I don’t think of myself as an atheist anymore, as I used to circa 2011-2012. I think I’ve reached a point where I know that God exists, in whatever form I may choose, and so I don’t feel the need to think of God like a ‘celestial being’ with powers and all that jazz. I don’t think there is God in an idol and I definitely do not think he only lives in a temple where you can only wear Indian clothes and apply red ash to your head in order to see and appreciate him.
There’s a conflict, and a sort of frustration I’m experiencing with my family and my faith. I believe intensely in God, and I think I have my own faith in him, separate from Hinduism or any sort of organized religion. Yet every time I speak to my family about not wanting to go to the temple and not wanting to take part in rituals, they think I don’t believe in God, or worse, they think that I think that the belief in God is not ‘cool’ or something, which couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s hard to know that they’re thinking all these things about me, which makes me frustrated because yet again I am reminded that there is nobody on this planet who knows truly how I feel about all of these things, and nobody on this planet who knows anything about me at all. But maybe it’s my fault for not telling people, I don’t know.
God watches over me and protects me. That is the defining element of my faith. I am well aware of how God has helped me along in all these years – how else can I explain all the situations that have worked out so well without me doing anything at all! But still I refuse to believe that God needs things to be done, offerings and public declarations of faith made before he acts in our lives. Its sort of the fundamentals of Hinduism that I don’t agree with, all the double standards and insincerity that I see in my own family and in temples. Why can’t I enter the temple while I’m on my period? Why do women have a time of ‘impurity’ while men always remain pure enough to worship? Why does the woman have to prepare the offerings and maintain the temple? Why do I have to declare my ‘jaat’ and bow before a priest before God hears anything I have to tell him? And most of all, I refuse to believe that God only accepts that I believe in him ONLY AFTER I go to the temple or only after I bow before his image. It is so contrary to my image of God it’s almost appalling. God is accepting, God is kind. God knows how I feel when I enter temples and God understands why I can’t get myself to go. And God helps me and takes care of me nonetheless, which is the most beautiful thing about it all.
Despite the conflict, I continue with this faith, because it has brought me more peace and more serenity than the belief in any Hindu god or goddess ever will. And I still love Hinduism and its teachings – once my father told me something about faith which I will remember forever, “They say faith is like the flight of an eagle; there are many paths, but the destination in the same.” I want to have an intensely private religion, and keep it that way for the rest of my life; I shouldn’t need to explain my faith to anyone, or prove that it exists.
“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.”
– Dalai Lama XIV