(Note: This was published at ‘3rd space’ a website that highlights alternative perspectives. The original article is available here. This is part 1 of 2)
I grew up as a non-believer, an atheist. However, when I started working in the rural area in India, and developed some sort of relationship with the villagers, I began to appreciate their innate goodness, the values that they lived by in their everyday lives, and how easy and natural it was for them to live like that.
When I compared myself and others like me – urban, ‘educated’, modern with a ‘scientific’ outlook – with them, I found that even though we speak a lot about ‘values’, like freedom, equality, rights etc, we largely lack values in our personal lives.
We live with a lot of contradictions and hypocrisy in our personal lives. Telling a lie comes very easily to us. We can look at the way CVs are made these days as an example. Often all this is done to look good in the eyes of others, to appear politically correct, to sell ourselves in the market, and other such reasons. Since everyone else is doing the same thing, we seldom notice it. Working with this rural community brought out the sharp contrast there is, between us and them. Of course, I am not saying everything is perfect in the villages and that all of them are virtuous, but by and large, they ‘live’ their values, and it is quite easy and natural for them. They do not make a big fuss about it. If they do something that goes against their values, they are conscious of it and feel a tinge of guilt, but we the educated have no such qualms.
This made me wonder what the main reason was for this difference. I could only come up with one major difference: that they had ‘faith’, and I had none.
The problem of how to develop faith led me to gradually start observing the context behind our activities, because my training was to look at all activities in isolation.
Take for example simple acts like walking, running or swimming. When we think of these activities, our focus is generally on the doer – that is the one who is doing the walking, running or swimming. Instead, I started to look at the context in which these activities were taking place, the essential dependency on this, without which these activities could not happen.
The context is the earth or the ground on which we walk or run, or the water in which we swim. Walking is not possible without the earth beneath us. So, the act of walking is dependent not just on the ‘doer’, but on something more fundamental. This led me to question the huge importance we give to the one who is acting, the doer. But nothing is in isolation.
About twelve years ago I organized a conference on “Indian Languages and Dialects”. In this conference my attention was drawn to the fact that all Indian languages, including all dialects, construct their sentences in a very different manner from the way sentences are constructed in English.
In Indian languages everything ‘happens’. While in English everything is ‘done’. Be it marriage, childbirth, or simply incidents like burning one’s hand or falling down. In English there is always a doer. Whereas, in Indian languages, all these things simply ‘happen’.
I found this very interesting. It led me to understand the famous shloka in the Bhagavad Gita, where it says that the results of one’s actions are not in the control of the doer. There is always more than one cause for something to unfold and many of these causes lie in the domain of the unknown. This is pertinent in relationship to the modern fetish with control. It led me to ponder about the Unknown and Uncertainty.
Finally, this journey developed faith in me. My journey goes on, but this was a major milestone.