I’m an atheist. This has several reasons. My mom or dad never really gave me lessons in mythology, or about Gods of our religion. They never taught me how to recite prayers in my mother tongue or read religious books either. The only thing I would do was wear a black thread on my hand (after wearing it around the neck got irritating). This stopped too after the 8th grade. I became a disbeliever in the idea of God, or a greater force. I gradually stopped joining hands or bending down in front of God’s photo frame on exam days or my birthday. This choice that my parents presented me with, of not following God, helped me make my own theories.
My Dadi is a staunch believer in God, and she also has a small temple in the house, where she spends most of her time in the day. I have had many arguments with her over this one topic, where she forces me to fast for one day after which I have to wear a thread around my neck for the rest of my life. This is what she calls Bramhasambandha, or my connection with God. When in school, I would generally lash out saying why is it necessary to fast for a day? She generally would have no clue. She persuades me till date. And I have not given in, but for a different reason.
Fasting is farcical. Something like sabudana is allowed and people eat fried varieties of sabudana and call it a fast. Some people actually wait for fasting days because those varieties are indeed tasty. I would ask my Jain friends why they followed fasting and would generally get answers like ‘because mom said so’ or, ‘ask your mom, she’ll know the answer.’ My doubt finally got resolved by a Hindi Professor who shared similar views as me on fasting. He said the Hindi word upvaas can be broken down into up meaning other body and vaas meaning to stay or live. When you are in a state of upvaas, you are so focused that your soul resides in someone else’s (in this case, God’s) body. And to be that focused; you have to meditate so hard that you forget about everything else, including food. You are in a state of trance. I hope people who did not know the true meaning of fasting are as blown away as I was.
I started believing that work is worship. And praying is of no use if you are not diligent at your work. And as I grew up, I also understood the role parents play in life. No parent is bad or good. Only because they will unconditionally let you in. I say this because criminals are parents too. And then the child is brought up that way. But what they will give to that child, no one else will. Coming back, I started believing in my own work to find religion. The first time when I saw my friends go to heights was the morning of 10th grade board exams results. They went to three different temples, considerably far from home, and each other, by foot, for a good score. I thought how the hell would it change the score now, and went back to sleep. I still think that was very irrational for them to do.
What I really would want to say is, if you have something to ask from God, or pray for, ask for strength. Some things come by very easily in our life, other things don’t. The same can be said about losing things, or people. When you foresee distressed times, ask for strength. If they pass by rather easily, well. If they don’t, ask for strength to deal with the loss. Strength is all you need to deal with anything. Be it success or failure, it is crucial to always remain strong. And when you ask for strength, you are truly finding it within yourself. Circumstances change abruptly in the matter of a few minutes, which essentially are a build up of our past decisions. But the change is not easy to get by always. And rather than sitting hand on hand for things to happen, be strong enough to make them happen. To at least keep them the way they were, if not better them. Strength is the driving force. I am sure you could relate it to any personal or professional occurrence in your life.
I believe if we remain strong, we lose dependency on God to come rescue us. I went buying clothes for my mom when I happened to come across the owner. He was of our sect and started talking to us. He mentioned how he had so many apparel stores of his own and also runs a real estate business. I remember him mentioning at least twice that it was all by the grace of God. Only if I could tell him that it was by his own grace.