What’s the meaning of Atheism? The oxford dictionary defines it as “a belief that God does not exist”. However I often notice the term loosely being used, especially if beliefs are in contrast to traditional ones.
I am from a “Tam Brahm” upbringing. Every traditional, ritualistic Tam Brahm household must begin its morning with the Suprabhatam (a devotional invocation dedicated to Lord Venkateshwara). Daily “Shlokas” (couplets dedicated to the Supreme Being) are to be chanted, before starting the day’s work and at dusk when the lamp was lit. Not doing so meant wrath from the elders of the family. Regular temple visits are part of our lives. And on special occasions such as birthdays and festivals, dressed in finery, visiting the temple to seek God’s blessings is an absolute must. Dos and do-not were stressed upon on the basis of religious texts and scriptures. Things such as do not cut your nails/hair on Fridays, were strictly adhered to. I wasn’t really against these practices, but just that it never made much sense to me.
Somewhere in the quest to connect with God, I found people often mixing up spirituality and rituals. In reality they are distinctly apart. I did question the practices and the way we did things, for which the general answer I received from elders was, “This is the way you connect to God, as written in our holy scriptures. By doing so you would have a happy and comfortable life. As I grew up, these customs and way of spirituality became deeply embedded in my life even though my understanding still remained quite low.
Over the years, as I matured into a wife and mother, I gained a better understanding of the whole picture of spirituality. In my home, i have a little prayer corner. I light a little flame every morning and evening, and the smell of incense sticks wafts through my home. I do this not because it has to be done, it is not a rule. I do it because it makes me happy. I do it because this prayer corner is my place to feel at peace, to help me with my thoughts, to drift into intellectual ideas and sometimes to meditate. The lamp for me is to kindle the positive energy within me.
I still chant small little Shlokas which I teach my kids. Not because God would be happy with me, but because I love the rhythm that they carry. A rhythm that soothes my nerves and keeps me relaxed at most times of the day. I still visit a temple, not as a duty, not for favors and not because the “deity in the temple” is all powerful. I choose a temple that’s generally less crowded, where I can sit down on the stone floors to soak in the serene and calm atmosphere.
This is spirituality for me. There is some unknown energy in the universe. It is a positive energy, one which we call “God” or Supreme Being. We attach a physical form to it, to make our minds relate more easily to it. I believe we all carry a part of this positive energy within us. And rekindling this energy could be done in a way one is comfortable with.