Recently, there have been a lot of religious websites sprouting all over the internet. The purpose of most of these sites seem to be denigrating other religions and trying to prove how superior their religion is – the same way Nazis needed to prove their Aryan supremacy over the Jews.
Like most people, I do believe in a higher power and have my own personal religious beliefs and rituals.
I do call myself a “Hindu Mommy” because I am proud of my culture and beliefs . I would like my kids to grow up being proud Hindus in a country where it is a minority religion. But I’m slowly starting to hesitate categorizing myself as religious because being religious is (wrongly) getting associated with fanaticism.
Religion for me has never been a way of categorizing friendships. It’s never been a way of proving my superiority.For me, being religious is a personal belief. It’s about the spirit of acceptance and sharing - It’s about celebrating both Diwali and Christmas.
I’d like to present a different side to religion from the one usually depicted on religious websites
The first is a story of a pujari in a small village deep in Andhra Pradesh
The pujari at the Durga temple a small village called Payakaraopeta in Andhra Pradesh is like any other pujari. The ONLY thing that sets him apart is his name – Sheikh Mira Sahib
Every Monday, over a hundred people from several nearby villages climb the unpaved steps of Seethamma hill to pray to the goddess. Mira Sahib guides them all in performing various rites and the worshippers acknowledge him as their pujari .
With a shaven head, bare-chested and wearing a dhoti, Mira Sahib begins his day at the temple at 7 am and spends his time till late afternoon in saying prayers and helping the pilgrims.
He then returns home and attends to his chores. His earning is the dakshina that is given to him by devotees
The other story is of Dawood Khan, who has studied Tulsidas’s Shri RamCharita Manas and is spreading secularism and preaching communal harmony across Raipur a step at a time.
In his own words,
“My teacher inspired me to appear for the Ramcharit Manas examination and I was declared the winner, attaining marks of first division. Since then I am preaching Ramcharit Manas. I am opposed by many orthodox people but I tell them that this is what I have been doing and I will continue to do,”
I love the way Dawood thinks…He maintains that service to mankind is the best religion one can practice and says he wants to continue his discourses on Ramcharit Manas till his last breath.
These are just two examples that have been highlighted out of the countless that exist in secular India.
Everyday, there are thousands and more living examples of secularism in India and the U.S where people of all faiths interact and develop friendships regularly.
Let’s start practising Chinna Jeeyar Swamiji’s philosophy of “Serve everyone as service to God – Worship your own and respect all”