God….As Experienced!

I had a pretty normal childhood. Being the first grandson to continue the family name I got a lot of attention from my paternal grandparents. I spent a lot of my time with them and they imparted what they thought were the right values, principles and religion. Interestingly my Grandfather had a very different view of Religion and God compared to my Grandmother. Both belonged to the same religious tradition. Despite basic contradictions in the approaches, the two views were mostly complimentary in the large scheme of things. Different, yet same. Kind of like each of us – since we were born, almost every cell in our bodies has changed many times. So are we the same persons that we were ten years ago or twenty years ago? Or are we different? We are not the same persons, neither we are different. Confusing? I think so too. Don’t dwell in it or you will lose it completely.

The women in our household tend to be very religious, identifying with the Sanatan Dharma (the eternal way) side of Hinduism. Men on the other hand are more into Arya Samaj – a Hindu reform movement. Arya Samaj takes the authority of the Vedas as part of their core belief along with the doctrine of Karma. Arya Samaj condemns polytheism, idol worship, animal sacrifice, ancestor worship, pilgrimage, priest craft and the belief in Avatars where God incarnates as a being on Earth, They also strongly oppose hereditary caste system, untouchability and child marriage on the grounds that all these are not sanctioned by the Vedas. Some of the principles like idol worship, Avatars of God & polytheism were in direct conflict with Sanatan Dharma. However, this conflict did not spill amongst the men and women in our family. Each practiced Hinduism as per their beliefs. My grandmother had a small temple with marble statues of Gods and Goddesses in the house. She prayed there daily and my grandfather ensured it was kept clean but he did not pray there. He used to frequent the Arya Samaj temple where prayer sessions and lectures were held as per Vedic traditions. My grandfather took my grandma to several pilgrimages so she could worship the way she deemed fit.

Needless to say, I got a variety of views on Hinduism from my family. There were debates in my family – everyone expressing their point of view on God, nature etc. Since then I have always been fascinated by God, creator, maker of the Universe, omnipresent etc., etc. Every religion has a way of defining God – Every religion is THE one and its people are THE CHOSEN people.

One dark night, looking through my 10 inch Dobsonian telescope I discovered an issue – the definition of God from the scriptures or descriptions did not seem to fit the world around me. The universe seemed to be different than what is taught in places of worship. It seemed that the entity that made the observable universe was different than the entity in popular religious text. Direct experience related to God differs from the God as advertised by religion.

As George Bernard Shaw aptly said: “Forgive him, for he believes that the customs of his tribe are the laws of nature!”

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