Trying to understand my religious identity

I grew up in a fairly religious household. I wouldn’t say that religion was ‘imposed’ on me, but it was definitely a part of my life. We grew up hearing mythological stories from Amma and Patti, reading Amar Chitra Kathas. We celebrated almost all Hindu festivals and frequently visited the temple near home. My parents took us on a lot of temple trips. But festivals at my home were more about togetherness and good food, less about religion.

Over the past few years, I feel like things have changed. I’ve seen so much corruption in temples – I fail to understand the point of doing archanais or homams. I understand that for many people, its difficult to pray without any object to direct your thoughts and prayers to – I guess that’s where the concept of idol worship arose. But I don’t feel the need to go to temples anymore. Maybe its the crowd, maybe its the corruption – but I fail to find peace within the four walls of a temple. Forget peace, I feel like I can barely hear my own thoughts. And isn’t that what temples were made for? For people to find peace and solace within its walls, to provide a kind of structure to religion.

I do agree that we all need some way to find peace from the chaotic lives we lead. Where do I find peace? Cuddling the sister and tucking her in bed (yes, I realize she’s 23 years old but that’s just us :)), FaceTiming with Amma and Appa for hours on end about nothing at all…seeing them and running into their arms, hearing about something good that’s happening in the world, sitting on the seashore..the sand beneath my feet and listening to the sound of the waves, leaning on the husband’s chest and listening to his heartbeat. And I’ve realized I don’t need a God to find my peace. 

Do I still believe in God? Yes. I’d like to think of myself as fairly spiritual. I don’t like to give a name to my God though – to me he’s just a supreme force that is in some way creating this world, performing miracles everyday. Although I may not understand it now, I believe that God has some reason for everything that happens. I believe its important to thank God for everything good in my life – I do that everyday. And I’m selfish too – I always ask to keep the people I love happy and healthy 🙂 

I frequently think about how I would introduce religion to my children. Would I tell them mythological stories? Yes – as stories, to nurture and cultivate their imagination, to tell them about the lives and deeds of men and women. I would like them to understand the Ramayana and Mahabharatha as great epics about people who did great things and made great mistakes. I’d like them to understand the circumstances in which these stories were set, the reasons why people did the things they did, and to recognize and question that some of it isn’t correct.  

I’d also like to celebrate other festivals. I grew up in a strictly south-Indian Hindu household, but I’d like to celebrate Thanksgiving,Christmas, Raksha Bandhan, among others. Not for its religious significance – but as a chance to create memories and spend time together. An occasion to be thankful should definitely be celebrated, and I’d love for my children to have the same memories of togetherness, love, laughter and food on special occasions – I would definitely celebrate every festival I could, regardless of religion. 

If you’re reading this, you might have questions for me. I have so many questions too! I still haven’t found the perfect answer to my religious/spiritual identity. But if you have thoughts on religion and your religious identity that you’d like to share – please do. I’d love to read what you think!

****** 

Amma – Mother

Appa – Father

Patti – Grandmother 

Amar Chitra Katha – a collection of colorfully illustrated stories of mythological stories, the stories of great men and women of the past, and Indian folk tales. A childhood staple – in my generation. 

Archanai – a special personal pooja performed in a temple. 

Homam – Varied Hindu ceremonial rituals, each performed for a different purpose. 

Ramayana and Mahabharatha – ancient Indian epics. While the Ramayana is essentially the story of Rama and Sita and the story of Rama’s kingship, the Mahabaratha is a tale of war. 

Raksha Bandhan – a Hindu festival celebrating the love between brothers and sisters.

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4 thoughts on “Trying to understand my religious identity

  1. One thing that has been good for me coming over to uk and doing the job i do is that i get involved in a lot of festivals of different religions .. I have learnt a lot about different religions..

    On the other hand I also think and believe that religion should be banned and there should be none other than just HUMAN religion.. as religion is one that is used to kill so many innocent ..

    I do believe in god and I also believe that no God has ever said to distinguish between humans YET we do it 🙂

  2. Interesting!
    I love celebrating festivals because of the culture and joi-de-vivre atmosphere behind each of them. I think fort me, it’s more to do with the identity of having a tradition that is beautiful.

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