My opinions and views on religion as I understand it and as it is associated with social and cultural phenomena that I have seen…
August 12, 2010
I hardly have views on anything. Or more appropriately I keep them to myself. I was once advised that our views in the world doesn’t matter. Not knowing how to deal with that view I let go.
So I am ready to imagine that these are not views rather these are my opinions and as they come if the world doesn’t see any value in them these opinions are liable to be rejected, criticized, un-understood, despised anything but be treated for what they really are, opinions. Opinions are like taste.
I have met many folks who do not like the taste of green tea, or a pickle or a movie or a conversation. A brilliant conversation by some peoples taste standard is a lousy one for another individual or a group. This is the single most powerful logic why one must have his own set of opinions despite of its acceptability. That is we can not please everyone so we must have our opinions. But we must see that Our opinions doesn’t cause us inconvenience. Because we hardly have any control over our or another persons tastes. We may have some respect for another persons tastes or opinions but we seldom think its appropriate to show it, and we do show it sometimes.
Enough about tastes and opinions. How is a view different from an opinion. A view is more so connected with what we see (which may be unique again, because there is one observer) than a opinion which is a matter of taste, what we like and do not like, irrespective of what we see. Although a view has a connotation of relevance a bit more than the relevance of an opinion, in the real world opinions makes more sense than a view. And if your opinion has no value for a uncanny type of individual how is he going to give value to your views.
To be able to respect others views, which is more important, we must in someway develop some tolerance for others tastes. So in that sense a view is a refined opinion, howsoever gorgeous it sounds, at the level of our understanding, its an opinion.
Without cutting more grass than needed for the horse, I am therefore, going to express my views on religion as I understand it.
I am borne into a Hindu Brahman family. This in my mind has no more significance than say the social and cultural settings in which I grew and the quality of my life which is insured by such a connection, if it is and oppositely the amount of vulgarities that is supposedly deserved by me because I am a Brahman. If this sounds a self abasement then you are hearing me partly, because I am just trying to give a complete picture. Some of the advantage that are supposed to be applicable but rather hardly seen by me can be of historical reasons. And I am not borne in another historical possibility so who am I really to give you an opinion about such. Except the fact that I can only make an attempt at telling you what is invalid in such a opposing scenario.
So talking about these privileges, I have been privileged to have a modern education despite of how history sees it fit. Brahmans can be and have been one of the most successful social layer in today’s India despite of the natural disadvantage India 2000 is posing towards this group. I can tell you stories about how a bunch of traditional Brahmans with lack of modern education and an excess of historical and traditional dogmas can view those who are not. I can also talk about how a rather negative mindset of the non-brahmans with a seemingly modern outlook and education plays foul in creating myths and loathsome description of the brahmans. And this is the middle of my essay, so if you find it irksome or uncomfortable, remember this is about my views about religion as I have experienced it and you can make this comfortable by living this essay.
And what disadvantage I am talking about the Brahman connection. The disadvantage is Brahmans are a minority in India and they need to be seen in that prospect. Is being a Muslim or christian in India makes ones position one of disadvantage, despite of how the bugle blowers can depict them? But they are a minority, right? And I am aware how the antagonists of such an idea would try to counteract my view, do you also propose to make every caste a minority in India? My answer is I am not proposing anything constitutional or legal. I am expressing my views on a purely logical and supposedly simple viewpoint. Brahmans are a numerical minority in today’s India despite of their social and cultural prestige in the society and this has withered in today’s India supposedly to correct historical wrongs which do not make sense to a Brahman borne in 1978. And this Brahman does not believe in historical wrongs and historical supremacy. This Brahman has a lot of fan following and friends from all walks of life. This Brahman shares a loving relationship with every human being that is amenable to the reasons of natural laws.
In someway the Brahmans of India are the Jews of the western world, in a way traditionally the Brahmans have been torch bearers of Indian society. This is not to say that others are not a torch bearer or they focus their light where it is not needed. If you are laced with your knowledge of history you can retort, have the Brahmans been holocaust, have they been lynched, have they been persecuted. I am also laced with my knowledge of history and let me tell you. If the Jews were really so persecuted how can they hold positions of power and prestige in the social as well as academic spheres of the western world? I will keep a secret here which may lead to more personal misunderstanding than the one that is really into play, my personal identification.
But apart from that the proof is that persecution doesn’t necessarily happen through lynching, setting someone into fire or mayhem , that’s just the violent outburst of the prejudiced conditions of a community. But persecutions happens through a dogged behavior very prevalent in our societies and others. Gray hound or Brown hounds, hounding is the attribute which is often preserved to apply it when the time is necessary, or as they say it, when time is ripe. They can imagine time to be ripened much in the same way they can imagine burning human beings into ashes. And its this violence which Gandhi is not the only person to de-taste.
