Saturday, November 14, 2009

The God Factor

I sometimes wonder about to the role a God’s presence in our life. I grew up believing that there is someone up there who is watching us and we need to account for our actions when we finally get to meet Him. It was this accountability that perhaps made me what I am today. Little things like “annalakshmi will cry” or “Saami (God) will poke one’s eyes if one cheated etc. went a long way in training me to be fair minded and to appreciate that we had enough to eat while there were many others who went to bed hungry. It also helped me feel compassionate towards those in need.

Unlike my Christian friends we, in our family, were under no compulsion to pray on a regular basis or go to the temple on a particular day. But we were expected to leave all work and assemble in the room marked out for prayers when the puja was over and camphor was lit. Whenever it rained and thundered we’d close our eyes and pray saying “Arjuna abhayam” meaning that like Arjun of the Mahabharat we were also seeking the blessings of Lord Krishna who was saying ‘why fear when I am here?’ So albeit in a very subtle way, we were being inculcated into believing that our life was being monitored by God.

On growing up and having developed a logical mind I have often wondered whether those who do not believe in God have missed something and also whether the belief actually sustains those who do. I remember a conversation I had with a friend and colleague who had just lost a sister.

“God balances everything.” I had said. “When HE tries your faith by giving you cause to grieve, HE also rewards you by granting you something to rejoice over.”

“How do you say this didi?” she asked. “My mother lost her mother at the age of five and was raised by a step mother. She had a bad marriage and she divorced my father. She went through the trouble of educating us and getting us married. Just when she began to relax, my sister, an air hostess with a great future, was brutally murdered for dowry. The court lets her husband roam free due to lack of evidence and a girl, related to us, marries the man despite knowing the whole story. Where is the divine justice that you talk about?”

Her mother died two years later and I am still looking for answers.

A friend of mine lost her husband two years back and is yet to come to terms with it and accept the fact that death is the only sure thing about life and it can happen in any manner. She and her younger son who claim to be agnostics take medication for depression but the older son, who is a practicing Christian, firmly believes that his father is in heaven and is watching over him. His attitude is positive.

I do not reject the existence of God outright. I believe that there is god in each of us. The God within us is the voice of our conscience that keeps warning us when we go wrong. The Hindu philosophy, that our actions alone count and that one is accountable for bad karma, has been propounded after a lot of deep thinking. The welfare of society is maintained by this belief and people learn to deal with life’s blows thinking that the perpetrators of misery will have to answer for their misdeeds. They get on with their lives believing that God will take care of things. The same goes with Christian teachings that advices man to ‘do unto others what you would have others do unto you’. It helps one control negative vibes and refrain from deliberately harming others.I am sure that the Koran, Gurugranth and other religious books also say something similar.

But then all this applies to those of us who lead ordinary lives. The politician who siphons off millions and millions of public money seems to think that taxpayers are actually paying for him to invest in appropriate shady deals to an extent that he wouldn’t even remember the number of investments actually made by him. His PA would be entitled to own a dozen houses in posh localities and perhaps his gatekeeper would be a millionaire. The God within them is conveniently drugged and goes off to sleep like Rip Van Winkle.

I have not actually seen God. But I do meet his representatives from time to time. My maternal grandfather and uncle are personifications of God in my life. Thanks to them we grew up like other children without missing the presence of a father in our lives. My husband is being helped by a seventy year old man completely unknown to him till a few years back. This man is not a practicing advocate or a qualified lawyer yet he spends his time giving free legal advice to those who come to him. That he does not charge any fees for his services is one thing, he also arranges for lawyers, who like him are selfless and fight cases in the lower as well as high courts for a nominal fee. My husband’s was case filed in Jharkhand High court and the verdict was given in his favor. All this happened in 2006. We left for America soon after the case was filed and the lawyer took care of everything. My husband returned from America in about 5 months and came to know that the case had been disposed of in his favor. Can you believe that the entire process cost him only Rs. 3000/- ? We have not even met the lawyer in person. We are asked to see God in everything. I am not such a great soul to put this advice to practice. But I do see God in such people who can mint money if they choose to but refrain from doing so.

