A matter of faith

As we grow older, we wonder what is the point of it all. Have we been put onto this planet for any purpose or should we simply put our minds towards chasing money and success. At times, we look towards the heavens for advice and pray to the almighty. The more cynical among us wonder whether there is such a thing as God and if yes how does he convince us of his presence?

Wise men and women over the ages have pondered over this question. Some have dedicated their entire lives to this activity. Luminaries like the Buddha stand out for their efforts and have had entire faiths stem from their efforts. However, the problem is that their path breaking solutions get straight jacketed over time and lead to organized religion.

Since organized religion depends on a large set of followers, the faith which philosophers such as the Buddha uncovered gets broken down into a set of tenets. Over time, these tenets become fundamental to the religion and all followers are expected to adhere to these teachings. For instance, the Buddha came up with the four noble truths and the eightfold path. These were teachings valid for people from all walks of life. Yet, today we associate Buddhism with monks and monasteries. It is a pity that Brahaminical Hindus drove Buddhism out of India which subsequently flowered in South East Asia.

However, ideas have their own power and in modern times we have seen a renaissance of sorts for certain Buddhist ideals. People from all ages and backgrounds are signing up for meditation boot camps to learn Vipassana meditation. This technique was learned by Ramnath Goenka in Burma from a teacher based there and Goenka has subsequently established these camps across India.

Apart from the Buddha, there have been numerous individuals such as Jesus Christ, Muhammad, Sri Aurobindo and Osho who have gone to great depths to understand the mysteries of life. However, either their teachings have been warped so as to secure a mass base (in the case of Christ and Muhammed) or they have tried to create their own sheltered community of followers (in the case of Sri Aurobindo and Osho). There have also been gifted individuals such as the poet-saint Kabir who distilled great wisdom in his poetry and Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi who devoted his life to peace and the Indian freedom struggle.

In a sense, India has been the silicon valley of faith and spirituality. There have been numerous individuals who have pushed themselves and spent long years in a struggle to unmask the mysteries of life. Some achieved acclaim in the West too like Swami Vivekananda and Paramhansa Yoganand while others like Lahiri Mahasya and Swami Mukteshwara were content with taking certain individuals under their wings and training them.

However, today we live in a world driven by capitalism and material well-being. Not surprisingly, the quest for meaning and purpose is now more important than ever before. Unfortunately, the output of the work done by the great philosophers mentioned above either lies in volumes of text or religious dogmas. The youth of today wants well analysed and simply presented teachings which go beyond food habits and idol worship. Such teachings are sadly lacking in the world.

It is true that there are numerous books available which carry great wisdom. However, the most powerful nuggets of faith come through experience. This is why some of the great sages in the centuries gone by spent years in apprenticeship with a master. In this age of capitalism and financial achievement, it is a bit unrealistic to expect youngsters to spend years with a spiritual guru even if they are as acclaimed as Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev who has a center in Coimbatore where thousands come to volunteer and be a part of his movement.

The only solution is that youngsters have to take matters in their own hands. They can either scour through books such as the Upanishads, Bhagavad Gita and other philosophical texts or they can take it upon themselves to push their mind and body to understand what makes the universe tick. If the universe is a vast ocean then each of us is an individual drop in this ocean. If an individual were to engage in a solitary activity such as running, meditation, cycling or the arts and really strive for excellence then the Pandora’s box of wisdom may open up.

It may surprise us that the universe is nothing but a collection of very simple ideas. Each of us is blessed with tremendous potential which is designed to excel at a certain activity. Most people spend their lives blind to this basic fact. The only reason for this being that excellence requires hard work, years in anonymity and financial uncertainty. However, even if one were to accede to these concerns there is also the matter of faith. Faith can only come from within you if you believe that as you behave so will the universe.

At an intrinsic level, we all mirror each other. Children are most effective at this but as adults too we behave according to the company we keep. Sometimes it may happen that an individual’s energy does not sync up with that of the workplace and this person resorts to substance abuse. Some of the most gifted artists have fallen prey to this phenomenon.

It is no easy matter to search for one’s faith. Faith does not necessarily mean subscribing to a religion or worshiping a particular God. At a fundamental level, faith means knowing your journey as an individual. We all have gifts to share with the world. Faith is simply the vehicle which takes us to our destination. And, at this destination await money, fame and global attention. However, there are no shortcuts when it comes to faith. As you embark on this journey, the universe will send you signals from time to time that you are on the right path. Value these signals as they will calm your inner demons. The journey is long and arduous. Faith fuels the effort and makes the wait worthwhile.

Originally published at http://ridingvaves.wordpress.com on February 4, 2021.

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Harsh Maskara

Runner, Tennis enthusiast, idea hunter, people analyst, qualitative researcher, wordsmith, traveler, dreamer, listener, connecting dots, theater goer