One

“Love is a temple, Love a higher law
Love is a temple, Love the higher law
You ask me to enter, But then you make me crawl
And I can’t be holding on, To what you got
When all you got is hurt
– U2, “One”

 

I am not the most religious person. I believe in something. I just don’t always know what that is.

I believe in God. I believe there was a great man named Jesus. I look at the people I admire most in life like Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama and their grace, dignity and presence have left me no choice but to accept that there is something divine inspiring them.

I will admit that I don’t know what form God takes. Some people believe they do. People have died over what that image might be.

I don’t claim to know. I don’t think that makes me less worthy.

Although I am sure there are those who disagree. To be more clear, I KNOW that there are those who disagree.

I was born Hindu. It is a religion, like most others, which when practiced with good intent and true faith, espouses love, acceptance and forgiveness. I believe that there are flaws, as there are with most organized religions.

But being Hindu has been a part of my identity that I can not shake, just as I can not shake the tan skin that betrays the Indian heritage of my family.

I can’t wash it off – just as I can’t change the tone of my flesh. It is immersed in my culture, the seams which make up the fabric of my family.

It was and has been a part of my identity, though you can probably question how “legit” I am in terms of actual practice.

I recall having questions about religion early on. I attended an epic number of “pujas” or religious ceremonies, that my parents and family seemed to hold each weekend – sometimes multiples on one weekend.

That’s a lot of praying.

It’s especially a lot of praying for a child who could not understand the Sanskrit readings of our family priests, yet had to sit for hours, laboriously feigning interest in something I could not interpret – while shamelessly daydreaming about my crushes at school or how I might get the curls to lay flatter against my head.

My mind was elsewhere.

I recall hearing from a friend in high school that I was going to hell. We were reading the Divine Comedy – more specifically – “Dante’s Inferno” – in AP English. I was having trouble grasping some of the levels at which Dante Alighieri had allocated some of the true despots, heathens and unworthy to their specific levels, or circles of Hell.

I described the trouble I had understanding the idea of “Limbo” – which was the first circle of Hell as described by Dante. This is where all the unbaptized and the virtuous pagans, who had not sinned, but did not accept Christ, were actively punished.

Having been fairly sheltered thus far from such ideas, at the age of 17, I was startled when my friend said, “That’s ridiculous!”

I was not startled by the fact that she said, “That’s ridiculous!” because I too was thinking, “This Dante is talking some ridiculous shit!” I was more startled by what she said next  . . .

“Everyone knows there is no such thing as limbo for people like you. You are just going straight to the deepest levels of Hell.”

Silence.

But you know me. I don’t usually stay silent for long.

“Really? So if I rape and if I steal and if I murder but I repent and accept Christ – I would be in better shape than I am today?” I asked.

She looked at me as if I was crazy and said the words that left a very lasting impression on me.

“Well, that’s just the way it works. Everyone knows it.”

OH. EVERYONE..

My thoughts ran through my muddled mind, searching for lucidity.

“But this is how I was born. Why would God punish me for that?”


“Even if I convert, would God punish the rest of my family? What kind of idea of Heaven is that for me if I don’t have my family with me? Even if I convince my family here – what about my family in India? What about the ones who are already gone?”

“So many parts of the world have never been exposed to Christianity. Was God’s intent to banish them directly to that circle?”

(And no, I am not talking about the world today, where internet technology, global cell phones, international video conference calls and ever-expanding missionary efforts are taking place – but the world we lived in for much longer, where in fact, Christianity was centrally focused in Europe).

Even then, you must assume in the deepest villages, Christianitynwill not make it to many children who live by candlelight at night and work in fields during the day.

“Did that mean God did not want (for at least a few centuries) – non-Europeans to be granted access to Heaven?”

I have had friends who have discussed conversion with me. In a safe, approachable way. And I have considered it. I think there are two quotes by Gandhi (who per this definition, would also be confined to that first circle of Hell, a thought which completely boggles my mind) that really define how I feel about the matter.

In regards to conversion, Gandhi said at his famous speech at Harijan in 1935:

I believe that there is no such thing as conversion from one faith to another in the accepted sense of the word. It is a highly personal matter for the individual and his God. I may not have any design upon my neighbor as to his faith, which I must honor even as I honor my own. Having reverently studied the scriptures of the world I could no more think of asking a Christian or a Musalman, or a Parsi or a Jew to change his faith than I would think of changing my own.”

