- "If something so simple as putting my faith in a higher power can help me live a happier and more balanced life, what's the issue with that?"
DISCLAIMER: My beliefs are solely my own and are current as of 10/07/2021. They don't represent the beliefs of the Hindu community nor my family.
If you read this blog post, you will recall that I believe the most important question to ask yourself is this:
What religion, if any, do I follow?
After talking with my mum about her own beliefs, I realise I have come to a few important conclusions that I want to share.
To give a bit of context, my family all ascribe to the Hindu religion. However, recently my mother has discovered this spiritual "movement" which has unique beliefs that are somewhat intertwined but also somewhat distinct from Hinduism (I won't name it because I don't think it matters).
Anyways, for the past few months she has been spending more and more time consuming content by other followers of this spiritual movement and has become more and more irrational in the things she believes. I took the moment today to challenge her on some of the fundamentals of her beliefs and she was unable to provide rational answers.
It got me again thinking about what my own religious beliefs were.
Just another disclaimer before we get into those, I believe that we are all free to pick and choose the beliefs that we want to and change them to suit our needs, thereby creating our own adapted version of a religion.
As you will see, there are certain aspects of Hinduism I agree with and follow and then there are others that I don't. In my eyes, that doesn't make me any less of a Hindu than someone who follows them all, it's just my interpretation.
Here are my beliefs:
- I believe there is a God.
- I believe in Ātman, which I interpret to mean that we all have a soul or spirit (which exists outside of the material world, yet inhabits each of us) that itself is a part of God. It's something that occupies all living creatures, including plants and animals. (This brings forth an interesting ethical issue, that if all living things have a soul, we shouldn't kill any of them because that would be like killing a human? This is something I'll try and resolve in a separate article where I talk about my opinions on some of the common arguments against the presence of a God.)
- I believe in karma, the idea that actions have consequences. If you do good deeds, you may be rewarded and if you do bad ones, you may be punished. However, I don't go so far as to believe that there is a list of things that are good and a list of things that are bad. I leave it to my own moral compass and conscious, which has been shaped by many things throughout my life, to determine what is good and what is bad.
- I believe in saṃsāra. Saṃsāra is the belief that we all pass through a cycle of life, death and rebirth. I'm sure there are many different ways that it is interpreted. The version I choose to believe is as follows: our souls start off inhabiting the smallest living creatures, micro-organisms like bacteria. As our "bodies" die, we are reborn occupying a new body. With time, our souls gradually progress upwards through the chain of life, moving onto plants and animals. There is never regression from a more actualised state to a lesser one. And these lesser states of spirit cannot do anything to progress, it's more a function of time. Eventually, we reach a stage where our soul occupies human bodies. We may be reborn in many bodies as our old one dies. At some point, this cycle ends in a process known as mokṣa (discussed below).
- I believe in the Hindu Puruṣārthas for the most part. These are the classical Hindu objectives of life:
1. Dharma - to live in a righteous and ethical way (essentially, it means to be a "good" person).
2. Artha - the virtuous pursuit of wealth for livelihood, obligations, and economic prosperity.
3. Kāma - the pleasure of the senses, the aesthetic enjoyment of life, affection, or love, with or without sexual connotations.
4. Mokṣa - the liberation from saṃsāra. I have not fully reconciled when this occurs and what the trigger is. It might occur when we reach Self-realisation, in other words the perfect state of being; realising the whole universe as the Self. Or it might occur when we accumulate enough good deeds that God decides we "graduate" from life on Earth. Irrespective of what the requirements are, I believe that mokṣa results in your soul combining with God and living in eternal happiness and peace.
It's important to reiterate that at some point, faith comes into it. You get to have a choice as to what you believe.
Some people may choose to believe entirely in science. Some may choose to strictly follow a particular religion.
I fall somewhere in the middle.
You might wonder why I choose to put my faith in something that cannot be proven?
I'd like to think of myself as a mostly rational and logical person and I can see why based on scientific explanation, which is essentially how humans explain everything that we know, there is nothing proving that a God exists.
I choose to believe in God because I want there to be something higher than us.
Life would be too depressing otherwise.
My religious beliefs provides me with broad principles on how to live my life (which are essentially to be a 'good' person), as well as the sense that I'm a part of something bigger than myself. They also provide me an outlet to ground myself and be less stressed about everyday life events.
And if something so simple as putting my faith in a higher power can help me live a happier and more balanced life, what's the issue with that?