Why religion will always prevail

At IIT Kanpur, we have a place called MT here. Nobody knows its real name, some say it stands for Motor Transport, for it was where auto rickshaws used to stand previously, some say it stands for Mehta Telecom, for the oldest shop. Whatever the real name maybe, MT is one of the oldest, most favored and typical hanging out place in the campus. It stands out among the rest of the campus as a place which doesn’t look like an educational institute at all, it looks more like an assortment of shops that spring up near a highway, paan-cigarette shops, tea-samosa shops, and a bicycle repair shop. Add a small temple too. Students flock to MT in droves day in day out, for smoking, for getting ‘real’ tea in dirty glass cups. The most repeated lines among students, after the classes, or in the afternoon in hostels, doing nothing, is “Chal MT chalte hain”. I think it stands out among other IITs in this respect; it still has one small corner of its campus that is rooted in ordinary people, people of Naankari, the adjoined village, students whirring their ways through examinations, relationships, depression, festivals, jobs, internships, and what-not, workmen, guards rushing in after shifts…

Okay, I got emotional, hehe… Anyways, that small temple, which is of God Hanuman, is quite an active one, and organizes ceremonies on particular festivals. These days, I guess Navratra are going on, so Sundar Kaand paath was being organized there, along with an Havan. I was there in the evening, sitting on a sidewalk with my friend, sipping tea, watching the whole thing going on. Half a dozen people was chanting from holy books, three four of them were playing dholak, manjeera and surprisingly synth too. The other congregation was at the small gate of the temple, chanting a completely different bhajan with lots of manjeera, temple bells ringing and stuff. Frankly, it would have sounded pure noise to many. But not to me. I was sitting there, just watching these guys going about it with great gusto. I liked the atmosphere. I have never been a religious person, but I have always loved the atmosphere that is created on festivals, or during a ceremony in temples. I haven’t visited a temple ever since I got to college, but the atmosphere during Diwali is most exhilarating and positive to me. So I was sitting there, and I could feel the positivity flowing in the air, a sort of good-feeling. I was thinking, if such a thing could induce such kind of joy in an agnostic like me, what would these guys be feeling. I see people, many of them students like me, getting their chappals off, and kneeling/joining hands devoutly to the gods.

The thing that happened with me today has happened a few times before too. I was just sitting there, transfixed, enjoying the strange feeling of joy and peace that was in the air, not listening to what they were saying, just the music, and a kind of a dazed euphoria, as if on drugs, where you forget the pains behind, and just believe, just rest, on the supreme force, and he will take care of the rest. I was thinking, that is why religion will never vanish from human world. Because there’s one thing that religion has: faith. Atheism can give people everything, but it can’t give them just this one thing: faith. And all the things that come with it. Strength, based on faith. Optimism, based on faith. Hope, based on faith. That’s why religion will always be the majority, and atheism a minority. Religion gives faith. And people don’t need a real god to have faith. They just need the concept of ‘God’. They will create the rest from it. Atheism can’t give you that. It can only give you reason. Rationality. Logic. Of course, optimism, happiness, and strength come from reason and logic, but it’s a long and hard path, the path of a Buddha, the path of enlightenment. And humans are weak creatures. Yes, taken individually, people have shown remarkable strength and courage, history is full of such examples. But at any given point of time in history, men, as a society, as a collective, are weak. And weak can’t walk the path of Enlightenment, of Buddha. They need the alternate way, faith. And notice! By faith, I mean faith in anything, literally anything, except the axioms and natural laws of this universe and your own mortal self. Faith is like a shortcut, a wormhole, it lends you power, it lends you strength, hope and optimism.

I was thinking… It’s an amazing thing! No matter how much I dislike it, I couldn’t help being enchanted for those moments for the strange feeling there were giving me, even though I ridicule, in principle, every single thing they were doing there. That’s the power of religion! This is the amazing thing atheism can never give people. Faith. That, is the power of religion.

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After-note: Looks like initial readers have taken the impression that I am a religious man, or my religious faith is restored. Well, it is not so. I’m as strictly anti-religious as I ever was, and I was examining this advantage of religion and belief-in-god over atheism from a objective point of view.

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Belly of the Whale

Joseph Campbell has described 12 steps of a hero’s journey to self-enlightenment and success. The 7th one is called Supreme Ordeal or the Belly of the Whale. It is generally described as the darkest period of a man’s life, his lowest point. 

I am not so sure about this meaning of the Belly of the Whale. What does one mean by darkest period of a man’s life? What kind of darkness is there? If it means failures in practical life, hardships of living and social and relationship failures, i do not entirely believe this. For me, a person can go through these hardships as long as he knows what he wants within himself, or at the very least he has an idea of the path he has to take in his life. It is a dark period, yes, but not the darkest.

