Monday, July 14, 2003

Ostentatious Hinduism

While visiting Goa for a couple of days, I went to Old Goa and a few of its numerous church and museums. The most memorable for me was the church of St. Francis of Assisi, because that was the very first church that I had visited in my lifetime so far.

What immediately struck me was the simplicity and the serenity of the church. There was no priest to chant hymns, nobody to ask me to remove my shoes, no bells to be struck and rung, no songs to be sung, and in fact, there was nothing at all. People just came in, sat down, prayed for a while, then got up and went away. Nobody said anything out loud. It was rather the enormity and the beauty of the whole church that was so overwhelming, that it automatically conveyed a sense of superiority of God.

There was a stained glass frame of Jesus on the crucifix, which looked so real and sad that I got absorbed in His sorrow and grief and pain, to very easily and effortlessly forget my own. There were the beautiful paintings on the walls all along - a remake of the Last Supper was one of them, which reminded me of the treachery of Judas, and again eased the pain in my heart on my own condition. The high roof, forming a dome so high over my head, only made me feel ever so small and insignificant that my problems became increasingly smaller, all on their own.

I came out from the church feeling refreshed and ready to face the world, and this had happened without my saying a single word or listening to a single thing, or doing a single action. It was so simple, and yet so great.

I could not help comparing this with our very own temples and ways of worship. Putting up loud speakers outside our homes to tell the whole world that we are praying to God, and making sure that God is able to hear our prayers. Visiting temples by walking barefooted for miles together. Ringing bells again and again. Chanting hymns and doing just about every single act that makes everything look so artificial and so superficial and so forced.

Of course, there is nothing wrong in this. It is just a matter of how conventions have developed and traditions have evolved. However, what is to be questioned is the lack of reasoning in the people who worship in this manner, and blindly follow the ways from the days of yore without thinking for the reason at all. It is these very people who do not make use of the most sacred thing that humans have been bestowed with - their brains - and who are to be blamed for everything that is not right in this world today.

I know that is a bold statement to make, but tell me this. Would the Babri Masjid have been such a big issue had the millions of people who go about shouting slogans on the roads, would have instead not paid any attention to the selfish instigations of the wicked politicians of India? Would there have been any Talibans or Mujahideens who routed out the innards of Afghanistan, had they instead kept to themselves and ignored the dozens of Osama bin Ladens around them? Would the Vietnam War have been such a huge tragedy had the American soldiers and citizens refused to participate in it altogether, instead of doing it just because the Soviets were supporting the opposite side? Israel, Palestine, Rwanda, Columbia, Korea - You name it, and it could have or can be set right if and only if the people would use their brains in an unbiased manner.

However, nobody does this. Everybody comes equipped with their own belongings of racism and religion and leadership and followings and idealisms, and everything else that can in any way possibly cloud their reasoning. If everybody leaves this aside, the world will become a much better place to live in. Laden or Arafat or Bush or Jinnah or Gandhi or anybody is not to be blamed for anything, but it is us who are to be blamed for our own conditions.