On my recent trip to India, I had many wonderful heart-to-heart talks with relatives and friends. One was with an intelligent, articulate, and thoughtful young relative. It was heart-warming listening to her thoughts about religiosity and God.
She was raised in a traditional family surrounded by religious rituals, mythological stories, and teachings about leading an ethical life. The most important lessons were… Let us hear it in her own words:
“In my childhood, I learnt that God keeps track of our Karma – what we did right and what we did wrong, rewarding us for good deeds and punishing us for wrong-doings. But in my late teens, I started to wonder: who is this God that we don’t see, but we call out during times of sorrow or joy? One day, I decided ‘Why should I pray to someone who I can not see or hear?’ and walked away.
That evening, when I came home, mom was watching a program “Who is God?” – someone lecturing about “atma”, “karma”, and all that same old boring stuff. When mom stepped away to answer a phone call, I decided to switch channels, but just thenthe sermon lady said, “God could not be everywhere, therefore He made parents”.
I stopped in my tracks and listened.
She continued, “God cannot keep constant watch on the millions of life forms on earth, so He made Parents for all of them. God being omniscient knew that when children grow up, they would turn a deaf ear to their mothers’ advice, so He made a Guru. Mother gives birth to a child, nurtures it, and gives it education, values and principles, just like we water plants so they grow well. While children are growing up, parents and the Guru guide them towards the path of knowledge, spirituality and peace so that the child is able to take matured and right decisions every time.”
The show ended with huge applause but her words were hovering in my mind. All this while, I was searching for God, complaining that I couldn’t see him. I had made up my mind that there was no God, yet felt that someone was constantly keeping a watch on me. Different thoughts crossed my mind from recollections of my past. Whenever I am hungry, there is someone who gives me food. When I ask for junk food, this someone, knowing it is unhealthy, still promises to give me my favourite pastry on the weekend only if I finish everything on my plate. If I sit until late night to study and do homework, this someone wakes up every so often to ask me if I need some hot chocolate; she then sits beside me reading some book, saying she is not sleepy at all, just so I don’t feel alone. When I do mischief there is someone who shouts at me. When I am bruised, she puts band aid on my bruise. When I am sad she cheers me up. This someone comes home tired from office, but still asks how my day was. This someone is protective of me in public places. This someone works hard to pay for my education, and gladly helps with my homework projects even when tired.
As we grow up, this someone, along with the Guru, guides us to walk on the right path in life. Just as a seedling needs water, fertilizers, and sunshine, to grow into a tree and give shade and fruits, parents give their child love, care, understanding, nourishment, values, and education. Parents and the Guru prepare the child to take right decisions in adulthood. The child grows into a person of virtues, good values, knowledge, and good nature, thereby creating his/her own identity, and earns respect from society.
I was awestruck and my heart was filled with immense happiness. I got my answers. My thinking changed right then. I felt safe and calm. I was happy knowing that we all live with our Gods, play with them, share our sorrows and joys with them; and that God cares for even our smallest needs. Yes, He keeps a constant watch over us – notices our deeds good and bad, and instills virtues in us, so that we may choose the right path throughout our lives. Gods are none other than our parents!! They are the ones who make sacrifices for us, and encourage us after our every fall to get up and walk.
To think of all these things about humans, animals and all living creatures, there must have been definitely a master mind behind it all… whom we haven’t seen, touched or felt, but who takes care of all his children on earth… who we call "God"… ”
[Original dialog has been condensed and edited by the author].
Suresh Basrur practices the Hindu faith, participates in inter-faith activities in Victoria and speaks to audiences about Hindu religion, philosophy and practices.
You can read more posts from our interfaith blog, Spiritually Speaking HERE