My motto has always been - "Do what you believe in and NOT that which you don't." This is something which I practise in every facet of my life, even religion and especially religion! Which brings me to the topic of today's rant.
Religion is about belief, you embrace it and practise it out of belief. And if you don't believe and can't bring yourself to embrace the beliefs of you religion, then you're a non-believer, a free thinker, an atheist etc. As far as my knowledge goes, not many people will come out right and make such a stand, and those who do, will usually be seen in an unfavourable light.
Because somewhere along the line, there arose this notion that believing in God makes you a good person, and those who don't are more likely to turn the Devil's way. Which of course is not true, because we only have to read the news to know that much evil has been perpetrated in the name of God and religion.
This post however is not in support of those who do not embrace a faith. It's about "blind followers" those who follow without understanding, and do things out of fear. Out of ignorance has risen strange rituals to appease the gods. But gods are not monsters or beasts to be appeased. God is to be approached, not appeased!
The Crux of the Matter
As a practising Hindu, many a time have I seen people perform rituals which they have no understanding of, simply because they felt it was better to do it then not. I have actually asked several people about this. Their reply was: " I wanna play safe!", "Better safe than sorry!" Are you kidding me? Are the divine powers going to rain down ill luck on you because you did not break several coconuts at the temple or perform costly Pujas (rituals). You think God works that way huh? Well God is not a corrupt politician or a government servant who can be greased with offerings.
I'm a regular subscriber to Hindu Blog. I not only read the posts of the blogger, sometimes I peruse the comments as well. Once this guy wrote in asking if it was obligatory for him as a Hindu to perform this and that ritual on certain days. Call me weird, but I think its kinda sad when one views their religion as some sort of obligation to be performed.
In my opinion, when one approaches God out of sincerity, love and faith - all will be good. Even a little flower when offered by a genuine heart, will be accepted with love. In this age of materialism, one can buy the love of mortals, but not that of the cosmic powers.
The Ritual Factor
Now this does not mean that I'm downplaying the importance of ritual in Hinduism. There are reasons why these rituals are performed and the inclusion of certain items also has significant value. For instance ghee is used in a lot of prayer ceremonies because of its purifying properties. Which is why Hindus are encouraged to light their prayer lamp with ghee instead of oil, because ghee purifies the air in the room.
However performing rituals which you don't understand head or tail of, will not yield the positive results you desire. If someone says you should perform some ceremonies to improve a certain area of your life, read up on it - the Internet is a fount of knowledge, or ask around.
A friend of mine visited Bali sometime ago, while touring the temples, her tour guide told her that many Balinese were becoming Muslims because practising Hinduism was becoming a toll on them - too many festivals to be observed and the rituals to be performed was taxing.
If someone wanted to convert because they believed in another religion, that's fine. But if one was converting because they felt that being a Hindu they are obligated to perform a myriad of rituals and ceremonies, that demonstrates a total ignorance of one's religion.
Don't feel obliged to do something out of fear. If you find you are unable to perform some act of worship or another, just don't do it. There is no need to feel obliged. No divine power is going to rain down calamity into your life for that, and it doesn't make you any less of a devotee.