Lack of knowledge and understanding results in the rigidity of thought that imprisons a person's outlook.
Blind faith is a commonly heard term used to describe the beliefs of followers across every religion in the world. So when we talk about the preservation of Hindu Dharma and its traditions, blind faith poses a big obstacle, particularly since we are not a belief-based religion. The concept of Sraddha hence may be questioned to understand if it is the same as blind faith. If this is a doubt you need to clarify first, it has been elaborated well in this article.
The use of the power of discernment or viveka is encouraged in the Hindu system of thought. For seekers, a sharp investigative mind is indispensable. Even an individual who is not consciously interested in moksha, knowledge about the traditionally recommended practices for the fulfilment of life’s pursuits of dharma, kama, and artha is hence necessary.
The sankalpa or intention behind our day-to-day actions is stressed on strongly, so that we may understand the task at hand. This is surely possible when we question, seek or refer to reliable sources of information or ask those who are an authority. We must then also apply this information using our analytical abilities as we seek knowledge. We are not rigidly bound by archaic social laws or rules since the application of any ‘suggested guidelines’ for society is based on time, place, and the situation. This is what makes Hinduism ever-evolving or Sanatana.
We often associate blind faith with the uneducated masses. However, even in today’s seemingly educated and modern society, this problem persists for the simple reason that this fear-based tendency is common in humans and is often born out of the anxiety of losing one’s heritage. Another aspect of this blind faith’s prevalence amongst the educated Hindus in Bharat is the loss of knowledge over generations. The Islamic invasions and British rule have posed serious problems that continue to persist through our social and educational system to date. However, it is high time we take responsibility to overcome these issues in all ways possible.
While there has been much talk on blind faith, the flip side of it can be called as ‘blind rejection’. This blind rejection is the polar opposite of blind faith but is contained in the very same coin – that which is born out of a mind that is emotionally reactive, fearful and non-enquiring or dull.
To demonstrate this, an incident has been related –
Below, is a conversation between a 21-year-old girl named Sudha and her father, Mr.Kapoor. The example of murti puja has been taken for the ease of explanation.
Father: Sudha, I noticed that you create a fuss every Thursday when we assemble to pray to Sri Krishna. This will not be tolerated.
Sudha: Papa, why must I pray to this murti of Krishna? It is just white marble!
Father: This is too much, Sudha! We have been following this tradition from the past six generations and you have the audacity to question. For us, this is our Bhagwan. And for you, it must be the same. Hinduism is very scientific – you must know this. Have you not read on the internet?
Sudha: Papa how is this puja thing scientific? I don’t get you…please explain. Bhagwan is inside us, isn’t it? I read on the Facebook page of a Swami who talks of Vedanta. Then why must I watch mummy wave lights before a statue?
Father: I don’t care what some Swami said. Here, it is like this and till you live in this home, you have to follow our ancestral practices. You have no respect!
Sudha: Papa, but please explain to me why I must do this…
Father: There are two reasons, my stubborn Sudha – one is since it is our family tradition you must follow it and second is, if you do not pray to Krishna you will not be happy. Now please stop this. You will drive my BP high someday. I want you to be happy…
Sudha: Whatever, papa…
To make peace, Sudha continued with the pujas at home while inside her blood boiled. It got worse when she had to bow down before the marble statue. She felt totally foolish. As the years rolled by, she was drawn towards ideologies that totally rejected Hinduism as she used all her skills to discourage people from embracing this primitive tradition. At the same time, she happily adopted western rituals such as big birthday parties, celebrating mother’s day, decorating plastic trees on Christmas, and more. She could never forgive the Krishna murti that created so much trouble for her. Sudha concluded that Hindu Dharma is based on blind faith and its practices can’t be questioned, and are used to subjugate the youth of a scientific bent. This was what she had learned from her parents. She also rejected temple visits and over time, found a conducive social environment to let go of Hinduism.
