An anecdote received as a forward:
A schoolgirl in third grade was heard praying at bedtime. She said, ‘Oh God, please make river Nile flow in Japan”. Her mother, who overheard this, walked into the room and asked her, ‘what a strange prayer; why did you ask for Nile to flow in Japan?” The girl replied, “because that’s what I wrote in my exam; and you have always said that God is capable of doing anything and everything!”
That got me ruminating! I began chewing on familiar thoughts about my cultural beliefs, how I had perceived God in my formative years and what are my beliefs and values in the here and now. Let me share that part of my journey with you, dear readers.
If you were God, what would you have done?
I had read a short story when I was 12.
There was a small temple in a village. One morning, a man came in to pray. He folded his hands, closed his eyes and rendered the following prayer: “Oh God, I’m a farmer, dependent on your blessings; I have sown a few crops and I need a good shower of rain; please grant me this wish!”
He made his offerings and left. In his wake, a second man came in and rendered the following prayer: “Oh dear Lord, I have invested in salt beds; please take care of my need and let it not rain for a while; I can’t afford to lose everything!”
The story ended with the question, “If you were God, what would you have done?”
That was the first time ever, I had a question of my own. That was the beginning of my independent thinking. Till I turned 12, I believed with conviction that God was capable of doing the impossible; and all I had to do was pray fervently. My grandmother had a religious bent of mind and she had influenced me quite substantially. I was studying in a Christian school and my teachers’ belief had an impact on me too. However, the question at the end of the story had left me pensive.
Years rolled by and I came across more such confusing and conflicting messages about God. I remember my grandmother saying, “if you’re bad God will poke your eyes!” My dear readers, believe me, it sounds so benign when I write this in polite English; you should have heard her saying it in my mother tongue Tamil, with a deeply threatening tone, her eyes wide and terrifying!
Eventually, I was an adult, still with questions about God and his powers. There was an advertisement on TV. A father on his way out to work, offers a prayer to God: “Dear God, please take care of my daughter and cure her of her addiction to mobile phones”. The father leaves, and the daughter, on the way out to college, offers her prayer: “God, my father is such a pain; he’s so unfair; please ask him to buy me a new phone; my friends are making fun of my old one!” Voila! How similar to what I read at 12! The question came to me unbiddenly – If I were God, what would I do?
Later, there were jokes on God. Then came the intellectuals: I stumbled upon books like ‘God is dead’, ‘God is not dead’, and ‘Conversations with God’. The scientific approach to the metaphysical analysis was quite appealing to the cognitive, logic-loving part of my senses.
God and Godliness
Does it mean I am a non-believer? An atheist? Not at all. Life has taken me, both to glorious heights and to abysmal depths. The rich and varied life experiences have brought to awareness a few home-truths: there is undoubtedly a superpower that is beyond human comprehension.
When the questioning human mind does not find logical explanations; when the experiments don’t boil down to inferences, they have either been scoffed at as improbable, or been embraced as superstitious rituals. Since time immemorial the existence or the non-existence of God has been an aggressively debated argument.
So, Who is God? What is God? Where is God?
I believe that the attributes count more than the image or idol of God. When I say Godliness instead of God, I’m aware that it is present in me and you; in everyone and everything. We’re capable of showing love, compassion, grace, empathy, concern, care, and acceptance. When my daughter is angry or upset because someone had been unfair, I tell her, “so be it; we’re nice to someone not because they are good, but because we’re good”. If I am good to others, isn’t that a Godly attribute?
Godliness has also been misinterpreted and ill-perceived. If we look into the interpretations of stories, legends and mythology, every character and each action have been perceived differently at different time periods. I used to be bemused as a child – “I am told ‘God is love’ and I also hear such threatening remarks about God’s deeds!”
Life and Learnings
Well! Something happened then, that offered me a new lens to look through; a radical thought to think through, a different approach to questioning everything. Life happened!
A few hard knocks to round off my sharp corners, got me in touch with myself. It was not an ‘Aha’ moment of realization. It was a slow and steady gentle process of the evolution of the inner presence; it was soul growth. I started questioning myself rather than other people or what they did and believed.
Some Questions I asked myself
One significant question I asked myself was,
1.Should I keep looking for answers? Is it a must that I find answers to everything?
I realized that we have been raised to label everything and live in the confinement of verbal definitions and text-book descriptions.
Our intelligence has been judged based on how many answers we know!
The second question then was,
2.What will happen if I didn’t have all the answers? How will I feel if I just accepted things beyond human comprehension?
Ah! How is that possible? Have we not, as humans been gifted the sixth sense – the one that can question, analyse, and find solutions? Isn’t that what sets us above the other living beings?
Exactly! Which is why we have an inflated ego, a grandiosity about belonging to the human race! That ego is whetted only if we are constantly on a quest! We are a megalomanic species indeed!
Whatever beliefs races and individuals fester, nature continues wielding a supreme hand; no human race has been able to conquer or control nature and the higher force that is at work. Why do we want to crack that code?
Another question popped up;
3.What do I miss when my focus is limited to a few questions? What do I lose out on when I keep looking for something or the other that is external?
I lose out on myself, knowing what’s inside of me. I miss out on my presence in the here and now. I fail to enjoy the beauty of nature – the birds, bees, sky, earth and the expanse around me.
I don’t hear my own inner voice whispering to me. I started listening – no – I started learning to listen. This took time – it was not easy to align with a process that didn’t align with a structure or knowledge. That was the beginning of the journey of self-actualization!
Two words – Acceptance and Surrender!
These two words are the change agents! Accept with humility that nothing is in my control and unquestioningly Surrender to the higher cosmic energy. Life challenged me sufficiently, pushing me to my elastic limits.
I reacted equally aggressively, trying to find answers, solutions, working hard on becoming stronger and grittier! It was almost as if I was engaged in a lengthy match with the unknown. It did not help though!
It all changed once I started training to be a Psychotherapist. The first year was about my processes, getting significant insights on what makes me tick, my behavioural patterns, my relationship struggles, my belief windows, and my unaware, subconscious decisions on what life was and my coping mechanisms. Phew! That was the toughest part of the journey – overwhelming, scary, bewildering! While I was able to better my relationships with others with minimum effort, I had to bend backwards to get deeper in contact with myself.
I was now ready for the peeling off – layer by layer, that took me into the deep recesses of myself, slowly but steadily inching towards the core.
That was an intense and profound experience, which I will share with you in Part II. So long, dear readers.
Chithra Vijay is a Psychotherapist in Transactional Analysis and Psychodrama.She integrates spirituality and mindful living, both in her personal and professional practice. Click here to know more about her.
Please do leave your comments at the bottom and do share with others if you like this article.