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Religion and spirituality

I have no belief in an organised religion, and the concept of a god who needs appeasement in many ways, a thousand candles lit or yet another million rituals and prayers so he/she will shower blessings on us. I don't believe in a textbook version of god, as religion wants me to believe. Suffice it to say my god is my values, not any god mythology/the sacred books speak of. I believe more in making everyday living meaningful rather than reciting prayers after prayers without ever trying to capture the essence of any of them.

Yes, you can light a hundred lamps to a god you believe in, and perform all the prescribed rituals. That makes you religious, and not spiritual. Spirituality has nothing to do with celebrating festivals or performing rituals associated with them. You don't even need to believe in a 'god' to be spiritual.

I have always felt organised religion is more about a sense of community, rather than spirituality. Being religious has nothing to do with liberating yourself from the shackles of a materialistic life; in fact when I see some festivals being performed with an array of silver/gold/silk, and riches, I wonder which god told them to do so.

There are different levels at which religion can be interpreted, of course. For some, the shell is important, for others it is the core. To each unto her own.

Spirituality is liberating. In my experience, religion is bondage. You 'HAVE' to do certain things to 'BELONG' to a religion. You need a god, a standard one, to belong. My god is my muse, my god is my work, my god is my spirit to live and love, but no religion may have sanction for my kind of god. In that sense, I am godless, yes. I am not a believer.

When you read the Upanishads (or try to, in my case) and Shankara's Advaita philosophy, however, you don't have to be religious. The concept of an ultimate consciousness, the Brahman, a power that you know not of, is one you'd want to believe in, even without believing in a god that religion tells you to believe in. Brahman is not god with a form. Brahman is some ever-changing, unchanging reality/power which is unimaginable. It is 'agochara' or infinite. Infinity, 'anantha', that is the power that holds the Universe together. That infinity could be physics to me, or religion to you. That infinity could be god, I don't know.

The concept of infinity is staggering. What are we but tiny specks of dust -- here today and gone tomorrow. The mighty universe churns on, and we are just 'blink-and-you-miss' entities in this powerful play, this cycle of life and death. And yet, look at our mighty egos, and our blind faith in our own invincibility.

I love reading the Nirvana Shatakam, verses that tell you what the pure self, Aatman, is.

You can find the translation here:

If you read Raja Rao's 'The Serpent and The Rope' you'll know all about 'Chidananda Roopam/Shivoham Shivoham'.

Brings an immense sense of calm. And some perspective.


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