Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Acts of Faith

(Imported from my old web log May 16, 2005)

(Some thought-provoking questions. My Analysis is attached below)

> Isn't it strange ?
> Isn't it strange how Rs. 20/=
> seems like such a large
> amount when
> you donate it to temple, but
> such a small amount
> when you go shopping?
> Isn't it strange how 2 hours
> seem so long when
> you're at place of worship, and how
> short they seem when you're
> watching a good movie?
> Isn't it strange that you can't
> find a word to say when
> you're praying,
> but you have no trouble
> thinking what to talk about
> with a friend?
> Isn't it strange how difficult
> and boring it is to read
> one chapter of
> the Bible/ Quran / Gita, but how easy
> it is to read 100 pages of
> a popular novel?
> Isn't it strange how everyone
> wants front-row-tickets
> to concerts or
> games, but they do whatever
> is possible to sit at the last
> row in a holy place?
> Isn't it strange how we need to
> know about an event for
> temple 2-3
> weeks before the day so we can
> include it in our agenda, but we can
> adjust it for other events in
> the last minute?
> Isn't it strange how difficult it
> is to learn a fact about
> God to share it
> with others, but how easy
> it is to learn, understand,
> extend and repeat gossip?
> Isn't it strange how we
> believe everything
> that magazines and newspapers
> say, but we question the words in the
> Bible and other holy books?
> Isn't it strange how everyone
> wants a place in
> heaven, but they don't want
> to believe, do, or say anything
> to get there?
> Isn't it strange how we send
> jokes in e-mails
> and they are forwarded
> right away,
> but when we are going to send
> messages about God, we think
> about it twice before we share
> it with others?

(My Reply)

Strange! Hm!

Put another way:
1. Why shopping and not donating in temple?
2. Why a good movie, why not a place of worship?
3. Why talking with a friend, why not with God?
4. Why is it boring to read one chapter of Bible/Quran/Gita, and why not a popular novel?
5. Why 2-3 days' planning for temple, and no planning required for other things?
6. Why front row in a theatre, why rear seat in a praying place?
7. Why it's difficult to learn a thing about God, while it's easy to learn and spread gossip?
8. Why belief in Newspaper, magazines, and not believe in holy books?
9. Why wish to have a place in heaven without being ready to invest anything in reserving that seat?
10. Why forward jokes and stuff, and not messages about God?

Just tried to rephrase the questions to make them sound less like they are trying to make me feel guilty about those facts even before I start analysing them. Now they are in a more valid neutral state. Then, on second thought:

1. Easier to feel that I am doing shopping for myself and my loved ones. Is that strange?
2. Easier to feel that I am enjoying myself in a movie than in a place of worship. Is that strange?
3. Easier to feel that we know our friend. He is right there in front of me. Faulty, mortal, but visible going by my simple perceptions. Is it strange to believe and feel more comfortable with a friend, than a God?
4. Easier to feel that I am enjoying myself reading a novel than reading Bible/Quran/Gita. Is that strange?
5. Easier to feel that I am going to use my time elsewhere for myself, and time in the worship place for nothing. Is that strange?
6. Easier to feel that in theatre we are enjoying ourselves. In a worship place we have gone for some other reason. We feel more enthusiastic about something which is giving us fun. Well, is that strange?
7. It's fun gossiping. The fun thing about them is they don't say we should learn them. We can as well ignore. A biteful of gossip goes well, with a sip of coffee! Is that strange?
8. It's easier to believe people who use the vocabulary and context that we understand. Usually it's easier to respect people who use words, languages, and concepts we don't understand. But very difficult to believe them. Is that strange?
9. I would like to spend a week or two alone in a lonely beach with Sonali Bendre (or Aishwarya Rai, or Pamela Anderson, or Carmen Electra, or Alicia Silverstone or any of those hot ones...). What! You want me to invest something for that? Forget it! I don't even know if such a scheme exists. Is that strange?
10. Easier to feel that we are spreading smiles by sending jokes. Is that strange?