There are millions of sons and daughters in this country and in many others who adhere to such philosophy. Asoka and the Buddhists propounded it. Gandhi is a torch bearer in modern times. But talking about persecution it happens through a personal sense of inflicting injury by taking advantage of ones situations. How else can the Nazis persecute the Jews? Where as the Obamas and Clintons can not. Because everything has a place for it and America is not the place for Jew persecution. India is not the place for Brahman persecution. (And everything has a time for it as well) You can easily persecute a Brahman in the United States by creating a myth which is culturally and socially un-understandable by the natives. To see the innocence of the religiously free mind is a lesson in itself. And sometimes this lesson comes with a price tag.
So that’s my view on the corresponding social status of the Jews and Brahmans although it may be hard to fathom . It could be that Brahmans and Jews are really just the same people that lived different place, time and historical roof in different continents. So a pure Brahman in India, in recent times hard to notice, may actually be a descendant of a Jew and the Jews in many different continents are really Brahmans that immigrated from where these Brahmans or Jews are originally from.
Now Brahmans and Jews are not the central point of any conversation neither are they the ones that exert the centrifugal force in any situation. So what are my views on religion really? Well they should be without any doubt a result of my social upbringing, and cultural settings, right? Well not necessarily. If that were so, my views would cut a great deal of similarity with another bunch of folks view. And in present day India (1981 to now, when I really started kicking my mental horizons) religion in India hardly happens in a way that makes it identifiable like a religion of the west except for the externally visible ways, like wearing a tilak or breaking a coconut.
So religions in India are identified by whether you break the coconut to initiate a ceremony or what kind of attires identify you. Whether you wear the turban or not. whether you keep a long beard or you believe in the sanctity of social conduct in one way or another. Given the myriad different ways this can be depicted and linked with mythical philosophies, whether to draw a benefit from such linkage or not, they all embody the Indian religion. But our Bharat Bhagya Bidhatas have categorized them partly in accord with their lack of knowledge and partly in keeping with their masters word.
The master can be a social pressure group in the form of a Hindu conscience congress or an Islamic (pseudo) scholars congregation, it could be Max Muller or an American church circuit that secretly funds divisive politics in India. It could be a out of the way sympathy of the most prestigious family of India for the pseudo religionists of any country or it could be a historical perspective which is quite unlikely truthful in its account.
Religion is always amenable to cater to the socially powerful, if it gets distorted in anyway its only a bizarre and disfigured ritual. And when religion becomes a central and unquestionable authority in devising our ways of life, our code of conduct for our dressing taste, our love expressions or our night lives or a rave party that we had, despite of the pompous claims of secular governance we must realize we have fallen into an anthropological black hole, from which we have no hope of survival, whatsoever and howsoever we want it. To tell in simple words we are governed by what we say is our religious conscience because that’s the way we are. We do not like any change in our regressionist psyche. And if that defines our religious identity , I have hit a jackpot of my views on religion.
To talk about the western religions then is not a matter much different from ours, if we realize that they too are constantly trying to come to peace with their identity in a society which is materially much accomplished but spiritually in unrest. The religionists in the west are promising the westerners a spoonful of Amruta in the form of spiritual fulfillment. In that hilarious claim you can attain a personal relationship with a God and such a God is already a person, only if a couple thousand years ago. What they are essentially promising to a Physicist like me is Go back a couple thousand years ago. Be an anti-modernist. Or in their defense the present times is sinful, we do not know how peaceful the past was.
Why then the folks killed the God? Well the God was a mockingbird. Believe it or not someone actually said me that Jesus Christ was killed because he was too condescending towards others. If he was such a mocking genius he should have tried Physics. He was going to win a MacArthur fellowship or something of that kind.
And the eastern religions mainly from India has a very mystique presence in the minds of the westerner , equally alike in the minds of a native as much as its in the mind of a backpacker. Although the backpacker is more happy with a religion that allows drinking wine and beer the native is more concerned with a visual pleasure. Did our forefathers drink wine in social and religious gatherings? Do not cite the Soma rasa. We do not know. Actually like religion we hardly know anything about our history in truthful perspective. We are Indians, when we claim we belong to a half of a decade of a civilization in counting the period in units of 1000 years, we hardly know ourselves past a couple hundred years ago.
