Let’s make certain things clear at the very beginning, I am not a preacher; I can’t help you out of your misery; I don’t know the secrets of this universe… I am just stating my views, things that I think are right and rational, things that make sense to me – not necessarily these things would be right, rational or will make sense to you. I am not asking you to believe in my words; I am requesting with my whole being not to inflict your views on me, I am happy with mine.
Now that we have reached a common ground here, let me tell you that neither I am a religious person, nor I am an atheist – you can call me an agonistic of sorts, but then again, I have a belief that differs widely from agonists in general. I don’t believe in God, but I do believe in Shiva – you will say I am crazy because Shiva is a God himself. Well let me put it this way – I don’t believe in Shiva as a God, I believe in him as an idea and I call myself agonistic because a part of me deep down inside wants Shiva to be real, to be a God and in a situation where Shiva does actually come in front of me it is very much possible that I will freak out, have a heart attack and drop dead on the ground. Or, I would simply sit down and smile at him throwing the ball in his court.
So how did I come from a simple middle-class mentality of not believing in anything supernatural to being agonistic who believed that there does exist something supernatural and ‘I will believe in your Gods if I see them personally’ to eventually an earnest devotee of Shiva? For this, I will have to step back a little and go back to my early years as a school student when a maternal cousin of mine came to stay with us for higher studies. Now, this guy fed my young relatively fresh brain with all things scientific and alien, and it was at that point of time that I realized I was actually hungry for such stuff. At that time when we didn’t have a computer and internet was never heard of, he told me wonderful things about scientific breakthroughs, UFOs and aliens, unsolved mysteries of the world and this wonderful concept that people once came up and now everyone preaches in the name of religion. To put it simply, he was an atheist to the core and the more I liked his stories, it was all but natural for me to follow without questioning. Ever grateful to him for opening the world up to me.
But then I reached an age where I felt like questioning everything. The rebellion of an atheist teenager I would say… why this, why not that, why cannot science answer each and everything, why there are loopholes. And that’s when my mother stepped in. As much she was interested in the stories that my cousin shared, she took it a leap ahead by indulging in the limitations of science and beyond the barriers of supernaturalism. Getting into that would take a couple of pages, so let me just stick to the point.
When I was in school and before I started believing, I used to try – as in, I would openly challenge God that if he does really exist he should prove it to me, give me a sign or get this pending homework to go away or something of that sorts. Life was shit. And for every pile, I used to call him. Life became shittier and I became filled with negativity. I don’t exactly know when or how it happened, it’s just that I came across different unexplainable scenarios, stories that make you realize that science is just not enough to answer all your queries. At the same time, I read and understood the full potential of a human brain, the human body, the chakras, the kundalini and more. I understood and I believed for once rather than questioning. More so because I think much of it was introduced to me by my mother and with conviction. But the interesting thing happened after that. I started praying, I started meditating and I could feed coiled-up energy within me and somehow, I believed, of all things, this is one thing that’s easy for me. People spend their lives to awaken their kundalini, but deep down I somehow knew it will be easier for me. I never tried to that extent. But the micro-meditations and prayers I follow as my daily routine was enough to change my life. Where I was flunking exams, messing up relationships and jeopardizing my future, I found a way out. In place of self-pity, I found gratitude; in place of negativity, I was as positive as I could be. My life was back on track.
I never solely believed in the existence of Gods and Goddesses. But I read somewhere in a book by Ramkrishna I presume where he explained the concept of deity. He said something like, it’s not mandatory for you to believe in God, but if you believe in a supreme power, if you believe in the soul, if you believe in being that cannot be explained by science, you will picturise that power in the form of a person considering you’re one too – and there’s nothing wrong in that. And so, I chose Shiva. Or maybe you can say that he chose me. Of the 33 million Gods, I chose Shiva and I know the next thing you will tell is that I am being influenced by the ongoing pop culture and the depiction of Shiva in different novels and the social media. Yes, partly true, I suppose. But, if I put it like this, he has always been there for me but I was too naïve to notice.
Growing up in our country home, we had one of the oldest Shiv temples of our hometown was just across the street. I have always seen a ‘Shiv Linga’ placed at the shrine of our home and have witnessed it being regularly worshipped by my mother. Have heard different renditions of his stories since childhood – and many such big or little things on which I reflect now to imagine how simpler everything could have been only if I have believed. I spent years brooding and in utter dismay of self-pity, I was too egoistic and hard-headed to let an idea sink in, to surrender to a belief just for the sake of it. It took time and only after I left my home to take a job in a different city that I was finally able to set my beliefs to take their shape. Even after getting a job and while being in the process of settling down, I was piteous inside out. I didn’t like where I was living, what I was doing and where my life was headed. It took me time and there’s no such particular point where I had my revelation. Small instances such as the never-dying smile of a boiled egg vendor instead of his utter poverty, immense gratitude of an army personnel for being alive even though he lost his legs, contempt, and happiness of a family living in the roads who didn’t own anything yet had everything, encouraging words from a friend of mine who never knew his parents; and many more such experiences slowly filled me up with gratitude. I decided for all I have, things which may seem really trifle to me, might mean the world to someone and for that, I should thank someone. But who? And at that point, I started thanking a Shiv Linga on my way to work.
I don’t think things changed much, of course, I am better off than I was before – obviously because experience comes with working and with experience comes better pay and better living. But this transition is something that gets you adjusted to however your life changes such that you don’t realize how much you have achieved and how much others can only dream of. Also, the quality of your materialistic life may improve over time, but your mental state will stay the same because it’s only human to want more and no matter how much you have, you will keep chasing the impossible. Instead of wanting more, I started thanking for the more I have – more than millions of people in this country, more than I could ever think of when I was a boy, more than I could think of what all I can achieve – and for that, I can never be grateful enough.
Instead of praying and asking for this and that, I thank him every time I am happy, every time I make myself realize there’s no ailment I am suffering from, every time I am being praised for something – the list is endless. When I find myself in trouble, my first reaction is not to turn to God, but instead to get out of the trouble in any way I can. And once I do, I thank him for helping me out. It’s not that I have realized the ultimate goal of life or achieved the ultimate fruit of wisdom or riches, I am still that wretched person, and speck of dust lost in the crowd – but I am happy. And isn’t it all that counts?