Teach your children how to keep the faith and to be grateful

Faith, not religion, and being grateful, not ritualistic, are the keys to facing Life’s upheavals.

When I was raised, there was an effort, naturally, to mold me in the classic TamBram culture of being God-fearing and ritualistic. I first resisted that attempt – not entirely to challenge the existence of a Higher Energy but more to rebel against my parents – but soon, as I graduated to adulthood and began a family with Vaani, I developed my own method for communion with divinity. I retained my secular and pragmatic, non-ritualistic, outlook to Life even as I visited places of worship seeking inner peace, answers to existential questions and often to simply recharge myself. Over time, I came to the understanding that religion is completely avoidable – in fact, it is my personal opinion that it must be treated like a narcotic, it should be never tried and must possibly be banned on the planet! I also understood that the real God is the one that is within, your Life source that keeps you alive and going. It is the same Higher Energy that powers the Universe that is in you, in me. So, in effect, you are the God you seek. So the right way to be is to not be God-fearing but God-loving! Which is why, as I have realized, it is very, very important to keep the faith in yourself. Swami Vivekananda sums this up so beautifully: “He is an atheist who does not believe in himself.”

I believe it is the responsibility of all parents to raise their children with this understanding of Life and champion the relevance of faith in today’s times. Faith is not what you have in an external agent or resource. Faith is what you fundamentally have in yourself. It is the awareness that if you have been created you will be looked after and cared for. It is this awareness that can help anyone get through Life’s upheavals and crises. Surely no one’s Life is going to be free of problems and challenges. No one is going to get through Life without facing at least one situation that defies logic and human problem-solving skills. It is to deal with such a situation that we must teach our children the value of keeping the faith in themselves – which is, really, in the Higher Energy that has created all of us! Indeed, the presence of a teacher – someone, who can lead and coach without bringing in religion or rituals – will be highly valuable here. But the absence of such a person is never going to stall one’s inner evolution and awakening. Faith is so unique and intensely personal that when there is faith anything – a.k.a miracles per the world – is possible!

We must remember, however, that faith works miracles only when you develop and retain an attitude of gratitude. Even in the gravest of situations, if you are grateful for the Life you have – at the most elementary-yet-profound level for simply being alive; remember, you are having this experience only because you are alive! – you will find that Life will always open doors. You may not often find all the solutions you are looking for, but you will discover newer ways and means for experiencing Life, for facing your situation and for lasting yet another day.

hqdefaultAs parents we have to teach our children the right values no doubt. We must give them the freedom of choice to live their lives their way surely. But, in addition, we must also teach them how to keep the faith and how to express their gratitude for this free, unsolicited (none of us have asked to be born!), limited-period gift called Life. Protecting our children from going through their upheavals and learning curves in Life will never work. Each one of us has to bear our own cross. So it is for our children too. We can be there for our children, we can be with them, we can walk with them every step of the way, but we can’t live their Life for them or instead of them. The only way our children too can evolve and grow up to be better human beings, more resilient and compassionate, is by learning to keep the faith that all is well and to be grateful for whatever is, the way it is!   
 

Don’t fear God and be ritualistic trying to escape ‘sin’

Love the Higher Energy that powers the Universe. If you want to call this Energy God, please do. But please be God-loving, not God-fearing!

A story on Vaani and me broke on the popular media platform for entrepreneurship YourStory earlier this week. We have since been inundated with messages from people seeking perspective on dealing with their Life situations. One gentleman shared how his already struggling small enterprise got burdened with debt. His father passed away last year while visiting his pregnant daughter in the US. Traumatized by her father’s demise, the man’s sister developed serious complications with her delivery. The man said he had to travel to the US and stay on there to assist his sister. So the last rites of his father had to be performed in the US. The family decided to also do the elaborate rituals that follow a person’s demise. The man had to borrow from his family and friends and ended up spending Rs.20 Lakh on performing the rituals! One thing led to another – his business folded up, his income stream dried up and to keep his creditors at bay, the man started borrowing from Peter to pay Paul. His debt stands at Rs.1 crore now and he doesn’t have money to buy groceries!

I can completely empathize with the man’s plight. I have been there and I often end up being in a penniless state every once in a while – even now!

