I always thought of myself as agnostic – someone who was indifferent to the concept of God. It was only later that I learned that agnosticism stood for the belief that man did not possess the faculties to prove or disprove the existence of that higher power. In any case, my disdain and skepticism for the idea of God extended to religion as well. I began to view the two as one and the same and grew increasingly intolerant of those who believed. My grouse would almost always start with the argument that some of the biggest wars in the history of the world were fought over religion and God. And that God was nothing but a figment of man’s imagination, and religion a regressive and sexist device born out of man’s desire to dominate.
While the genesis of these views can be traced to my hormone-fueled teenage years – a time when it was considered “cool” to be a rebel and have a contrarian view of things – I have over time mellowed down. I have come to understand that the two are not the same and that a distinction needs to be made. That the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and trade required a semblance of order. That the moral, ethical and social code of conduct that religion provided was necessary for societies to exist. That religion actually provided the framework within which the constitutions of many modern day democracies were conceived.
But that’s not the point of this post… There’s enough literature in the public domain that makes a case for and against both, religion and God. Somewhere along the way – especially in the last few months – this pursuit for an understanding of man’s need to hold on to his religion and his God has morphed into a journey to find meaning and purpose and validation (which ironically is a contradiction to the definitions of atheism and agnosticism). As I struggle to face the brutal realities of the world and the pressure of professional and personal responsibilities, I have begun to take comfort and derive strength from His words on the battlefield of Kurukshetra. I now know that there is no victory or defeat. There is only dharma. And to fight the urge to surrender to the pointlessness of struggle and the finality and fatality of life is my dharma.
PS: Eknath Easwaran’s English interpretation of the Gita and Devdutt Pattanaik’s Jaya and Sita are wonderful starting points for anyone interested. I also found this YouTube channel – Epified – containing short and beautiful whiteboard animation videos on Hindu mythology. The embedded video itself was shared by a colleague and is inspired from Dr. Pattanaik’s work. Check them out!