I was raised in a very religious family. The temple in our house looked like a shop where we displayed all the deities as statues, pictures, and calendars, along with their holy books. As a young child this was extremely confusing for me, as I did not know whom to pray to. So, I was taught that I should pray to all of them. Like an obedient child after my shower every morning, I paid my respects by touching the pictures without any intention, simply not to disrespect any of the deities.
Once we start encountering challenges in life, we are encouraged to pray more. Chanting, singing, reading the holy texts, and visiting temples become mandatory, because we must please the deities. The deities were always portrayed as extremely powerful, and if we did not follow them by being vegetarian on certain days or by being virtuous we would be punished. On the contrary, at the same time we were taught that these deities were very compassionate and forgiving. How was it possible for any compassionate deity to punish? Without questioning these beliefs, I continued to pray and live a virtuous life out of fear of punishment. What other choice did I have, all I was exposed to was witnessing my family members sitting for hours in the temple reading the same holy text every single day. I always wondered, why would God want someone to recite the same holy text every single day, and especially a text that God Himself has written? Would you want your child to read your book to you robotically everyday, simply out of fear of punishment? Clearly, there is a deeper meaning for this practice, but that did not seem to be the intention or understanding. I could say that I was raised religious, but not spiritual.
Spirituality is a seed that stems from within us when we realize that in spite of all our efforts, we are unable to find happiness. In my late twenties, I encountered major challenges with my vision, and had to go through several surgeries. To make matters worse, I was made to feel guilty that it was due to a return of my karma as punishment. I could not remember anything that I had done in this lifetime to deserve this. So, I was told to pray. But pray to whom? I knew the names of all the deities, but because I mostly prayed to them out of fear, I could not face them. After all, I was being punished, right?
This is when I remembered that the deities were compassionate and forgiving. However, this time I did not want to communicate with the deities, I wanted to talk to God directly. No one in my family had ever communicated with God directly, it was always through some deity. I felt a resonance with Shirdi Sai Baba, so I figured that He would be my bridge to God.
This was the first time in my life I felt that I was communicating with God. I did not chant His name or read His scriptures back to Him. All I did was talk to Him as if I was speaking with my father or my best friend. I poured my heart out to Him, and questioned every belief that I was raised with. It was only a matter of days later, that I started receiving my answers. The biggest misconception I had was that I was being punished. I was visited in a dream by Krishna and Shirdi Sai Baba, and was told that I had to go through these challenges, and that they were holding my hand at every step of the way. This was extremely comforting and insightful. Since then, I have had numerous interactions with beings of higher consciousness and gained insights that have transformed my life. In future articles, I will share details of many of the interactions and insights that I have received.
I would like to share my insights with parents who are forcing their religious beliefs upon their children. We must encourage our children to form a relationship with any single deity, the universe, or the supreme God. Through this honest and direct communication let them discover for themselves who God is and what it means to them. How can we expect our children to recite the name of God when they do not even know who He is? It is by example, that we can teach them to live a virtuous life.Many children these days are going astray because they cannot be completely open with their parents, because of the fear of judgment and punishment. And to make matters worse, children are also taught that God punishes. So, whom are they supposed to turn to when they need help? This leads to the wrong company, bad habits, and peer pressure.
As parents we may say that we love our children unconditionally, but we do not. No matter what our children do, we do get angry and upset. And even though we give our advice, it is tainted with judgment. A relationship with God is the purest and most compassionate relationship we will ever experience. God can play the role of a father by offering guidance, a role of a mother by being compassionate, and a role of a best friend by being supportive.
I encourage you to forget all the beliefs that you were raised with, and form a clean relationship with God. Similar to any other relationship, forming one with God requires an investment of time, effort, patience, and trust. I assure you that this will be the most empowering relationship that you will ever experience. “A relationship with God is the most important relationship you can have, embrace it every day.” – Zig Ziglar