The Dimensions of India Experience: Divinity
That was flippant, indeed. But, more flippant will be not to believe in God, if you happen to be in India. A British friend told me that she came to believe in God when she saw the traffic in Mumbai. I am now used to the signature British sarcasm, but there are more reasons than just chaos which brings you close to God in India.
God is omnipresent in India. You will always find a shrine, small or big, beautifully maintained or just makeshift, in India. You will watch thousands of people touching their head and muttering a silent prayer as they pass by even a roadside stone which, by chance, looks like an idol. Most Indians, 80% of them, are Hindus, and Hindus are pagan premieres of the world. Hindus have a god for everything. Every river, mountain, sea have a soul and a divine spirit. India gives a crowded feel of divinity, like nowhere else in the World.
I live in Britain, but truth be told, I never felt Pavan [the air god] in English air. But I never fail to smell his presence in heavily polluted air of Kolkata. I am reminded by his presence of his great warrior son, Bhima, one of the five hero brothers of Mahabharata. My thought passes on then to Bhima's elder brother, Yudhistira, who was the son of Dharma, the god of Justice. I feel Dharma is a strange God, as he is another incarnation of Yama, who is the Master of Death, and as an Indian, I understand the connection of death and justice instantly. My mind wafts on to the beautiful story in Mahabharata where Dharma subjected Yudhistira, his own son, to a rather cruel exercise of not being able to quench his thirst till he answered all the questions that Dharma will throw at him. In the end, Yudhistira proved that his heart is in the right place and be able to drink the water. But, water is also the domain of Varuna, who is the rain god. But then the river that flows past my native Kolkata, Ganges, is a goddess by herself, and therefore it always feels pure despite all the dirt floating around.
But, omnipresence of God is so natural to any Indian: the belief is that the God lives inside every human being. Some philosophers have taken that further and made each of us an unique expression of godliness. True, this is the ultimate relativist morality: if I am God, I can do everything, right; but this is also deeply humanist and see the human beings as the source of moral standards.
I know it is wrong to confuse India with Hinduism, but in one way, those two words came from the same source. Hinduism - by its origin - means the religion of the Indians. But, then, an institutionalised form of the religion emerged and took the name; in its present form, it is quite different from being the universal religion of a diverse land. But, that's a tragedy. In India, institutional religion diverged greatly from the original idea of a private conversation with God, and the attempts to impose organized Hinduism on Indians isn't going to do very well.
But this sense of private religion, the mixing of gods and natural world, and living with the omnipresent God, are fundamental Indian beliefs, carried on, to a large extent, by practitioners across the institutional religious divide. The majesticity of nature - whether in Himalayas or in Kerala - reimposes that faith again and again. And, all this, binds Indians together in a continuous view of life, not just the Hindu belief in reincarnation but a near universal view of eternal life around us, and gives us a sense of time rather unique among cultures.
Despite the chaos, India goes on unperturbed. In the midst of all the excitement, it dwells on eternity. The Indian eye searches around for continuity, the Indian mind for the synchronicity. Everything balances in India, nothing is ever lost. Because everything is divine, remember; everything has a soul and a life of its own. No wonder an Indian scientist, Jagdish Chandra Basu, proved that trees are living organisms; he seemed to have known that already.
So, the Indian experience is about feeling the divine, not inside the shrines, but all around you, in everyone you meet and all the time.