The more i think about it, the more i feel that Belly of the Whale represents the ultimate moral crisis of a human, the deepest, the darkest nook of the caves of his psyche. The questions, the doubts, the dilemmas, he finds before him. The darkness which surrounds him, when his principles seem to be of no value to him, the end of the life pathless and shapeless, with no possible meaning to existence or a sense of futility of existence. When he finds no path ahead of himself, and older paths erased by prejudices and mistakes. One man, standing alone, surrounded by mist of doubt, questions, hopelessness, and darkness.

For me, that is what is meant by the Belly of the Whale.

Shift the focus

There are thousand ways to improve your life, and thousands more to enjoy it. And all of them are quite simple, nothing complex 🙂 You just need to go out and breathe the air, get up before dawn, and see the sun coming up from the horizon, smell the summer breeze in the evening.

There are thousand ways to improve your life and make it a heaven. We are just too busy focusing on the bitterness, tragedies, and doubts.

Nothing I’m saying is unique, repeated uncountable times before me. I’m saying them just because I experienced the simplicity of happiness once again a few minutes ago. All I need to do is to unfocus.

Ek Raasta Hai Jindagi

“The secret of success is concentrating interest in life, interest in sports and good times, interest in your studies, interest in your fellow students, interest in the small things of nature, insects, birds, flowers, leaves, etc. In other words to be fully awake to everything about you & the more you learn the more you can appreciate & get a full measure of joy & happiness out of life.” 

Yesterday night i met an old man with a heavy luggage looking out for a lift.I told him that i was just going a few kms further and would give him a lift if he wanted. I held his briefcase as with some difficulty,coughing and heavy breathing he managed to hop on the bike.I decided to drop him to his house. In our small talk I came to know that he was paying a surprise visit to her daughter on her…

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The Perfect Place

Right now I’m feeling so peaceful and happy. Its really a very strange feeling. I am feeling very relaxed, peaceful and calm, the feeling I love so much. And today I’m getting exactly the same feeling being in a college which I crave to get, the feeling of perfect calmness and peace, snuggled in my niche, and a state of relaxed absorption in my work, my passion, literature and writing. As if I’m sitting in a cozy room in a distant village beside the window overlooking the fields shining in the moonlight, being blown by a relaxed wind, the wind slightly warm from an approaching summer.

Also, read Manohar Kumar‘s blog-posts after a long time. It was the reading of his blog-posts that is responsible for the flights of imaginations which are taking me to distant, silent, solitary small towns where somebody is sitting at the edge of fields, enjoying the winds in his hairs, and silently contemplating over his pipe, occasionally smiling half-dreamily. The night is lazy and long and he has no desire to part with it anytime soon.

There is an image, which had been there in my mind since I was a child. When I was to go to college, it embedded college into its landscape. But the image was not realized here. Now, again the image wanders, without a landscape, in the back-alleys of my mind, nudging at my conscious now and then, like it did today. I feel like a traveler, searching for the perfect place to halt, and watch that image come alive…

Love

I have scribbled endlessly on pages about what love is. Sometimes in my heart, sometimes in my mind, sometimes on a tissue paper and sometimes on blog. Each time, the words changed, moods changed, but love remained constant. Sometimes, the mind didn’t understand a word I was writing, and yet, it all made sense. The definitions of Love changed each time, but the meaning remained the same..

Does it make sense? I guess not. It’s complicated enough for me to understand. I would not expect you to get the point a bit. But again, a lot of introspection results into such philosophies. But still, it’s better that they get out of your system as soon as possible.
Coming back to the topic – love. What do you think love is? We say that each person has a different definition of love. But when you think of it, the definition depends more on the person’s characteristics than the interpretation of love.
Love is simple, pure and unconditional. You love the person, that’s about it. Nothing comes in between you and the person – no expectations, no insecurity, no jealousy, no ego – nothing whatsoever. Everything else is a result of our thoughts, our mindsets and our upbringing.
Love is. That’s all. No strings attached.
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Nightwish-Imaginaerum

Nightwish had been showing up on my playlist on and off since the last two years. It was the first band to captivate me (for obvious reasons, they are the most famous) when I began to be interested in folk and symphonic metal. Since then whenever I wanted something grandiose and orchestral yet still ‘metal’, Nightwish was usually the choice. But I admit I haven’t even heard a single full album of theirs properly before Imaginaerum. It was mostly an assortment of most famous songs. So I have no idea what I’m going to say, but listening to ‘Imaginaerum’ made me want to write something about it.

I’ve heard lots of places this album is different from all of previous Nightwish’s works. Well, usually this is said almost every time a big band releases something new, part of fan hype building. But when you see that the album starts NOT with the lead single “Storytime“, rather with the soft Finnish “Taikatalvi“, which also doesn’t have any female vocals, only Marco Hietala singing softly, and rather menacingly, you know this is different. In a way, this marks the perfect prelude to the pomp that we witness starting from ‘Storytime‘, and yet it’s the silent prelude that makes it different from other previous works. Considering the concept on which the album is loosely, it’s like the first few steps entering into the fantasy world, before everything comes alive, just like it shows in the album cover; dark, desolate, and silent, just before everything starts.