The God factor is important in that it helps one get past trying times. It enables us to accept unhappy and shattering experiences with equanimity and accept them as God’s will. Very often a shattering experience results in something better at a later stage and the bitterness felt earlier is forgotten. It does not matter which God or mentor one chooses to trust. What matters is that faith strengthens the mind and energizes the spirit. Agnostics and atheists place their faith in themselves which again is like trusting God because the scriptures say there is god in all things and before anything else, one is accountable to one’s own conscience. Life is but a chain of trust and the first link in the chain is the trust one places on him/herself.


aargee said...

Within a day, this is the second time, I am reading on the same topic. I read about it at
and this is what I commented there:

" I don’t think believing in God has become unfashionable….but its just that people have started questioning the existence of God. Before, people just used to believe whatever was said to them( by their ancestors) and it went on…but once people starting questioning things around, the doubt about existence of God started. I do believe in God. I used to believe in God, how our ancestors used to do once upon a time. But now, to me, there is a supreme power which governs everything and that is God. All good things personified is God. God is virtue and God is love.
And now, more than God , I have started to believe in myself. If I am good, good things happen to me…. if not…
Just thought to share my point of view :) I had so many things to say..but don’t want to occupy more of your comment space… and I didn’t want to beat around the bush..which I do normally :)"

And I am reading all this at a time, when I have so many questions going on in my mind.... But I think , if we try to discuss on God, it would be a never-ending topic and there would be so much to say... Sorry for taking too much of your comment space!

SV said...

For you God is in goodness, but sadly for most God is in divisiveness and against betterment, I chose to stay away from the entire concept of God and call things by their actual names

Hip Grandma said...

aargee:Thanks for the link and the post very much compliments my views.

'And now, more than God , I have started to believe in myself. If I am good, good things happen to me…. if not…'
i think you wrote this without reading my post and I am glar that you too endorse my view.

sv:unfortunately what you say is right.But again there is the question of whether God or religion can be blamed for divisiveness?As far as I see no religion claims to be superior to another. Mankind chooses to misinterpret the teachings of philosophers and holy men.Division has always benefitted those in power. They could be heads of a company,institution or a political group. unfortunately God is also dragged into it.

Ugich Konitari said...

HHG, I too grew up like you, interaction with God on a routine basis through daily family worship. Little things like doing a namaskar before setting out for an exam or something like a long trip. Something else that my parents also dinned into our heads was that your own hard work was essential before God could decide to help you.

So while I am not that much of a believer in rituals that feel intimidatory and illogical, that there is a supreme entity is something I believe in. Sometime it tests us, sometimes it rewards, and sometimes it points the way somewhere.

The important thing is that it provides me an anchor in this fast changing world, where so many things including people and relationships today, change at the drop of a hat....

Usha said...

I feel the exact same way as Suranga above.
God to me is an ideal that I could be if I did the right thing all the time. It is a version of me that I could be but am not. So in every situation I try to see what the God in me would do and try to act in that manner. Sometimes I fail.
I relate to god just as I would with a friend who is far far superior to me but still someone who is available to me whenever I need.

Swapna Raghu Sanand said...

Loved this post.I too believe that God is an inner voice, the goodness that we seek from everything around us actually begins with us.

Anonymous said...

Dear HHG,

Reading your blog for sometime now and i really like your way of writing.

If you have time, pls watch the movie 'Anbe Sivam'(Tamil - Kamal Haasan, Madhavan).. whatever you mentioned in the blog is shown nicely in the movie.

To sum it up "Love is God"..

Keep rocking,

Hip Grandma said...

Ugich:'So while I am not that much of a believer in rituals that feel intimidatory and illogical, that there is a supreme entity is something I believe in.'

me too Suranga. I never feel that God would punish me for not fasting on a particular day or a particular ritual cannot be altered if it were not practical. i do feel that one's trust in God helps one tide over crises.

Usha:'I relate to god just as I would with a friend who is far far superior to me but still someone who is available to me whenever I need.'

Beautifully summed up. Agree with you totally.

RK:Thanks. Will watch the movie if possible.

Poornima said...

Saami is a trouble Maker, HHG.

I don’t remember when I actually stopped believing in (the standard version of) God, I just remember the following:

…refusing to put money in the hundi during our regular visits to the Ayyappa Temple with my parents (''why HERE, ma? Why don’t we pay our Mallamma 100Rs extra every month, she really needs it? Or stop bargaining for 1 or 2 rupees with the vegetable guy?'') Of course, she wouldn’t listen, so I muttered a rude Malayalam word (rhyming with 'hundi') while slipping the coins in.

