Sometimes a few things get me thinking about this whole business of human beings and deities. The first concerned four members of a family, who drowned while attempting to immerse their Ganpati idol off the sea coast in Mumbai. The second reported a landslide, caused by heavy rains that took considerable life and property. However, a temple located in the colony escaped without significant damage.
Indians, as a rule, have almost blind faith in the power and benevolence of their gods. But it seems that the gods are not always that kind, or fair. Take the case of the family who drowned. They were performing a religious duty by carrying their god on their shoulders, when tragedy struck. Shouldn’t the deity have saved them? How could he visit such a tragic fate on his devotees? Moreover, this incident is far from being unique. There have been innumerable occasions when pilgrims have met with a fatal accident while travelling in an overcrowded bus or recklessly speeding bus to a place of worship to pay obeisance. Shouldn’t they be rewarded for their piety? Why are they being punished instead?
So are the gods benevolent, or are they vengeful? The simple answer is that they are neither. For sure, the Almighty – in whatever form He is worshipped – expects a certain degree of faith and acceptance, but not at the expense of common sense. If you put your hand in the fire, you are going to get burnt, regardless of the fact that you were chanting the name of Allah or Christ at the time. The greatest gifts God has granted to us humans are a thinking brain, free will and the ability to make sensible choices. If you act like a fool, you will face the consequences. And once retribution has been visited, it is equally senseless to accept it as your destiny, which is presumably controlled by the gods.
Ridiculous as it seems, this fatalism and notion of divine intervention is fostered by India’s entertainment media. Nauseatingly cloying statements like “it’s all in the hands of God (Bhagwan)/Allah” have become staples on television and Bollywood movies. They may make the audience feel good, but they are actually encouraging the comfortable, though totally erroneous notion, that we are not responsible for the consequences of our actions.
Now consider the temple which was spared by the landslide. Many residents of the devastated hutment colony hailed it as a miracle, a proof of the immense power of their god. And the press, as is their wont, played it up. A little application of logic and common sense, however, would have told them that this is hardly the truth. The temple survived because it was probably the only solid structure in the colony, built of bricks, mortar and ferro-concrete and resting on a solid foundation. It was unlikely to be badly damaged by mud and a few boulders falling on it. The hutments, constructed of bamboo poles and tin sheets loosely tied together, did not stand a chance. There was no miracle here. It was simple physics.
Those who are so fond of quoting scriptures as a demonstration of their faith would do well to remember this dictum: God helps those who help themselves.
Image Source: [http://www.flickr.com/photos/lexrex/63744965/]