I think it's more natural to feel inclined to do things we directly associate ourselves with, regardless of whether they are right or wrong, good or bad. Associating oneself with God is often not easy for many. I think that can happen only in the ways mentioned below:
1. You have grown in a religious environment, and faith has come to you as a natural thing. This includes two kinds:
1. a) Naturally religious environment. Other options are nearly absent. Faith comes like a daily habit: e.g. brushing your teeth, taking bath etc. One never finds a necessity to question these habits and faith.
1. b) Even if other options are visible, there is some kind of grading system visible, wherein it is deemed easier to be in good books of parents and elders by doing pooja daily.
2. You come across an earth-shattering experience which completely shakes your beliefs.
3. Logical experience, which define the directives of life based on 'correct and incorrect things,' rather than on 'good and bad.' Providing logically consistent and comprehensible models of the world, which serve purposes we consider of practical utility. Argument systems which suggest questioning the simple, natural maxim of 'It's my life, and I will do what increases it's value for me', will not fair well, when it comes to changing people's belief. Take the example of classical music. Its beauty gets visible only through training, or culturing from childhood. The other way to appreciate it is the way street-singers do: 'By realising, grain by grain, the beauty in it that is absent in what we do. We realise that when we want to characterise and codify our concept of musical beauty, it will give birth to some system of classical music. Meanwhile, who are not interested in music should be left alone. We should wait for the day when when he feels a song sing out when he hears a cuckoo sing, a church-bell ring, or a violin give words to the wordless feelings in his heart. He himself will come back to you that day and ask: 'Hey, I know you know how cuckoo sings. Let me hear that sound again, again again...'

Faith should be born out of simple spiritual experiences, which gives us techniques of generating joy, from within ourselves, for experiencing which we are otherwise dependent on the environment. Faith will naturally arise when the source of that joy is within sight through sustained investigation and practice.

Exactly the reverse of faith may also happen due to the same set of reasons. For instance:
Sometimes it's considered cool and impressive to be disbeliever. So people turn disbelievers to impress others.

Faith can't come when we can't associate with it. Yes, sitting in the temple will never win against watching a movie. Unless, the concept of 'amusement' is redefined. Nobody can start loving sitting and doing pooja just because doing pooja is considered good. It is on the people who have benefitted from doing pooja to communicate to others how it has benefitted them (of course, if the care that the rest of their brethen reap the fruits of faith too; because unless they care, are they believers?) It can be done by proving that indeed having fun is strange and getting bored is not. That can't be done, I am sure. So the other thing to prove is : 'There's some kind of enjoyment in those seemingly boring acts. It needs a bit of training and patience in the beginning, like most good things of the world. But there's great fun in having faith.'

If somebody convinces me that being a believer is great fun, I will consider it. Otherwise, it will be very strange for to do Acts of Faith, even if they are good.


Reena Verma said...

You said faith comes naturally. True very true for most of the cases but not for all. And for most of the cases also there is a logical, scientific reason behind it. When a child is born in Religious family, it is not just a chance or luck or whatever. God does not do anything randomly. Everything is planned very very systmatically by God. He is intelligence of all intelligences, he is a universal power. He is without any doubts. A person gets birth in particular family and gets particular situations and facilities in life depending upon all hist past karmas and he was always free to do them as he wished. As a person understands the working of God more and more, he always gets inclined to spirituality in the coming births until he is free of all desires and becomes one with God.
And by spirituality or religion I do not mean going to temples or doing puja or following some rituals. By it, I mean to connect that power inside is which is source of all knowledge and bliss.

Sujit Kumar Chakrabarti said...

I understand, it's always difficult for a non-believer to understand the viewpoint of a believer. Similarly, a believer finds it difficult to understand the difficulties of a non-believer. This happens because given the initial premises in both sides (one says 'God exists' while the other says 'God doesn't exist'), a perfectly sound system of arguments can be built.
I also believe that the existence of God is not a matter that can be argued about logically. Presence of God (and all his acts) is an experience if at all, not a consequence of any logical argumentation. If someone experiences it, it's a privilege. That's why I had mentioned the example of 'classical music'. The sense for the subtle beauty in music (or any art form) isn't granted to everyone. A person who relishes the beauty of a raga has no way of convincing another that the beauty exists. Unfortunately there are a horde of frauds who fake that sense to gain importance. The same tragedy is true with any knowledge that depends on sensing it and not rigorously proving it. Including the sense for the presence of God.
I feel believers -- in the same way as lovers of art -- must live with the disadvantage that they will never be able to 'prove' God's presence (and hence the logical and spiritual arguments which follow thereof) to a non-believer. All that can be logically proved that noone can disprove the presence of God. So, one must give the whole concept a fair chance.

Anyway, looks like we started talking about God and spirituality, as age old subject of argument! :)