..wondering in anger why, in the Land of Durga & Lakshmi, women are not allowed into the temple when they’re having their period…I mean, isn’t it what created us all??

..curling my lip in disdain if I ever heard the ‘god will punish you’ line (‘’Kyun, usko doosra kaam-dhanda nahin hai kya?’’)

..being supremely irritated when people came home for donations to build a temple (why build another TEMPLE? Couldn’t they collect money to pay someone’s hospital bill, or build a school, or a park, or buy books for underprivileged children? Aaaahh, a temple, silly, because it’s a frikkin cash-factory, THAT’S why!) intense hatred of God-men of all religions. To date, I find myself unable to reconcile myself to a single one of them, whether they advocate the (good) cause of deep breathing or diabetes a country packed to the rafters with gullible people, what better career option could there be?

Thankfully, I come from a liberal & progressive family which allowed me to voice my ‘communisty’ thoughts without fear of the ladies beating their chests & sobbing into their pallus (lol!), or the men ordering an exorcism (on me, not on the ladies). Which was great, because it led me to explore my true feelings, & conclude that…

I DO believe in God…only, my version of Him is EXACTLY as the Books say Hes supposed to be. A Liberal Democrat who usually minds his own business. And prefers you mind yours. Who quietly extends a hand when you need it. Who lives and lets live. Who sends every single child to school. Who heals those who need healing. Who is logical and reasonable. Who would kick your posterior to the black-hole if you razed a church or mosque or temple.Who lives in me and in you, itching to be let out. Reads J.K.Rowling, perhaps? Hmm, I like Him more & more.

God is supposed to be GOOD. How did we forget that?

Hip Grandma said...

poornima:It is not to have a standard version of God. One can see God in little things. Like in the will power shown by a handicapped person in beating all odds. The strength one gets to fight evil is again a manifestation of the God in you. I too don't believe that God is out to punish people rather he is there to bring about a positive change in one's nature.

Anonymous said...

I had written about religion a while ago on my blog

Essentially, faith and belief are very personal things, and the moment they cease to be personal, only harm can result.

shantanu dutta said...

Avik... said...

I don't believe in God. But then, religion and spirituality is a very personal matter and i respect those who believe.

The examples given by you, your maternal grandparents and uncle, the honest and helpful legal counsel, all of them makes my belief in fellow human beings stronger... that we do not need a supreme being to mentor and punish us to be good and do good. "Do unto others what you would have others do unto you" (and vice versa) is the magnetic force which keeps our moral compass pointed to the right direction.

You might call this sense of morality and ethics (the sense of 'do the right thing' in layman's terms) as God or some form of His invisible strings... and you are welcome. As long as we are on clear and common ground about what is the 'right thing', it really does not matter, exactly which way we arrive at the conclusion.

Last but not the least, beautiful write-up -- I just couldn't resist sharing my view in along with others...


Hip Grandma said...

nourishncherish:Welcome here and will check out your link.Faith and belief should not be imposed on others nor treated as if it were one's monopoly.Different interpretations are possible for the same thing

Hip Grandma said...

Shantanu:welcome here.will check out the link.

avik:welcome here. I think goodness and god are the same. One is called good if he can check negative vibes and encourage positive ones. Godliness is the same at perhaps a higher level. Even Ravan had his good side and Ram his weakness. Ram is likened to God because he was basically a just ruler and an obedient son. So there is truth in the saying that God lives everywhere. Within our hearts as our inner voice and around us as mother nature. Actually tribals who are basically nature worshippers have helped the coservation process a good deal.Since it was difficult to educate everyone in their community they took to worshipping plants and trees with medicinal properties. Once one looks into all aspects of a particular ritual the logic behind it becomes clear.

hillgrandmom said...

"The God factor is important in that it helps one get past trying times. It enables us to accept unhappy and shattering experiences with equanimity and accept them as God’s will." I so agree with you HHG. In fact the view point expressed in this post is very like my own.

Hip Grandma said...

hillgmom:True.The God factor sustains the human race. It really does not matter whether one follows the Bible or the Bhagavadgita. Every holy book has valuable lessons o be imbibed and put to practise. If only religious sentiments were not politicized and men and women allowed to practice their faith in peace the world would be a happier place.

Jynn said...

Hi hippy pati,

I think you will fit definition of 'deist'...may be you are moving from 'theism' to 'deism'