So, while sometimes I remain confused and sometimes I believe that I am just a “little bit of everything” for now, that works for me. And I find my own truth and faith in that and I am content.

Because, similar to Gandhi, I also believe that when you take the best parts of religion and evaluate them and leave the noise behind, that there is truth in all of them:

“I came to the conclusion long ago … that all religions were true and also that all had some error in them, and whilst I hold by my own, I should hold others as dear as Hinduism. So we can only pray, if we are Hindus, not that a Christian should become a Hindu … But our innermost prayer should be a Hindu should be a better Hindu, a Muslim a better Muslim, a Christian a better Christian.”

Gandhi, (Young India: January 19, 1928)

You don’t have to agree with me. I am not seeking validation of where I stand. I am far from fundamental so I can handle a little discussion.

What I can’t handle are absolutes that don’t address the true nature of the reality. Our world is not that black and white.

Hoping you all are close to your own truth.

Namaste,
Kiran

“One love, One blood
One life, You got to do what you should
One life, With each other
Sisters, Brothers
One life, But we’re not the same
We get to, Carry each other
Carry each other.
ONE.”

One.

NOTE: This blog was originally posted in early 2010 on masalachica.blogspot.com.

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22 Responses to One

  • Sig
    Twitter:
    says:

    Um wow…totally stole what I had in my heart as well. Funnily enough, I wrote a blog post on this on my old blog a few years back writing about the exact same thing. Maybe I’ll publish that one again too…

    I was born Hindu like you and have married a Christian. And while a lot of people think that it’s a radical thing I have done, really it isn’t. We’re both not hugely religious in the sense of following the rituals and traditions, but we have our beliefs. So to be completely honest, I’d say I’m not Hindu anymore, but more agnostic. (And not just because I got married. This was a long time coming)

    Perhaps there is something bigger out there and I don’t judge anyone on their faith – I only believe that if there is, then God is one – just called Christ or Krishna or Allah etc.

  • Rama says:

    This is what I posted in Google blog and I repeat: I am from India, and I am frequently asked about which state I am from and this irritates me no end. Having never spent more than 4 years in anyone state, I always reply I am just an Indian. Similarly when it comes to religion, I would like to say I am a humanitarian and would like to practice Humanity. I think that is the point of religion to be good and do good. No religion teaches you to hate or the license to harm, if somebody says/ believes that they are self delusional or lying. I do not want to sound priggish but that is the way I feel

  • Alex says:

    Your writing is eloquent, enthralling, and enriching. I can sense the passion with which you pull forth the words and it is a true delight to read your blog. I’m fascinated by your story and appalled by the words that your once “friend” said to you. I grew up in the Greek Orthodox church never understanding the rules, obligations, and guilt that was placed upon us. In high school I attended a non-denominational church but something still didn’t feel right, and after a traumatic experience in high school with some people who claimed to have specific religious beliefs and treated me the exact opposite way of what they preached (that wasn’t too articulate, so please excuse the phrasing), I could no longer stomach being around that group of people. Ironically it was living in Greece and studying the religions of the Middle East that moved me to abandon my former beliefs in search for something more accepting and less restrictive. I don’t know what or who I believe in exactly, but I believe in both good and evil, and a universe that listens. Perhaps I feel that way because that’s what I want to be true, but in the end religion and faith is all about putting our trust in a construct, and whether or not it holds to be fact we must wait and see.

  • Saba says:

    Beautifully expressed Kiran. The quotes from Gandhi remind me why his work left such a powerful impression on human history. I was born and raised a Muslim and its an important part of my identity. Living in a multi-faith society has given me the opportunity to listen, understand and learn about other faiths. I truly believe that every religion has something positive to offer. It would be unfair to deny ourselves spiritual growth and development by not exploring them. At the end of the day, we are human first and foremost. So, lets first learn how to honor and respect one another.

  • Alison
    Twitter:
    says:

    I studied the sociology of religion. Marx believed that it is man made. Up until that point (and well in my 20′s), I too had a more theoretical and objective stand on religion. In a sense, I was a Marxist. My cousin, a devout Christian told me then, that I was wrong, that God is God, that I am sinning because I believe otherwise. To the contrary, I did NOT believe otherwise. I believe in God. I just also believed that much of how religion is interpreted, is absolutely manmade.

