There is a beautiful advantage of living in a multicultural society-you meet people from different cultures, faith, and religions which gives you a chance to know and acknowledge them. With my exploration, I have found that culture is not something restricted to definitions laid out in books or how political parties project it to be. It is subtler than that. It is the way you and I drink our morning tea or the way we deal with people at work and in our relationships. And trust me, you never know what your real culture is until you are faced with a different one. Until then, you take your culture and beliefs for granted.
In my discussions with people from different religions and cultures, I have found a lot of commonalities at the base of it. For instance, a lot of cultures worship ancestors during a special time of the year and some others celebrate New Year beginnings aligned with their harvesting seasons. In New Zealand, Matariki marks the beginning of Māori New Year which is celebrated in accordance with the harvesting season where people come together to honor ancestors and life. When I first heard the story of Matariki, I was so fascinated that even without science and technology someone back then knew about constellations, fishing, and lunar cycles. The thought-provoking stories of the creation of Papatūānuku(Mother Earth) and Ranginui(sky father) describe the importance of nature and how important it is to preserve them.
It was the same feeling I had when I first started reading Sage Parashara’s Vedic astrology years ago in high school. (I know astrology in high school, I was a weird teenager)! I was surprised to find that 7000 years ago they knew that movement of stars, planets, constellations, and the Moon can impact not just the sea but also the human mind and life. Vedic astrology contains a detailed mathematical insight into the calculation of lagnas and transit times of various planets. While one may or may not be able to interpret a chart is another story but the detailed knowledge in this text is incredible.
Reading different holy scriptures and religious texts, I understand that they have been written/perceived to give human mind and life a direction. In my discussions with people from diverse backgrounds, I have found multiple ways people worship and acknowledge God, creation, universe, or whatever you like to call it. While their ways to address God or praying vary, most conversations involve reference to a higher power beyond this limited body and mind.
“One need not scale the heights of the heavens, nor travel along the highways of the world to find Ahura Mazda. With purity of mind and holiness of heart one can find Him in one’s own heart.” — Zoroaster (Ahura Mazda has been referred to as Lord or wisdom).
However, in my exploration, I also come across religious fanatics who preach a certain way of worshipping or praying is the only authenticated way to reach God. I remember a theology student who tried convincing me how a religious text is superior to another and it is the only way to liberation. She had meticulously worked on framing logics and explanations which she used to convince me. But even after being a theology student, she struggled to understand my point. My question was, ” Why do you want these holy books to be in conflict with each other? They are the same for me. All prayers have a common destination”.
Do you think one God or religious text can be superior to others? And even if this is the case, do you think the other God would punish or be upset with someone not worshipping Him/Her/them in a certain way or language? Do you even hear yourself saying this in the name of your faith and God?
And someone who is the mastermind of this vast creation of which I am spiritually, religiously, absolutely, practically, scientifically, biologically part of is offended when I don’t pray in a certain way? Do you think the power which gives courage to somebody as little as an ant to hunt for its food wouldn’t be compassionate enough to understand this? Just because I don’t say my prayers in a certain language or scripture. Really? Is that what the world needs right now?
As the 13th-century Persian poet, Rumi has said, “Not Christian or Jew or Muslim, not Hindu, Buddhist, sufi, or zen. Not any religion or cultural system. I am not from the East or the West, not out of the ocean or up from the ground, not natural or ethereal, not composed of elements at all. I do not exist, am not an entity in this world or the next, did not descend from Adam or Eve or any origin story. My place is placeless, a trace of the traceless. Neither body or soul. I belong to the beloved, have seen the two worlds as one and that one call to and know, first, last, outer, inner, only that breath breathing human being.”
Do we really need to convince/manipulate/convert others in the name of a superior faith or path?
Is it so hard to believe that He/She/They are here? Right here! Is it so hard to see Them in this beautiful, powerful yet humble existence? Beyond language? In Silence?
The other day I asked my meditation teacher-So what’s the purpose of all these meditations and prayers we do? When will I make it to the ultimate? And he said, “ whenever you want to”. He continued saying, “Be in acceptance of this moment. Aisa hai, this is how it is. Beyond if’s, why’s, but’s and battles that go on in the mind. By your choice or His will this is it.”
But what do I do if I accept? Should I give up on everything? “Well, if you fully accept then you do things 100% in this moment. This moment. Just this moment”, he said.
Just as the 15th-century poet and saint Kabir Das said-
Moko Kahan Dhoondhe Re Bande
Mein To Tere Paas Mein
Na Teerath Mein, Na Moorat Mein
Na Ekant Niwas Mein
Na Mandir Mein, Na Masjid Mein
Na Kabe Kailas Mein
Main To Tere Paas Mein
Oh Follower, Where do you search me?
I am always with you
Not in pilgrimage, nor in statues
Neither in solitude
Not in temples, nor in the mosque
Neither in the Kabha nor in Kailash
I am with you, oh follower
In my own words-
सवाल ये नहीं है कि
तुझे मूर्त में देखूँ या मस्जिद में
तेरा जिक्र कर सकूँ
ये काफी है।
In the end, my favorite Sanskrit saying, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the world is one family!
All the rivers seek only the ocean.
Image source: Pixabay