In The Name Of God
A bull, the size of a mountain, stands in an enclosure the size of a pebble, where he’d live the rest of his life symbolizing the vehicle of Lord Shiva; a stressed, underfed, ‘never seeing a patch of green land’ kind of life. A river full of plastic and dead, worshipped as a Goddess, flows carrying 5 million tons of sewage into the ocean, posing as a marine danger. A huge forest was cut to build a city around this mountain temple, hosting the pilgrims who came to seek blessings but got washed away with the floods caused by that deforestation; all in the name of God.
And in the name of God another batch of teens somewhere is being told, “You do this for your Allah and therefore when you detonate your vest, everyone except you will burst into blood and mush.” The worshippers of his name are selling in his name. While in some superstitions the kids are being burnt to improve Karma, in others, soul sermons are being sold to improve Dharma.
The narrative is probably not unfamiliar to you. But somehow the belief is of the same extent. The idea is to put our time, value and consideration into something outside of ourselves; an idea that is unfamiliar and untrue to the true beings, as John Bradshaw speaks, we were born as. Imagine, when we were born we didn’t know anything about a God that could make our fortunes turn. We did not know of one Supreme God or thirty million of them. As kids, naked and barefoot, we did not know that walking barefoot to a shrine could make that well-paid job possible or we’d have walked straight out of the womb and into adulthood.
The belief in this idea, outside of oneself, must date about 32,000 years ago when a man sculpted this ivory figurine of a lion-man in a Cave in Germany, and said to his people, “This is the God that will protect you from all harm.” And thus began the need of looking outside for a sense of security and redemption. The abundance of physical, mental and spiritual strength that the true nature blessed us with became secondary, and the idea of pleasing this one authoritative God, punishing or loving, became prior to all. The people must have come up with their own ways of pleasing this God; some bathing it in milk that was promised to a calf, some others offering a calf to it; life killing life for a superlative idea.
Protagonists Evolving Into Gods
The man who created this first expression of art and religion was surely a storyteller giving many other stories their roots. The stories outlive people and become generational, social and political. The same stories evolve over a generation of creators and take different forms. One form is Shiva, the other Christ.
The children themselves are never born with these ideas, but hunger in the body and a quiet in mind. They are much more centred and present, trying to catch the sun in their fists; unknowing of its strength, unbothered of its magnificence. But soon something happens. Soon they get fed with these inherited notions with immediacy in respect to their names, religions and favourite God(s), their living habits and so on. The conditioning is subtle so no one notices the harm it is doing. The child looks up to this ideal coming from his immediate people. He is told which God to bow down to and which God would punish him if he didn’t. Reading only the first few pages of a holy scripture could give one an idea of how this ‘God’ is conditional; loving if pleased, punishing if not.
The evolving identification with this form is ingrained and incorporated with each stage in the person’s life and the person loses the rationale that his true nature provides him. A child if hungry would know that he needs to put food in his own mouth. But an ageing man, in order to have money to feed himself and his kids, would offer the same food to an idol and pray for its mighty benevolence. I don’t know what religion or God you grew up with, but I am sure you’d have your own classified versions of the same.
These narratives that we grow up with are such beautiful fictions authored by people long dead, the Gods are such great protagonists. Mythology is a library filled with its characters, empires, curses and redemptions and could prove to be great bedtime stories. But if someone is to tell me that fasting for Lord Shiva for sixteen Mondays could bless me with a handsome groom, I’d smile at them and go about meeting the wonderful people who might at some point become a handsome groom for me. And yet, I can’t deny that the story would have been different if I were 5 years old, asked to kneel in front of a statue and be told that he was the one living above the clouds and the earth was his egg.
This identification with the idea of a God is not only unfair to what is (the oceans, the rains, the living beings) but also cathartic in the way that it can unite some against the others. The beliefs of one’s God could be a sin for the other. Some eat cattle, others worship them, and some others kill the ones who eat cattle. Unification over any such identification, any such label could only give one group a subjective superiority over the other and depending on the strength and the sense; a reason for violence. A world of billions of people, with millions of God, could soon turn into a warzone with no one left to worship anything.
Why, instead, not tell a child the reality about the blue planet he is born on. Why not tell him about nature as it is: beautiful, nourishing, nurturing, preserving and declining. Why not raise him/her to understand the oneness of this blue dot, surrounded by a million galaxies and cosmic bodies; all a part of a universe that could itself be one of a million universes, constantly spiralling out of one point. But most importantly, why not let them be in nature, naked with the naked nature, and choose their own Gods; and maybe let stories be stories for as Basava, the sound, writes:
will make temples for Siva.
What shall I,
a poor man,
My legs are pillars,
the body the shrine,
the head a cupola
Listen, O lord of the meeting rivers,
things standing shall fall,
but the moving ever shall stay.