    I still believe that to a degree. The Muslim faith has many tenets that may sound harsh and strange in our world, our time. Back then, there was a logic to everything. Because worlds change, those things become strange, untenable, and even ridiculous. And because some of the faith choose to take the religion into their hands, and twist it into something that it isn’t, to fit their agenda. Whether it’s something minor or major, it is still done. I believe that this happens in all faiths.

    So I agree with Gandhi – it is not about being Christian, or Hindu or Muslim. It’s about being a better Christian, Hindu or Muslim. I believe in my faith, and it’s not my place to tell someone of a different faith that they are wrong, that they will burn in Hell. I have NEVER ever done that, nor will I ever. Your faith is your faith, however you choose to embrace it.

    Great, thought-provoking post as always, Kiran.
    Alison recently posted…Happy Holidays!My Profile

  • tracy says:

    My thoughts are very similar. I believe. I do believe. Mainly in goodness in all people. I believe that religion should bring people together yet I see too many instances of it pulling people apart. And I do say that God must weep for that. I love your eloquent words. xo
    tracy recently posted…Why We Have An American Girl Doll CollectionMy Profile

  • Amen. I think when you are at peace with your own spirituality, when you have had a true spiritual experience, you can accept that others’ paths are just as sacred as your own. I went through a period of anger and disbelief in my own traditions, and then realized, like you mentioned with Hinduism, that I have to embrace where I come from. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with all of the human rules and regs associated with an organized religion, it just means that I can love and appreciate my traditions, be grateful for how they have helped to shape me, and incorporate them into my own truth. I think that when you are quiet (prayer/meditation) you can tap into the divine light that lives in all of us, that connects all of us to all living things. People have tried in countless religions to write that experience down in sacred texts, but the words always fail on some level to describe the indescribable, and so people fight over the words, which is unfortunate in my opinion.
    Namaste.
    And “Don’t stop believin’ – hold on to that feelin’” LOL.
    Daily Presents recently posted…Being Santa ClauseMy Profile

    • Oh, and in my humble opinion, if you are interested (and I am totally comfortable with the notion that someone else may have a better idea), we have the ability to touch heaven and/or hell while we are here – I don’t think they are “locations” we are sent to when we are done with the body we are in :) I think people who are mired in pain and hatred are already in hell. Conversely, people who touch unconditional love are peeking at and experiencing a little bit of heaven. As for how my spirit manifests after it’s done in this body – I’m not sure, but I have faith it will be good. I spend my time trying to get peeks at heaven. I saw Les Mis yesterday (I know you are a fan), and I can’t get the line out of my head, “To love another person is to see the face of God.” Goosebumps. It’s like that :)

    • masalachica says:

      I think your answer should be it’s own blog post. That’s beautiful.

      I’m just a small town girl, living in a lonely world. Gotta find my truth somewhere :-)

      xoxo,
      Kiran

  • Mary
    Twitter:
    says:

    Gorgeous post, Kiran – rich, humble and strong (and beautifully written!). We are similar in our faith – I believe in God, in a higher being or power, and believe I have the right and the responsibility to decide for myself what (if any) form my God takes. For me, the form shifts depending on what I need – loving father figure, adoringly patient mother figure or simply the grace of the universe – but the underlying message always is one of forgiveness, inclusion and love. I’m grateful to no longer believe my God is shaming or judgmental or frightening. I’ll take my view of an abundantly loving God any day! And that’s the most I’ve written publicly about God ever! Thanks for the push!
    Mary recently posted…Ruts & GroovesMy Profile

  • Katie says:

    I have been largely quiet on my blog as of late because I am grappling with many of these same ideas. I was raised in a very VERY conservative family. And parts of that family that I have always been close with have recently gotten so conservative that I am sure once they “realize” how liberal I am (aka I 100% agree with this post), they will never speak to me again. How is that Christian? Because this along with making myself a better Christian without having to accept the man made rules and ideas that the Bible is literal truth have been all that is on my mind, I haven’t been blogging. I don’t have the words yet. When I do, I will be linking to this post. Because BOOM.
    Katie recently posted…all that’s merry and brightMy Profile

  • Truth speaks softly and yet echoes in the atmosphere. I do believe in God, I do believe in heaven and hell. But I also believe in free will. That the higher power has allowed to choose, good over evil , light over darkness, love over hate. We are not born hating anyone, it is taught through growth and the choices of those who raised us, but in the end the choice becomes ours. What we do with it, how we react with it, everything. I think love can and does conquer all, for every dark shadow that attempts to pave a path into the world the light of a million people reaching out with love and compassion can overcome it. Period.
    Southern Angel recently posted…Scattered Sunday…My Profile

  • ilene
    Twitter:
    says:

    We are a mixed religion family and I, like you, feel like I am a “little bit” of a lot of things and for me, ultimately, all of the doors lead to the same room. Does it matter who I pray to? Does it matter where I get my source of faith or to whom I am accountable for my actions? I welcome open debates on religion but regret how religion divides us – and falsely so. Wise, wise words, my friend Namaste.
    ilene recently posted…Finding The FireMy Profile

  • Senita
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’ve been told that too. I usually respond with a quick “No, I’m not” and keep the conversation going without skipping a beat. But for you I’d say, “Prove it!”