Then comes Storytime. The best song of the album, it’s the highest point, capturing the spirit of the album. A journey into the fantastic visions of the mind, a roller-coaster ride into an alternate world, I found this song slightly different from the other fantasy-oriented lead singles written by Nightwish, in that it had less an element of the fables and mythology and more the creative visions of the mind which redraws the conceptions of the existing world as we see. Which is only all the more awesome :). The lyrics by Tuomas Holopainen are awesome. He is fast turning into one of my favorite musicians. The vision has turned up another level, not limiting to explaining the painting, but creating one. The first stanza of the song

‘Twas the night before,
When all through the world,
No words, no dreams,
Then one day,
A writer by the fire,
Imagined all the Gaia,
Took a journey into the child-man’s heart

just blew me off! Totally cool! The lyrics, coupled with the rocking music, along with Anette’s balanced vocals (minus the irritating operatic pomp of Tarja) make up for a very pleasing song.

Ghost River is the next song, with vocals both from Anette and Marco. The lyrics of the songs are slightly confused and seem mixed-up. Thanks to Marco though, the ‘metal’ side of Nightwish remains intact.  The last three lines, simple yet beautifully written, redeem the song in my eyes a bit :). Slow Love Slow is a surprise, deviating widely from the usual stuff of Nightwish. Inspired from the Jazz music, and the 1930s American nightclub music, the music is slow, the lyrics contemplative. While some may consider this a pleasant move, for me it’s only as good as it gets. I prefer their fantastic stuff. However the music really was good, and Anette is much much more flexible than Tarja, pulling this one nicely.

Another peak occurs with I Want My Tears Back. The wild, grandiose music returns, with well-crafted lyrics fitting perfectly into well-composed music. Marco’s lyrics seem to be tailor-made for his voice. That guy, with his typical Scandinavian beard, rocks :D. Also the music is denser, heavier and a LOT grander than the previous two songs, equaling Storytime.

Scaretale is probably the most ‘metallic’ song of the album. And surprisingly good. I didn’t notice it in the initial listenings of the album. But hearing it again and again has changed my opinion. Rife with metallic riffs and some mad drumming, the song has very interesting lyrics, it’s a treat to listen to Anette, especially where say screams “Squealing pigs” 😀 that was hilarious. Here too, the lyrics and the hop-along, tingling, and scary music fits perfectly into Anette’s and Marco’s voice. Arabesque is an instrumental made for a particular scene in the movie Imaginaerum, made along the album. The instrumental is fast paced and nice. Turn Loose the Mermaids is a ballad, consisting of vocals only by Anette Olzon, a rather slow and musical affair, with poetic lyrics and acoustic transcending music. Rest Calm is another heavy song on the list, melodic but heavy. With sombre and introspective lyrics. Not your usual symphonic metal stuff, nice little experimentation.

The Crow, The Owl And The Dove is the third, and rather unusual peak in the album. This the most acoustic song, the ‘anti-metal’ song on the album. The focus here is entirely on the vocal parts of Anette Olzon and Marco Hietala, and the lyrics, the music is mostly guitar and the flute playing in the background. The lyrics are probably the most mature and refined here. A song which you wouldn’t expect of Nightwish, yet they pulled it off very beautifully. Last Ride of the Day, the next song is the clear antithesis of The Crow, The Owl And The Dove, a symphonic extravaganza in the footsteps of Storytime and I Want My Tears Back. Song of Myself is another grand one, an epic song of about 14 minutes length. It too is one of those songs I like more and more as I hear it. The first part of the song is the metallic symphonic arena sound, that is Nightwish’s patent. It’s good, in the usual way. But in the second part, it contains monologues by various voices against ambient music that adds the philosophical air to the song that is it’s real beauty, the real thing, which adds a gloomy, sad, and serious air to the ending of the album(as it’s effectively the last song of the album). The last one, Imaginaerum, is an outro track, which is a kind of collage of the music of all songs taken together. Along with Arabesque, it’s the song which were inspired by the movie being filmed alongside or made for its purpose.

Imaginaerum has received universal critical acclaim. Magazines and reviewers have hailed it as one of the best albums of 2011 and one of the landmark albums of metal (and more specifically symphonic metal genre). I can’t say anything about this, as I haven’t heard any previous of Nightwish’s albums and also haven’t had much experience of this genre. But I can surely say that Nightwish has achieved a great feat by creating this album and this may soon become the set standards of how to create a good symphonic metal album. More than that, it experimented and gone out of its genre, adding more and more to their repertoire, and establishing their name as one of most significant of their era. Most specifically Tuomas Holopainen, whom I’ve come to respect and admire a lot, who was the driving force behind this, and for that matter that whole band, album. A treat for Nightwish’s fans, and a surprisingly amazing discovery for the uninitiated. 🙂

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Album Art: http://nightwish.com/images/news/imaginaerum_panorama-web.jpg