Joyfully Religious #MondayMusings

Yesterday, I watched with shock a video of a religious ritual called ‘Made Madasnana’ practised in some Hindu temples in Karnataka, South India. The ritual involves pilgrims rolling on over the plantain leaves that contain the remains of food partaken by Brahmins! This is followed by a bath in the river. While there have been noises that this is a casteist practice, I saw that Brahmins too practiced this ritual. My question is how does this please God? How does this take them closer to being joyful.

Other religions, including Christianity, have various rituals that involve pain and sacrifice in an attempt to get closer to God or receive certain favours from Him. The monks of old wore hairshirts and regularly flagellated themselves. I’ve known of people who walk on their knees up slopes and steps to Churches. To me, hurting oneself, is in no way a means to a relationship with God.

I remember when I studied in a Catholic college and had to attend a three day religious retreat every year. Although we had to sleep on the floor in classrooms and eat some awful food, we enjoyed spending three whole days with our friends. More importantly, two whole nights to laugh and fool around. One night the nun in charge of us was disturbed by the volume of chatter and laughter. She strode into our room and ordered : “Girls, think of death and go to sleep!”  This, naturally, resulted in more giggles as we pretended to sleep. Thinking back, I wonder why she wanted us to associate our experience with something morose. I may not remember what the preachers said, but I certain have wonderfully memories of laughter. Good clean laughter, to me, is a religious experience.

To me, religion is not to be associated with rituals or a set of rules to be followed. Rather it is a joyful response to the love of an all-loving and all-forgiving God. And naturally, such joy only spills over in caring and being there for others. We are all called to be joy-bearers.

I love these words from Elias Penn-Smith : Identify God’s emissaries by the light in their eyes, by the lilt in their song, by the glow of their skin and the joy within; not with the face of a dried-up peach, and a voice that would teach of doom and sin. 

More recently, Pope Francis seemed to define a Christian as being a person of joy :

“Joy, which is like the sign of a Christian. A Christian without joy is either not a Christian or he is sick. There’s no other type! He is not doing well health-wise! A healthy Christian is a joyful Christian. I once said that there are Christians with faces like pickled peppers [sour faces – ed] … Always with these [long] faces! Some souls are also like this, this is bad! These are not Christians. A Christian without joy is not Christian. Joy is like the seal of a Christian. Even in pain, tribulations, even in persecutions”.

My uncle who is a Catholic priest once shared this story in his sermon. He told me the source was The Lord Is My Shepherd, But…Confessions of The Natural Way by Barbara Jurgenson.

She tells the story of Petronius waiting in a slow moving line before he got his turn at the Judgment. He sees an angel coming along with delicious hot-buttered rolls, holding out a tray to each person. Petronius is hungry, but he suddenly realizes he must not take a roll. All his life he did his best to avoid being carried away by pleasure. He had deliberately ignored pleasurable things in order to concentrate his attention more fully on serving God. Similarly he passes by a bed of fragrant red flowers and a cute kitten beckons him to pet it. He feels he is being tested.

Then, Petronius hears God saying, “Well done, my son, I’m glad you came here. There’s just one thing…” Then Petronius noticed that God had something on his lap – a small yellow and white kitten. On the table next to God’s throne he noticed a vase of the fragrant flowers he had forced himself to ignore. And a plate with a half-eaten roll.

The moral of the story according to Jurgensen: People will have to give an account to God on the day of judgment for all the good things they failed to enjoy!

Whatever be our religous beliefs, I do believe that we are called to live them out with joy. Do you agree?

joyfully-religious

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22 Replies to “Joyfully Religious #MondayMusings”

  1. I agree with everything you have said in this post. It reaffirms my beliefs. I have always felt religion has nothing to do with God although it promises the ‘knowing God’ at the first step. Thereafter, it just makes the man go round and round in like a vicious circle by getting him stuck in rituals which cause a drain of energy and money and therby pain. Being married into an ardently religious family who place Godmen and there pravachans on a high pedestal, I must have heard numerous pravachans in the last many years. The theory they work with is to make their followers believe they are downtrodden, foolish, sinful and thus incapable of knowing God and these Godmen are their to rescue them from this ‘maya roopi duniya’. And then instead, they themselves become God and people start worshipping them forgetting the higher energy. For me, spirituality is what helps. It is when I connect with myself , I can connect with God. Unless I feel and exude love, happiness and peace, I cannot connect with God.
    I must have written a microblog here 🙂

  2. Totally agree, Corinne! I don’t believe in religions as they are another division which is causing a lot of hatred these days. My relation with is personal for me. I don’t believe in the term ‘God fearing’ either. For me, God is my friend, companion, a shelter and I’m happy that way. And what’s the point in fearing and letting go simple joys in an effort to please God?

  3. Your post reminded me of Mithun’s dialogue of the movie “Oh My God.” This dialogue is quite thought provoking: “These are God fearing people, not god loving people.”

    Religious extremists have made many people to believe that torment and sacrifices are the only way to impress God. I neither agree nor promote their mindset. If God went through the trouble of creating us and placing us in this beautiful world, then he would hate for all of his efforts to go into the garbage while we spend our lives torturing ourselves, ignoring the downtrodden, and performing deeds with only hope of impressing him.

  4. Totally agree. Religion has made things so hard. If there were only God and no religion or practices, things would have been simpler. No Made Snan, No beating yourself up to death, no walking barefoot, getting hair tonsured etc. , things would have been happier. Isn’t it? It’s fear that makes people do such things.

  5. Dear Corinne – I don’t believe that God made man in His image , it’s more the other way round . So my God is like me happy and joyful and glad to be alive. I agree with you that it is better to be happy and walk with Him rather than go along with a sad face.

  6. I don’t understand how hurting and cause pain to your self or anther is away to get closer to god(ess) To me helping your fellow human who be the best way to worship god(ess).
    Maybe I have it all wrong.

    Coffee is on

  7. I’m pretty sure I have spoken about this earlier here 🙂
    Anyway, the highlights remain the same even today – I used to be a pretty religious guy. Life and a lot of false religion (which includes Godmen and some of these kind of practices) kicked a lot of faith out of me. Today, I do believe there is a higher force… I am just not convinced “he/she is on the right path!” 😀
    I still pray… but never for myself anymore. I pray for every patient before I start a case… why should they suffer on a technicality, right? 🙂

  8. You know, I also don’t believe that God only wants us to suffer to grant us blessings…For me religion is personal and my beliefs and how I talk to God have nothing to do with what the custodians of religion as they call them want me to..

  9. Jesus came that we may have life and have it in full. I believe He intends us to live in joy and not in misery. 🙂
    Have a joyful week ahead!

  10. I do not follow any ritual in my religion, not even fasting. I believe in God, and he in me. But, to each his own belief after all, who are we to judge as long as it is voluntary. My mother and sister are overtly religious and we have many clashes on it. But, we have made our peace.

    1. While I no longer argue with someone about their religious beliefs, I wonder how ‘voluntary’ is voluntary when it is motivated by fear and cultural pressure. I’m not talking about your Mum and sister, Lata, but generally.

  11. Spirituality is one area where I have a long way to go because I guess religion is created by man and there is only one lord which is within us.

    I may be totally wrong because of which I am in a searching mode, at present.

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