  • erin margolin
    Twitter:
    says:

    Amazing post, Kiran, utterly gorgeous in its sincerity. You are one ridiculously intelligent woman. I love this right here. This is a perfect piece for right now, today, the end of the year. And for every day.

  • Doctor G
    Twitter:
    says:

    I’m Jewish. Which means, I’m lucky that we are actually forbidden from trying to convert people. We also believe (and I understand this to be the crucial fork in the road from Christianity) that we are judged by our deeds and not at all by our faith. So, if you were an axe-murderer you are not excused by faith. And if you have strong faith but don’t make the world a better place? Well, that’s no good either.

    I’m a doctor, which has given me the perspective of a scientist and a caregiver, and I have attended many deaths. I can tell you, though I can’t explain well, that it is clear to me that death is not the end,

    I’m a mother, which is why I have both fervent hope and absolute certainty that there is something divine surrounding our worlds.

    Thank you for expressing your words, they touched me.

    • masalachica says:

      Deborah,

      “I can tell you, though I can’t explain well, that it is clear to me that death is not the end”

      I believe the same too. I don’t believe this is the end. I am incredibly touched by your response.

      “I’m a mother, which is why I have both fervent hope and absolute certainty that there is something divine surrounding our worlds.”

      I think being a daughter, a brother, a spouse, a child, a parent – leaves us all with some hope that there is something beyond our corporeal world that will make this all make sense. one day.

      xo,
      kiran

  • Lori E
    Twitter:
    says:

    Not to make light of a very deep subject and also not to skewer any particular religion (you can replace the word God with any other you like) ….I have no problem with God, it’s his fan club I often dislike.
    You write beautifully and with passion.
    Lori E recently posted…HAPPY NEW YEAR AROUND THE WORLD.My Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Lori,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I understand what you mean. There is a quote by Gandhi (as you can see, he was a huge influence for me), “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.” I want to be clear that I don’t think this can be taken literally. I don’t think that he means all Christians. And I think in this sentence you can replace the word Christ for any other representation of God or Prophet, juxtaposed with the religion. I.E. “I like your Krishna, I do not like your Hindus. Your Hindus are so unlike your Krishna.” or whatever.

      Fan clubs are the worst. They are usually where the crazy ones hide (in all religions).

      Happy New Year to you! Hope you made it to midnight!
      Kiran

  • dixya
    Twitter:
    says:

    what a strong, sincere and beautiful post. I am born Hindu too and grew up attending all the religious pujas and stuff but even to this date, I do not understand all that rituals nor I do follow it fully but I strongly believe there is a higher power above us in the form of god- it could be ram, jesus, prophet mohammed that I dont know and it does not matter. After all, all religious teaches us the same thing- be good, do good, respect others etc isnt it..I dont understand why do people fight, discriminate and hatred among each other in the name of religion. No religion or no god wants it that way..and its so hypocritical when all these ” I am so good religious-religious” people are the ones discriminating, hating people from different religion and how exactly is that being religious? So Mind Boggling.
    dixya recently posted…Chicken Patties (a savory strudel alike)My Profile

    • masalachica says:

      Amen, Jai Maa. I completely agree with you, Dixya on the hypocrisy of some of the most allegedly religious people who are also some of the most willing to throw compassion out the window when speaking of other human beings. Following rituals does not make you religious. Sprirituality and self-introspection are a huge part of understanding and reconciling what your religion really means to you. The people who practice at the surface, often don’t do that.

      Happy New Year, Dixya!
      Kiran

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MEET KIRAN
I'm Kiran, I'm a dreamer. A writer. A singer. A mother. An ugly crier. An Indian-American. Who loves Gandhi. My stories are full of truth that is sometimes hard for me to say out loud. This blog is where I overcome my fears and live (and love) out loud. Read More....
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