As a child I was taught about God as the Creator of the Universe, the One who created all of us and also gave us our destinies. The One without whose will not even a leaf will blow. The One who loves us more than anyone can. The One to whom we can turn when we are alone because He will never forsake us. I believed in God with my whole heart and used to have quite long conversations with Him when I was alone (which was a lot!)…and these conversations were mostly aloud. I had a habit of thinking out loud when I was young. And my family used to eavesdrop on my conversations…they thought it was cute!
Anyways I made God my only confidant and shared all my questions and secret desires with him so that I considered only Him to be my closest friend. (Heh..heh! God was my imaginary friend!) So when one day I read somewhere “Fear only God”… I was confused!! Why should I fear God? If He is so righteous and just, why should I be afraid of him? So I asked this question to my Mother. She explained that being fair and just God not only rewards those who do good but also punishes those who do bad. That is why we should fear God and refrain from doing bad. But this did not satisfy me… Dad taught us to do good because it is the right thing to do. We were taught to be kind, understanding, gentle, loving, helpful, respectful because that is what, being human, should come naturally to us. Dad also told us that a good deed is good only when we mean it, when it comes from the heart. Even if a good deed comes from a wicked intention, it becomes a sin. So doesn’t the same hold for Fear? If the fear of God’s wrath makes me do good things, then will those things really mean anything? Because they won’t be from my own desire to do it but from fear! And if I have committed a sin, then shouldn’t I be ready to repent on it and accept whatever punishment God gives us and be happy that we have a chance to redeem ourselves? Then why is there any need to fear God or his Judgement!! If God is so righteous and just then he will not reward us for doing good out of fear…and nor will he ever punish us more than we deserve. So my 8 year old self concluded that there was nothing to fear from God…because if in God we trust than we should trust fully that He shall do what is right. And in his judgement we should have complete faith, and not fear…
Another such notion is praying for help or success. We say we believe in God, then why can’t we believe that He will give us nothing less than what we deserve! Why do we have to prostrate to Him and beg for things like success, love, money, or even a dear ones life? If God listens to those who pray more, then God cannot be just…And even today when I join my hands in supplication I try not to ask for myself or my dear ones but thank Him for this Life and everything in it. And to say that I believe in him, that for every problem I have, he meant it to make me stronger, wiser and better.
But one important lesson my Dad taught me…was the difference between Faith and Religion. When I told Dad about all these…he explained to me that what I had was Faith and what we followed was Religion. He told me that to have Faith in God we don’t have to follow any Religion. Because Faith is pure and human, and is in the core of every Religion, but Religion itself is just the path through which to reach Faith. He also explained to me the need to Fear God and to pray to Him. The main motive of Religion is to instil in society the Fear of being judged so that people refrain from committing crimes and sin. And also to give everyone a hope, that prayers would be answered of those who are suffering. That is why Religion teaches us to Fear God and to Pray to him.
As I grew up, my concept of God and Faith didn’t change much. Though I don’t follow the conventions of Religion, I do believe in God. But not in someone with eighthands, or with an elephants head. Shiva, Parvati, Vishnu, Lakshmi, Saraswati they are all myths and legends. Examples of the rich and literate culture of India. But I believe in an Universal conscience. Like all matter and energy in the Universe comes from a single source, I believe that our conscience itself is just another form of energy that too comes from the same source. And the whole Universe is in itself one living breathing organism, the most intelligent and the most powerful. And we all are but parts and pieces, cells of this organism. Each of us share His soul, in good and bad. We each have the power to BE the Universe if we open up ourselves to who we really are. If we can identify each and everyone and everything as a part of us. Like you are a part of me and I am a part of You!
I believe that we were born with all the power and knowledge we need in this Life, just that we need to discover it ourselves. We need to have faith in Ourselves. Whatever strife there be, whatever the pain be. If it exists, then the power to overcome it does also!
Today I still bow my head in front of Idols and pictures. Because they maybe Myths and Legends, but they also are the symbols of faith, a representation of ourselves, something on which we can focus our Faith. Something that even today teaches people to fear their evils and to have hope in their life. But the true Faith is found within oneself…for there is where God is.