafir ke dil se aya hoon mein yeh dekh kar, Khuda maujood hai wahan, Par usey pata nahin…” It means: “I have come from seeing a non-believer’s (perhaps referring to himself) heart, God is resident there too…but the non-believer doesn’t quite know this!”
I am not sure if an external God, a Creator of the Universe exists, in reality. But I do believe that all of creation is so beautiful, so divine. And each of us has been created to experience this. Through this experience, we will find our God – within us! As Kabir, the 15th Century weaver-poet says: “As oil is in the oilseed, so is the Lord within three, unrevealed”. I also have come to believe that this God within has to be enjoyed, not feared! As the Quran says, Bismillah ir Rahman ir Rahim__meaning, if you believe there is a God, then that God is, in the name of Allah, Benevolent and Merciful!
Here’s hoping that this Eid, you too celebrate the Universal Energy that powers you and enjoy the God that resides in you!