In last 2 posts I talked about two different dimensions of faith –one dimension is experienced based or insight based faith and other dimension is assumed (unrecognized) faith. Being born and raised in India, I have experienced another very strange dimension of faith – in India we call it shraddha. Shraddha is universal term so you can have shraddha in your God, in your work. Shraddha is devoted faith in anything.
India is rich with diverse cultures and diverse religions and each culture believes in different Gods. Imagine, Hindu philosophy believes in 33,00,000,000 Gods which means even if I worship one God everyday I need many lives. Each Hindu family has its own traditional family deity, generations after generations that family worships that God. Most of the Indians are more devoted to their respective family deity than other Gods. So, as a young kid I also started following rituals and worshiping our family deity. I did pooja (worship) everyday and chanted mantras for hours together. I followed all the rituals and believed I am following Dhamma. I was following rituals because somebody had told me to do so because my thought process was not developed to think independently.
In retrospect now I understand those actions were primarily motivated by 2 things – one is fear and the other was greed. I still remember, I was told that I have to follow these rituals otherwise that particular God would not favor me or He will anguish me for not worshiping him. Such doctrine created confusion and uncertainty in my mind. Why my God is so egoist that he wants me to chant his name, his mantra continuously? Is my God jealous of other Gods and hence he want me to chant his name all the time? If my God loves me then how he can punish me? If God also gets angry (some of the Hindu scriptures have stories of this) just as ordinary humans do, then what is the difference between Him and ordinary human being? Can God also differentiate among people as staunch followers and not so staunch followers? The core of entire practice was to surrender to an authority and make that authority happy so that He will favor me, He will protect me against all calamities and I get all the so called happiness.
The second most dominating emotion was greed. Every prayer, every pooja was aimed at asking something to God. Although the things I was asking were noble ( say noble peace), still the basic emotion was greed. I do not have something, please give it to me, I will chant your name and I will do whatever that makes you happy but give me what I want. I was never comfortable with this feeling of asking something out of greed. I now understand this emotion was more damaging to my self image because I continuously believed that I lack something all the time.
Perhaps the only good point in all that experience was partial purification of mind. For example, when I chant mantra, no other thought was coming to my mind and hence for that limited period my mind was free from impurities of mind such as ego, jealousy, thinking about past, etc. I was not really aware of what was I doing but I was thinking that I am doing right thing by following Dhamma ( it was narrow minded religion at that point of time). My mind was conditioned to believe that perhaps this is the only way. This continued for years together.
When I was around 18/19 years old, I started reading about diverse spiritual ideas and practices. I was fond of reading right from my childhood and after completion of junior college, in summer holidays I voraciously read diverse teachings and diverse methods in spirituality. In those days, 3 spiritual masters influenced my thinking significantly – Gautam Buddha, Osho and Jiddu Krishnamurty. I was able to find a common ground in the teachings of these 3 masters – surrender is not the way, you own your own destiny and on this spiritual path you have to define your own path, no other power/authority can help you to reach there.
I remember reading 16 hours a day for months together. I completely imbibed in this perspective because this thought was not about surrender but it was about discovery. It was an exciting learning experience. Although this thinking influenced me, it didn’t help me in finding a step by step single minded approach for implementing these teachings in the practical world. I was influenced by Krishnamurthy’s teachings but for a neophyte such as I, it was very difficult to implement his idea of seeing reality directly without preconditioned mind and experiencing truth as it it. It was one of the most challenging methods of understanding the reality and I was not prepared for it then. Osho’s discourses were eye opening and I particularly liked his explanations of diverse teaching of Buddha, Kabira, etc. but that shrut panna ( knowledge gained with listening) was not enough and as an engineer I was still looking for that method.
So, Osho and Krishnamurthy were influential but that influence didn’t convert into actions. Then Buddha himself came to my rescue. In most of the books I read of Buddha including Dhammapada, I consistently came across the method of Vipassana. When I searched more about Vipassana, to my surprise I came to know the main centre of Vipassana ( Igatpuri, India) is just couple of hours away from my place at Nasik. I was so excited to know this fact and decided to enroll for the course to learn this technique. I attended my first course somewhere in 2002 and the rest is history. Vipassana was one of the most logical and scientific method of meditation I came across till date.
I shared my spiritual journey to give you a flavor of how my definition of faith changed over the past years. My idea of faith started just like a typical Indian –blindly following the rituals and worshiping my family deity but the engineer inside me, my questioning mind and the brio of understanding the things at depth slowly questioned that blind faith and liberated me from the same.
I searched, I searched vociferously for answers and as a result came across Vipassana. After learning Vipassana also, I never stop asking pointed, blunt questions, questions that make me naked. At the start, I followed Vipassana without any prejudices and that helped in developing initial faith required to start something. I tried this method with utmost sincerity.
I have a simple theory – I should be able to see the direct effect of whatever I am doing in my day to day life. Seeing is believing. As I am writing this I can confirm that Vipassana proved an excellent tool to transform my day to day life. This writing is a proof of the same, isn’t it?