Keeping the Faith…Technically

by Puja

I just want to say thank you to all the readers who reached out and expressed words of encouragement and association with the Fat to “Fit” piece, may we all defeat the mean versions of ourselves.

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My siblings and I grew up devoutly Hindu. Some of my earliest memories are of my parents teaching us how to pray, mantras, bhajans (Hindu devotional songs), and watching my grandparents perform their daily prayers. Going to the mandir (house of worship) was reserved for special occasions, as we prayed at home. When we immigrated to America, we brought our traditions with us: fasted before the big holidays, lit our diyas on Diwali, went to our grandmother’s poojas, etc. In 2001, after almost 15 years in America, my family found our worship community comprising of people of similar backgrounds and traditions as us. Being part of a worship community was an amazing experience, until it wasn’t.

I spent my entire 20s in service to this community and my faith, culminating in a stint as board president in 2009. Once my term was over, I walked away. I had remarkably little guilt about this. I was burned out. Internal politics got the better of me. I saw the worst in people who were trying to do good. It brought out ugly things in me. My time away from being involved in the mandir led to time away from my faith. I stopped fasting, I stopped my daily prayers, my relationship with God was at a standstill. Eventually, I was faced with the looming question of whether I wanted to rekindle that relationship at all. “Hey higher power, thanks for getting me through college and law school and all those other crises, but I’m good now.” That just seemed too ungrateful, bordering on spiteful.

Unlike most other aspects of my life, I approached this logically (shout out to being a mess). I first asked myself what is it that I don’t like about my faith? And I mean the faith itself, the teachings (as opposed to the people who can complicate things). The answer was in part the thread of ‘men are better than women’ thinking that seems to be prevalent in most faiths. No buddy, not to this feminist. Was this reason enough to abandon a lifetime of teachings and rich cultural traditions? Nope. On to the second question, do I still believe in God? I believe in science. But does a belief in science mean I can’t believe in God? Not really, maybe, no(?????). Then I made a list of what I liked about my faith. This list was long and personal (as everyone’s faith should be). It boiled down to I love my faith because it embraces all faiths. There is a universal validity in the concept that love, truth, and being decent to each other is all anyone needs.

Ok so I am technically a still a Hindu. This is kind of shocking for me, as just last week I identified myself as agnostic. I am not going to pretend that this is the end of this particular journey, but I am glad that I care enough about it to see it to the end.

I would like to end with something that makes me smile (which is something I am blatantly copying from my favorite podcasts): Sense8 is getting a second season! If you have not checked out The Wachowskis’ creation on Netflix, you are missing out. Things that make it great are in part the diversity of the characters, the sumptuous settings (the world is beautiful yo!), the action sequences, and mysteries and subterfuge that operate on the level of the best spy novels. On another level, when the Indian character Kala (the only devout character in the bunch) talks about how and why she loves her faith (Hinduism) it inspired this particular introspection. Bow neatly tied, loop closed.

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