We take great pleasure in expressing our ability to preserve culture and tradition (civilization is not our forte) but is it really preservation or fortunate survival ? If we describe the India of our times we will see a Naipaul is vindicated 1000 times in saying what a wounded civilization we are, of-course from the invasion of the non-natives. I have seen folks criticizing him for his lack of a sense of owing towards his connection to India, but how true. We can also wound ourselves in a desperate attempt to express ourselves in what we think is the rightful expression rather than hear somebody out for his depictions. And we can become violent in destroying some body’s dignity let alone his personal works of art or imagination, because we have to be right. Planet earth has only one country where people do not know how to be wrong, golly, despite of their ignorance. If somebody can walk his path when his eyes are blindfolded and you make that a sport in Olympics that’s the only sport the Indians will win a Gold. Everywhere else he can win accolades for having the spirit to show a pelvic failure.
Now isn’t that a religion? It is if you agree that religion is nothing more than a set of set of beliefs howsoever crippling they can be towards our own rising, and why awake arise and stop not till the goal is reached, if the goal can be made to look embarrassing, before you are even awake, that is you are in your dream state, you do not have to care to arise and walk. Its a sense relativity in the minds of a self denying trigot I must say. (trigot is the next level of accomplishment of a bigot) Religion often makes us end up in a blind spot from where there is no seeing sanity. And science gives us binoculars so lets not put them both on a straddle.
And since I have diverged from my views of western religion, may we return. I can not promise much to anyone here because I do not know as much here about the nitty grit-ties of the western religions. But I do not have the risk of running wrong with the depictions or any jargon because mostly in my experience I am an observer as opposed to a participant. (so am I with the Indianic religions but I have observed for longer) The western religion is more close towards its visible nature. On the one hand a westerner will often claim its adherence to no religion, such a stance may be categorized as atheism. But that’s only in the surface. Because deep inside they are just exploring their own identity and that makes them an adherent when push comes to shove.
So the atheists are a bunch of modernists or post modernists who can sway either way when push comes to shove. I usually meet the post modernists in my dream because I do not know how they look like. And then there are these Mormons that you can meet anywhere. If your room door is open they can invade you to your bathroom. I happened to have experienced them at-least thrice. Once they came to my house as the room door was open and I was in my towel. But still they wanted to have my time.
The next time I met them in a bus stop where they wanted me to have a bible and I missed my bus as I could not quickly avoid them. They started by asking if I know Beethoven, which I obviously knew, then they jumped to Jesus Christ. You see if you are a non-westerner and you happen to know as young a guy as Beethoven its very likely that you may know the older chap.
The third time I met them in a bus stop and I knew how to escape and more importantly why. Just do not give them any attention. When you are waiting for a bus or an airplane never entertain a religionist. So that’s one of my views of religion, you see. So the western religions have modernized themselves even if they are wearing the same veils. They even know a trick or two about marketability. One of these guys can hand you a bible when you are walking on a street or you may hear a commercial about how much we have furthered from our relationship with God.
And if you succumb or subscribe you are going to have a gala of a bad time. 100s of proselytizers in different rhythm and different forms. But this can also be a good opportunity for taking some one home, if its a weekend. You cant have a personal relationship with God without having one with His followers.
On numerous occasions I have had interactions with fellow God believers where they wanted me to have a personal relationship with God and I wanted them to know that I am still getting out of a bad relationship, so it will take some time before I go on the relationship path again. Fair deal. But on many occasions I meet folks who are young and bright and interested about science and I have a real good time. The only thing I miss is a good recording device that can capture my ideas and imaginations as I go, than after I go.
These kind of proselytizers are in demand. I have seen such folks traveling as far as Japan (or are they natives of Japan !!) who can roam in as unsuspecting a place as a railway or bus stop and come running to you like they are there to help you. But in a moment of exasperation you realize they are there to talk God. And why do they always happen in a bus stop, railway stop or a plane-way stop. I will never know.
Another characteristics of religion in the US that I find is the mixing up of science and religion. Make the power of science mix up with the needs of religion if you are to succeed, that’s the mantra. You will see a PhD scientist writing a book about religion or more appropriately about God, and its not long before you discover its Jesus Christ in his favorite gown. The mocking bird is still looming large. It could be a scientist giving you a seminar on biological evolution and suddenly the mockingbird pops up from nowhere. It doesn’t take you 3 years to realize these are not scientific seminars. And in most of these seminars you will find a large Keralite population (Why don’t they call them Keralian or something like that, may be Keralise, why they want to rhyme with Sterlite, Keralite is not another type of stone). Easy to form a relationship with God in Kerala, that’s how they invented the phrase, Gods own country.
Another facet of the western religion is what I liked a lot. Watch the movie dogma, and see how the dog,master becomes the dogma,ster. And how fun can be poked on the mockingbird. Mock the mockingbird, do not kill the mockingbird. I think such freedom which in the religionists mind is excessive but in the freethinking movie makers mind is modernism isn’t quite appreciated by all. But USA has a very balanced composition of all faith. At-least it doesn’t have a risk of offending too many religions because there is one religion. The mockers.