Sudha’s father could not explain the fine sentiment of bhakti, the sublime concept of Ishta Devata (being Krishna here), or the act of worship to inculcate discipline, focus, gratitude, and humility. Also, he could not elaborate on how puja could be a part of karma yoga as an initial tool (using name and form) to prepare the mental grounds for higher sadhana with the ultimate aim to experience Brahman (Supreme Bliss Consciousness) within. Mr.Kapoor could not suggest any other way of worship to his daughter if murti puja did not appeal to her for now. His fears and lack of exposure did not allow him to encourage Sudha’s enquiring mind. He could not think of introducing her to a teacher, study the Bhagawad Gita, or read some books of Swami Vivekananda to appeal to her intellect and find her own path.
Tormented by his own lack of awareness, the need to adhere to traditions, Mr.Kapoor shut-off his logical brain and lost his temper. His WhatsApp messages often talked about Hinduism and its scientific nature. Thinking this would convince Sudha, he also suggested the same but sadly could not explain any further. Deep within, he felt helpless and under-confident but was also too proud to ask someone knowledgeable or allow Sudha to search for her own answers.
It is quite possible, that Mr. Kapoor had a similar experience in his youth. Maybe something went wrong the day he refused to do the Thursday puja and from then he blindly clutched on to the practice for decades without going deeper into its expansive meaning.
I am sure many of us may have had similar experiences like that of Sudha’s or her father’s. If not, we would have possibly observed this amongst peers or our family. Usually, such incidents occur over common household practices like temple visits, doing pranam to elders, menstrual practices, or vegetarianism. Someone like Mr.Kapoor would cling on to his blind faith and impose it further unless jolted out by yet another life experience. Or maybe, if he were to be blessed by the growth of genuine bhakti, and the spirit of self-inquiry.
A large chunk of people with experiences such as Sudha’s would end up rejecting traditional practices and possibly, ultimately Hinduism. How this can be viewed as ‘blind’ rejection, is explained below-
1. Sudha’s rejection is an emotional reaction based on personal experience. We can’t see clearly when clouded by our sentiments.
2. Her experience with her father did not lead her to enquire further into the little knowledge she had(the Facebook post on the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta) to argue with him. She used that tidbit of information only for the sake of argument. There too, she did not question what the Swami said or read further.
3. Sudha assumed that her family members represented the Hindu system perfectly and are the ultimate authority on its practices. This is quite ironical considering that experts are consulted even for fixing electrical appliances at home.
4. As she got older, Sudha simply rejected the entire Hindu tradition owing to her rigidity that stopped her from enquiring further. There was laziness to explore and access authentic sources of knowledge or have consultations with those who are experts on the subject.
5. Sudha gained the support of the current Indian education system and popular culture to validate her personal experience and blend well with the intellectually colonised minds that happily endorsed her views.
A very important point to note –
The issue here is not just rejection but blind rejection. If Sudha had delved deep into the practice of say, murti puja (as an example) and understand the significance and goal behind such a practice and then reject it, it would be fine. There are Hindu sub-systems that could facilitate someone who can’t connect with the practice of murti puja too since there is no singular path for everyone in Hinduism. Even if those ways are to be discarded with study and discernment – that too is okay. Provided, it would be the response of a balanced mature mind that has based its conclusion on research, experiential understanding, and contemplation. However, unfortunately, Sudha’s stance remains that of blind rejection. It is just as unrefined, emotionally driven, and inflexible as that of Mr.Kapoor’s.
“Every human being has the right and the power to seek for religion. Every human being has the right to ask the reason, why, and to have his questions answered by himself if he only takes the trouble.”
– Swami Vivekananda (Raja Yoga)
Blind faith and blind rejection are the twin tendencies adding to the heavy challenges faced by today’s Hindu community. It is the responsibility of each one of us to awaken and uproot these inner tendencies in order to uphold our Dharma. Are we ready to take the trouble?