Jairam Mohan is somebody who pores over excel spreadsheets and power-point presentations in his day job, but believes his true calling is in boring people to death, hence, he updates his blog Mahabore’s Mumblings quite frequently.
Between his wife and him, they nurture their 2 yr old daughter and the blog with snippets from their experiences with mythology, parenting and occasionally also dabble with some fiction.
SPIRITUALITY AND RELIGION
While it is reasonably well known that I regularly write about the great Indian epics and mythological tales, one standard assumption that most of my readers might have made about me would have been that I am a deeply religious sort of person. After all, someone who is not very religious will probably not read and write so much about the wonderful old mythological tales from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, will he.
And so when Corinne asked me to write a guest post for her blog, I immediately thought that this would be a good opportunity for me to put up something about my personal opinion about religion and spirituality in general.
Coming from a fairly conservative South Indian Tamil Brahmin family it was inevitable that I was introduced to religion at a very young age. Starting from the fact that I was taught some Sanskrit shlokas at a very young age and my upanayanam ceremony (a Brahmin initiation ritual which symbolizes the transference of spiritual knowledge to the seeker) was done when I was 11 yrs old, most of my childhood was filled with good-hearted and well-intentioned attempts by my parents to make me a moderately religious spiritual child. However, the fact that I was growing up in a changing India and a cosmopolitan Bangalore meant that I hung out with quite a diverse set of friends ranging from North Indians, Indian Diaspora returned from Kuwait due to the Gulf War, Anglo Indians and the like, and this meant that I somehow never could quite latch on to the idea of organized religion as a concept.
Although I did not rebel against religion and religious practices and become an atheist or anything like that, it was just that I did it just to keep my parents happy and didn’t quite pick it up the way my peer Tam Brahms did in smaller cities like Palakkad, Madras, etc. This meant that although I was part of the larger Tam Brahm community by virtue of my birth, upbringing, etc, I didn’t quite fit in with them as comfortably as I fit in within the cosmopolitan melee of Bangalore.
That being said, the same cosmopolitan melee ensured that I developed a fair appreciation of other religions, other cultures, and ended up going to churches, mosques, gurudwaras, functions from all other faiths to which my friends belonged to and developed a decent understanding of the fact that God, as a concept advocated pretty much the same thing, albeit from different pulpits, altars, temples or mosques. And that, in my opinion has held me in good stead over the years.
In recent times though, as life and its experiences have weathered my sensibilities, I now realize that ‘spirituality’ as a word encompasses so much more than just religion and religious practices. In fact, the same religious practices which I shunned and ignored when I was younger, I now realize are an easier way to become more spiritual. After all, it is next to impossible for all of us to develop the high levels of concentration and motivation required to focus, concentrate and meditate and bring our minds to a state of equanimity, where we treat everybody and everybody as equal in the eyes of the Creator.
And this is precisely where some of our religious practices help us. By virtue of their inflexibility and rigidity, they enable us to become more disciplined with our habits, our thoughts, and coupled with the cosmopolitan world view that I grew up with, these practices help me maintain my sense of spirituality.
When I read the great epics like the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, I don’t necessarily see Hindu Gods like Rama, Hanuman and Krishna in them, I see normal human beings being put in unusual situations and learn from how they react to them. Each one of these epics and the thousands of smaller stories within them are all lessons from which all of us can learn from. The insights that these characters and situations give into the human psyche are amazing and it is visible from the quality of comments that some of these posts receive on my blog. And that to me is spiritual lessons being put into practice.
To conclude, am I religious, not really, but am I spiritual, to some extent, but I personally believe I have a long way to go and have only recently started taking the right steps in that direction.