We had a houseful of guests last week comprising of the Sister-in-law, her husband and two children. The SIL's husband is a deeply religious, devout man who places a lot of importance on the rituals. And so we had him doing sandhyavandhanam thrice a day and it seemed to me that that is all he was doing while he was here.
He was doing it when I left for work, I caught him doing the madhyayanam (or whatever they call it) when I went home in the afternoon for lunch and he was at it again when I went back home in the evening.
You might say Kuttan is brought up in a pretty neutral atmosphere and was highly amused and kept going and asking him, 'athimber, what are you doing?'. And giggling away like it was nobody's business.
All this made me wonder how I had come to form my own religious and spiritual principles in life. I remember learning from Amma very early on that God could punish you if you did something wrong. If you dont eat, swami will poke your eyes at night, she'd say...as though God has nothing better to do than going around poking eyes.
Amma is a deeply religious woman who places much importance on the symbols and the way of life that come with being a brahmin. This has meant that she has'nt missed a single Karadaiyan Nombu, a single Thiruvadirai and a Karthigai. Appa is not very religious and I have seen him remove his poonal on occasions when it got too dirty and then forgetting to wear it again. But, I have seen both amma and appa unfailingly and devotedly follow one tradition for that last 3 decades.
Every morning amma would wake up, brush her teeth, go to the Puja room and light the lamp and do a namaskaram. Appa would not come near the puja room then but later, would take a shower and come and stand in front of the Puja room and smear Vibuthi on his forehead before walking off.
Amma and appa have never had philosophical or religious discussions with me. If they did, I certainly do not remember it. All the stories I know about Rama, Krishna etc. have come from Amar Chithra Katha. And there used to be grandpa who used to spend long hours telling me how great and massive and bottomless our upanishads and vedas really are.
Hubby on the other hand was brought up in a much more orthodox atmosphere. My MIL has a HUGE database of purana stories in her repertoire and she is a very, very good story teller. Children of all ages and sizes and shapes congregate in the IL household to listen to her stories. The FIL is very closely involved in the board of committee of a local temple and is constantly going there. My hubby can rattle of each plot and sub plot of Mahabharatha in his sleep.
And still, despite all this, what amazes me is that neither of us are particularly religious people. He claims he knows the slokams for Sandhyavandhanam and I have seen him chanting the Vishnu Sahasranamam on cue when the tape is on. But for all the 11 years I have known him and 6 years I have been married to him, I have seen him to be the kind of man who rummages frantically in the cupboard for the 'poonal' or Sacred Thread and wearing it only when his parents are around.
We are both deeply spiritual people and strongly believe in the existence of a Higher Being and His plans for us. Still, we did not have a religious routine, if you can call it, at home. I light the lamps on most days but if I reach home late, I let it go. And if we go out in the evening, I dont do it at all. I forgot the Karadayan Nombu thing this year and compromised with a Naivedhyam of bananas instead of the adai and lied to amma and MIL that I had done it. (I also lied to my MIL and told her I had worn the nine yards saree and fallen at my husband's feet and gotten his blessings, but that's a story for another post..)
Hubby and I believe that the only thing that matters is doing good where you can and never, ever intentionally harming others is the closest you can come to God in this day and age. However, like I'm fond of saying, having a child changes everything. I am now increasingly beginning to understand that our spiritual maturity did not come overnight. I believe that our parents took us through a system of stories and religious functions and rituals to lead us and teach us these very values.In doing so, they have hammered into us values so strong that the rituals cease to matter and you still go on living by the values.
And that is why I believe that it is important that we establish some kind of spiritual routine in kuttan's life. Like getting up in the morning and doing a namaskaram.
What started off as a daily ritual has now become a personal relationship. So the other day I found him sitting in the puja room and talking to God. And he ended his conversation with, 'I'm going now. Will be back later, ok?'. And I was glad he had found a friend for life. A friend who, no matter where he is and what he's doing, is always watching out for him.