To believe or not to believe

A friend had to undergo surgery after being administered local anesthesia to make his body insensible hip downwards. He was lying on the bed of a famous hospital in Noida and a doctor was preparing to give him the anesthesia injection. Suddenly my friend was seized by panic. He asked the doctor, ‘Where would you give the injection?’ The doctor said, ‘In the spine.’ My friend asked, ‘Is there a possibility that I get injected at a wrong place and get paralysed because of that?’ The doctor replied, ‘I am trained to give these injections and it is very likely things will be right, but yes, there is a possibility that things go wrong.’

My friend’s panic peaked. He wanted to cancel the operation, but had decided to go for it after exhausting all other options, trying all other remedies. There was no other way. He had to undergo the operation which entailed the possibility of paralysis. He didn’t know what to do. In his panic, he wanted to salvage some confidence. Just before the doctor gave him the injection, he uttered once, ‘Ram’. The panic vanished and a quiet came over him. It occurred to him then in a flash that it was not certain that Lord Ram would ensure that everything went right. The possibility of paralysis was still there. But he realised that now even if things went wrong, it would be the will of God, of Ram. A paralysis would also be the grace of God, it would be for his benefit in some way. With this realisation, his entire body and mind relaxed and he took the anesthesia injection with total calm and ease. He realised then the meaning of faith. Faith is not conditional. It does not rest on a particular option a person thinks is good for him.

Faith is acceptance of any option, any possibility, any outcome as something provided by God for the welfare of a person. Faith is total surrender to everything as the will, as the grace of God. This surrender bestows complete rest and peace to the mind. All struggle in the mind ceases and calm prevails. A person cannot take the leap of faith. It is the grace of God that touches a person and gives him faith. My friend understood all this in a moment of insight into faith. His operation was successful. But faith in Lord Ram had made him as much open to an unsuccessful operation as a successful one. It had taken his mind off the outcome of the operation.

Logic, reason and intellect cannot fathom faith. Most of the time knowledge about Gods comes from religious texts. Logic, reason and rationality cannot accept the Gods religious texts. Reason will question how a monkey (Lord Hanuman) and bear (Jamvantha) can be wise and converse with humans, as The Ramayan says. The Ramayan also says Lord Hanuman lifted a whole mountain and carried it to a place far off from where it stood. Reason will not accept this. Reason will reject the miracles attributed to Lord Krishna in the Mahabharat – making the sari of Draupadi long enough to fail the Kauravas in disrobing her or raising the mountain Govardhana on a finger to save a village from being flooded by rain. But for the faithful, all this is possible.

While examining the work and utterances of Godmen too it is advisable to bring in the element of faith. For what looks incredible to those who don’t have faith in a Godman becomes sacred in the eyes of those who have faith in him. Thousands of devotees throng the temple of Balaji in Tirumala every day for just a glimpse of the idol.

The idol does not seem to summon them, but devotees go there with the faith that it is the will of Balaji that has made them go to Him. When I went there a couple of years back, I was not moved by the idol of Balaji but by the faith in Him that I saw in the eyes of his devotees as they jostled near the sanctum sanctorum to get as much view of Him as possible.

People go to Balaji with many wants and wishes. All wishes are not fulfilled, but people don’t sue the idol for not answering their prayers. They accept unfulfilled prayers also as the will, the grace of Balaji. The idol of Balaji does not do or say anything. But people communicate with the idol and have a belief that Balaji listens to and cares for them.

They go with faith and faith, like love, is unconditional. It is in the same spirit that the faithful reach out for the blessings of Godmen too. They go to Godmen on their own, unsummoned and an unanswered prayer should as much not be reason enough to accuse Godmen of fraud as an unfulfilled prayer does not make devotees doubt Balaji. The point is that the faithful will continue to have faith regardless of what happens to them.

The author is a senior journalist and columnist
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