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An unplanned visit to the Ganga came my way.
For spiritual reasons.
For filial piety reasons.
For ceremonies that complete the cycle of life & death.
Measured in the number of hours – the Benaras experience was less than 3 digits.
Measured in the number of experiences and new thoughts that came to me, the experience was infinite.
I was born a Hindu and was raised in the Hindu atmosphere. And being too much of a questioner, I have no faith. I am more familiar than most practicing Hindus with the stories and the books. But I have no faith.
However, recently I went through an upside-down evolutionary experience.
During the course of conducting research for a recent talk on the cruise ship Queen Victoria, I learnt about many aspects (let no one tell you that they know ALL about Hinduism – it is simply not possible to read all – leave alone understand all of the books) and arrived at some conclusions.
The major conclusion was that Hinduism was a body of intellectual works treating subjects
– of life and death
– of how to conduct one’s life
– of the cosmos – including macrocosms & microcosms
– of math and science – physics, biology, botany, astronomy, genealogy ….
It appeared to me that to categorise these treatises as a religion would be to restrict the applicability of such a great set of works as religion necessarily demands an allegiance that is both singular and exclusive.
So while one can be a Buddhist and a Christian AND study physics without any conflict – one cannot do that if Physics were to be labeled a religion rather than a science.
Since I cannot change the fact that Hinduism is perceived by the world as a religion rather than a way of life or a scientific exposition – let me just focus on my personal experience.
All I can say is that I have found my way to Hinduism not through ‘faith’ that allows no questions but through ‘logic’ that survives on questions alone.
Benaras is a city where Hindu rituals and ceremonies and sanskrit shlokas as a part of daily life and not confined to some special camps or institutions. Being there gave me a sense of ‘plugging in’ to an ancestry with which I was only peripherally familiar
As I understand it, shlokas are all mediums of transmitting deep knowledge that is contained within. And indulging at the level of the medium – through joint recitals – accompanied by rituals – is a community bonding exercise. On the other hand, engaging in the thought & knowledge contained within the shlokas is an individual exercise.
And while the former is socially enjoyable, the latter is intellectually fulfilling. On this trip I could enjoy only the former but the setting gave me a glimpse of the latter – and someday I will return with the agenda of exploring the intellectual aspect.
Here I present some moments of ‘plugging in’ and other extreme experiences.
The Burning Ghats of Benaras
Some Amazing Songs of Ganga