I lived in Dhar, a small district headquarters in Madhya Pradesh. It is a small city or say a town. It is a peaceful city with low crime rates. I hope it is still like that. This small place taught me how to handle your fears, it does not include the Fear of the God. Those days there was no fear kidnapping or children lost in the city. So, we kids used to go from one place to the other alone unquestioned.
Dog of our area
In Dhar, like any other city in India, you could see domestic animals on road. Stray dogs were no surprise either. There was a stray dog in our area. We walked that place multiple times daily. This dog was tough to handle. It used to bark, run behind, fight with other dogs, and occasionally bite. We kids were scared to cross the place when we learnt about the dog. In fact, we were “dog fearing”.
We could not stop going to school because of the dog. We devised a plan, we started keeping stones in our hands. Whenever we saw the dog, we threw stones at him and ran away from that area. This dog-fear gave us a solution to scare the dog away rather than be scared.
But why am I telling this story to you? This story has a very nasty relation and question to you – How can you “respect” someone as scary as a mad dog? I know when you read further you may hate me or be disappointed because I am questioning your beliefs. But I must pose this question to you. How can you be “God fearing”? If God is such fearful entity, it must be called a demon, isn’t it? If God is good, we should have a healthy relation with him/her and not a fearful one.
If you have followed my blog for past few years you must have read about my marriage alliances. In my matrimony profile I had written “I am spiritual but not necessarily religious”. Some of the prospective alliances confused it with “religious”. So, prospective bride or bride’s family told multiple types of stories around their being religious.
At some of the interactions I smiled and explained to a few that I rarely go to a traditional temple. I may call few places as places for my worship such as my art of living center where I go for weekly sadhana or meditation practices.
After a few attempts, I started ignoring it – spirituality does not necessarily mean religious. I had lost interest to explain it to people. Why? Because I met about two dozen families or alliances for the alliance discussion.
Once, I heard a very interesting new term. “I am god fearing”. I had never heard it earlier, I was impressed and surprised too. Probably I was less educated about religion. I had to ask around what does this mean? Is it “religious?”
Spiritual not necessarily religious
Fortunately, I have some great mentors, one is Ramana uncleji. I shared this profile with him and asked him what does “God fearing” mean?
Uncleji told me – “None of the Indian religion teaches you fear. In fact, none teaches you fearing from God in specifics.”
I added – yes, I understand – Krishna is embodiment of love.
Uncleji continued – “Yes, the concept of fear of God is from Abrahamic religion (religions that started from the Central Asia). The girl is from a convent school.”
I was shocked, how could he figure it out? He was correct, though the profile did not have specifics of primary education. He said I understand it because mostly this is where you may learn the concept of fear from the Gods. Regular Indian family may hardly teach “Fear the Gods” at home.
He further added, the concept of fear from the God works when you must keep people in check and let them follow you “unquestionably”. Indian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism etc) hardly force you to follow the diktat without questioning.
I further mumbled – that’s correct, Arjuna asks questions to Krishna in Bhagvad Geeta. Vashishtha answers to Rama in Yog Vashishtha. In Ashtavakra Geeta, Ashtavakra discusses with Janaka and Shiva Sutra is full of questions from Parvati. We Indians have argued with almost every God.
Spiritual vs religious the difference
I have met many people who keep on bowing whenever they see a temple. It happens at times when the closing of eyes and folding of hands looks like an involuntary action. Involuntary action means something that happens without your conscious choice; examples are breathing, digestion and closing of eye in case of sudden light.
If you are just folding your hands without even your knowledge or without any deeper respect in your heart what is the meaning? It is like you closed your eyes when you saw a danger.
The idea of bowing down is not necessarily incorrect. Devotion makes you bow. This comes out of reverence and not fear. Bowing down can be a great mindful act and not an involuntary action, isn’t it?
Rarely, I saw that bowing down out of devotion or reverence. Mostly people bow down crossing any place of worship because of two reasons either they have some demand, or they are scared.
Fearing the God
In fact, I am amazed, the convent educated are a step ahead in the confusion. I saw these convent educated to make a cross on their face (similar to a Christian would do while crossing a church). I asked to one – what is that? She said we passed by the temple.
I smiled and said shouldn’t you be folding your hand?
I further inquired, why did you do that? The response was – it has become a habit. Really? A habit? Did you not learn something known as “respect”?
Fear created this habit. It is like an involuntary action, as a kid we used to keep stone when we saw fearsome dog in Dhar. How can you be a God-fearing person? How can you call yourself religious if you fear God?
At best the creature who gives you fear can be a fearsome villain, a monster or demon, if I say in Hindi an Asur or Rakshasa. You can fear a stray dog not the God. If you fear the God, it simply means you are taught incorrectly, there is likely a problem in your religious learning.
Next time, when you bow down remember – the temple or the Murti in the temple is just a representation. The God is omnipresent, omniscient and omnipotent. You would know soon if you are religious – as conditioned in childhood – or spiritual. It is better the bowing down happens due to reverence and mindfulness rather than fear and involuntary.