With due respect to the gentleman’s belief systems, I would like to question the validity of rituals and religion in Life. I wonder why we want to perform rituals for a deceased person at such high costs? I have nothing against the economic model of priests and all those who call themselves representatives of God or religion. To me, it’s a business model that must thrive like any other. So, the model’s mandarins will market rituals as a must-do and the way they convince their customers – people like you and me – is that they play up the “fear-God” angle. Especially when it comes to rituals related to someone’s death. I have heard that carefully crafted and articulated pitch: “You have to do these rituals to keep the deceased’s soul at peace, to do your duty as a blood relative of the deceased and for the welfare of the generations that will follow you in your clan. If you don’t do these rituals you will be sinning and God will punish you and your family.” The moment God’s dark – vicious – side played up, the ignorant, unawakened, gullible fellow voyager capitulates. And so rituals get done and that’s how the religion-ritual economy thrives!

love-and-fearAt this point, let’s step back to understand Life better. Obviously there’s a Higher Energy that has created all of us. That Energy, without doubt, is inscrutable. Yet there’s something definitive and visible about this Energy: it promises nothing and demands nothing. So why fear this Energy? Think about it. You have been created without your asking for it. You will live as long as you will and then you will die. Death is a certainty that you are born with. And have to live with. So why fear death? And why fear an after-Life that no one has ever come back to talk about? Similarly, when someone dies, why brood over their death or mourn endlessly? Why perform rituals fearing incurring the wrath of this Higher Energy? Why not just celebrate the Life of the deceased by doing what the person loved doing a lot? Ask yourself, if you would still do the rituals you do – or are made to do – if you were implicitly convinced that the Higher Energy, that you call God, need not be feared? If you would still do it, then go on, stay ritualistic. But if you would rather not do it, then I rest my case.

Simply, any form of fear must be dropped. You and I have been created to live a full Life and enjoy it. You are not here to fear anything – not even your impending death. So love your God, the Higher Energy that has created you, than be God-fearing! Anything that holds you hostage and makes you cower in fear must be abandoned – and that includes religion and rituals.

Love yourself to find your God within you!


What you fear will enslave you and what you love will liberate you!

 

You often hear people referring to themselves or others as “god-fearing”. Last night I saw an electronic billboard outside a place of worship that read: “The Fear of God is the Beginning of Wisdom”! Nothing can be more untrue.

What kind of a God is it that wants you__or me__to be fearful? Religion and its self-serving propagators have turned God into a mega-brand that is propped up so that it earns them (the propagators) money and keeps them powerful. The 2012 superhit Hindi film ‘OMG – Oh My God!’, directed by Umesh Shukla and starring Paresh Rawal and Akshay Kumar, satirically and successfully, challenged the popular concept of God, as the religions and its leaders want us to believe. The movie had an unputdownable awakening feel to it. A Rediff review of the film summed up its message: “A brave and absorbing blend of satire, fable and fantasy that brings our attention to the misuse and commercialization of religion.”

This is indeed true. The most corrupt institutions in society today are the ones that engage with and thrive on religion. The people who run them have their followers in their stranglehold by playing up concepts of sin, retribution and divine punishment. Friedrich Nietzsche (1844~1900), the German philosopher, busted this whole God theory rather forcefully. He declared, ‘God is dead. Now man is free.” Understand this in a less debatable context. You see a snake at your feet. And you freeze, fearing it. You can’t think of anything else but your imminent death. Is the snake scaring you or your thought of it scaring you, crippling you? Anybody who understands snakes will tell you that they don’t harm UNLESS they are harmed. So, if you replace your fear with love and move away slowly you will be free. But no, you will stay frozen, not so much grounded by the snake, but by your fear of the snake! The same argument applies in the context of God. When every scripture (not religion) champions love, compassion and surrender__to the moment, to Life__how and why do we buy this absurd logic of fearing a God? Fear cripples. Debilitates. Love frees, liberates. How can you fear God and be free? When you fear a God__you will be dying every moment that you are alive. You will be enslaved by superstitions, rituals, dogmas and will be looking for an, unavailable, approval of each of your actions. Which is also the reason why you are plagued by anxiety, worry, grief, suffering and stress, DESPITE your being so God-fearing! The irony is that you are suffering only because you are God-fearing! If you are God-loving, your suffering will disappear. Think about it. You were born free. And in your infancy lived free. Don’t you realize that if you have stopped being free it is your fear of God that has made you so?

Swami Sathya Sai Baba explains this so beautifully: “Everyone is God. But some are unconscious of their divinity and are conscious only of the body-state, some are partly conscious of it and a few are fully God-conscious. Complete self-surrender and unquestioning love becomes possible when man achieves unswerving faith. Once God is realized there is no question of faith at all, just as there is no question of faith when a man knows himself to only be a man.” Note here that the faith that Swami refers to here is faith in Life __ that if you have been created, you will be looked after, provided for. And he talks of surrender to the Self, not to some external entity __ living or otherwise!

 

 

Drop all your fears. Recognize the value in loving the God you so desperately seek. You cannot find that God by seeking, searching, running from one place of worship to another. Or by wearing stones and rings on your fingers. Or by fasting and abstaining. You can and will find your God only when you find yourself. The word enthusiasm comes from the Greek language. ‘entheos’, in Greek, meaning enthusiasm, is a combination of two Greek words: ‘en’ (within) and ‘theos’ (God). ‘entheos’ therefore means ‘the God within’. So, be enthusiastic about Life. Love the Life source within you. That is your God. One whom you don’t need to fear at all. Through this love, and only with this love, will you awaken to freedom and bliss.