To say that I didn’t ‘believe’ in religion was like saying that I didn’t ‘believe’ in the works of Shakespeare, or Tagore. Good poetry, like ‘good’ religion, lifts us above our humdrum daily preoccupations and helps us gain an exalted state of enlightened consciousness.
As I was reading the article by Jug Suraiya, In her book, The Case for God, Karen Armstrong has made a similar comparison between the religious, or spiritual, experience and our response to art, to a marvelous symphony, or a great painting. Armstrong argues that the neo-atheists like Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchins and Sam Harris have misunderstood the basis of religion and of religious faith. They have attacked religious belief on the grounds of what the Greeks called ‘logos’, or logical thought, whereas the true domain of religion is ‘mythos’,
The trouble with most of us is that we hardly ever dwell on the happy experiences that we have had in the past. Most of us seem to have a permanent impression of sorrow of the past. We hold on to these memories. In a beautiful sonnet on the theme of remembrance, Shakespeare compares this attitude to repaying old debts that have already been settled long ago!
Learning To Write On The Sand is the way to live. Few things has to be decorated and kept in mind while others should be taken as the karma.Mind-altering practices like meditation can help us achieve the state of ekstasis, as can listening to music which makes you ‘lose yourself’ in its sheer rhapsody.Devising a mathematical algorithm is not an easy task for logos; it has to work hard at it. Similarly, the religious – or spiritual, or artistic – experience of transcendence does not come easily, it must be worked at, over and over again, through one’s entire lifetime.
Armstrong tells the story of the man who came across the meditating Buddha. “Are you a god?”, asked the man. “No,” the Buddha replied. “I am only one who is awake.” The spiritual – like the artistic – is the alarm clock that wakens us to what we can become when we dare to step outside ourselves. Faith is not belief. Faith is to be. To be awake.