After Having spent the last 1.5 decade living in a foreign land, festivals have taken on a different meaning altogether. Our celebrations have become mellow, yet our love for our country and our people has grown manifold.
We often talk to our children about the essence of festivals, leaving out the religious aspect of it, as both me and my husband do not believe in getting caught up in the nitty gritties of religious acts. It’s been a conscious effort on our part and not one of conveneince. We do have a small temple and we do follow some of our own rules out of habit- no shoes around the temple area, temple clothes get cleaned regularly, etc etc. I love the smell of incense and I love the spirituality of the hanuman chalisa. But we teach our kids that prayer is not for asking God to always do us well in terms of a gain, but there is no harm in just sometimes folding our hands in obeisance and asking GOd to bestow us with the strength to deal with all our ups and downs , for everyone gets their fair share of both. The power of prayer is not displayed in God’s pity on us and then ridding us of our insecurities/negative thoughts , but because maybe those 10 minutes spent in prayer is saving us from those very bad thoughts and insecurities. This is how I like to explain things to kids. I grew up in a relatively Arya Samajhic environment as a result of my mum’s lineage and my dad‘s conversion to the concept, sometime during his college days. In such a setting, one would grow up with the concept of hawans. I did too. Somewhere I grew attached to the idea of hawans, not because i felt that it spiritually made a difference because we have now pleased GOd, but because hawans were a way to get the family to sit around each other for a common cause chanting from a book and singing bhajans , because the kund smell smelt of fragrance, because the fumes made the house feel cleansed. All these are a means of getting your spirits up and imbibing a team spirit, and is why participating in hawans felt good!
Each year I indulge in some fasting. These occasions are fond childhood memories of lavish feasts and get togethers, or a day that was different from routine. I never really got attached to these occasions as a means of prolonging my family’s lives and happiness (GOD forbid). Rather then attaching the concept of a happy life to a fast, I would rather go about creating a positive environment around home and be wise in family matters. I do although believe that fasting has an inherent way of teaching us gratitude, yet making our bodies healthy.
Anyways coming back to the point, one’s Spirituality and faith are a very private matter. My spirituality may be different from my own child’s. Based on his own experiences he may chose to follow certain traditions and customs and reject all of mine. And I should respect that, as Long as he creates a positive environment for himself and others.
For what I have seen in my limited lifetime, I have also come to understand a different aspect of religion. When difficult times strike us, we turn to religion, we are ready to add on more practices to our spirituality, we fear for future losses, we try to counter our insecurities with more and more religious acts. We start confusing spiritually with religious customs and acts. We add on threads and garnishes in terms of rings and amulets to our birthday suit. We start becoming conscious of time in terms of night or day prayers. We start restraining ourselves from doing or eating certain things on certain days. We start chanting out as many mantras as we can. We become sensitive. Our plates and pans become different from others. We may sometimes become irritated with who we perceive as religiously insensitive people. We may sometimes tell our children to start following specific rules, sometimes completely omitting the logic behind it. I have seen grown up children follow the rules in front of their parents to not break their heart ,only to break them behind their backs. The important thing to notice here is the GAP of pretense that our insecurity has caused between us and our children. History is proof of how blind religious beliefs has caused disarray in the world. Let us not forget that it was a religiously blinded man who thought of putting a hindu flag atop a Mosque, but it took for a spiritual one to get back up there and take it down. The religiously blinded were quarrelling,while the spiritual were reasoning it out. My faith is my faith and yours is yours, and each is respect worthy.
I and my husband follow simplified rules. His version- do good and forget! Mine-send good energies in the universe, to build a good environment around yourself! My children may have their own version and maybe they have none as yet or it’s still in the process of formation.
In the end I would like to say, the universe won’t ask you whether you sat on the right or left side of your husband during a prayer, or whether you chanted all the mantras that needed chanting, but it will surely question you whether your heart and mind was clean, whether you were aware of your own faults and whether you did good by others! That’s religion for me as I understand it, maybe I am yet to learn!