Sunday, May 15, 2011

Rituals

Expanding on a point made by JCF in a previous post ...

It's not about God/god/"god".

It's about mechanical "Fact A fits into Fact B" certitude, vs "Let's get high, take our clothes off and dance! Or, failing that, let's have Mass and eat God. Or sumthin' like that. Possibly" doubt.


Here is a Shiva Puja from 1997 performed near Mysore in India.




Here is another Shiva Puja performed by a very young Brahman priest in Katmandu.




For reasons that are not clear to me, Shiva Pujas fascinate me. Shiva is the one deity in the Hindu pantheon represented by an abstract symbol, the lingam which is being worshiped and very messily anointed here in both ceremonies. It is far more than the phallic symbol most Westerners assume it to be. It embodies the fundamental unity of male and female, creation and destruction, being and nothingness, life and death, etc. that come together in the god.
In all Hinduism, God is one and God is millions. There are millions of gods, and yet The Deity is fully present in each one, and also in their images and manifestations in this world. Everyone receives the god's (and God's) grace just by looking upon the image.

I don't think anyone has to be religious to find this interesting. I could imagine a number of atheist friends who would find this to be a marvelous articulation of meaning in an ancient ritual. They might even feel a twinge of envy at the skilled use of symbolism. Like me, they would appreciate the ritual without fully understanding it. Watching the ritual might not be the same as participating, but the experience is still very moving and meaningful without quite knowing fully what that meaning is exactly. I'm not Hindu, and my atheist friends are not religious, but both of us could fully enjoy a rich, mysterious, and profoundly human experience.

And then there are those, religious and anti-religious, who would find this ritual to be amusingly or frighteningly unfamiliar and incomprehensible. Their view of the world is too brittle and too easily threatened to find any room for anything outside their narrow field of reference. That goes for religious fundamentalists of all kinds, and for facile secularists of all kinds.

You don't have to be religious to believe in Salvation By Doctrinal Soundness.

There is no promise of certainty in this world, whether you believe in God or not. We are all prisoners of a moment in time and a place in space. We live in a world with a horizon that we cannot see beyond. All of us must find our own way through an unknown and unpredictable world. We all yearn for a map, but there is none. We have only our wits, our sense, our courage, and each other to find our way through it. We can recoil at the dark mystery of life as full of the terror of the unknown. Or, we can embrace it as filled with possibility, and relish the thrill of exploration and discovery, thanking God or Fortune that we are alive.

2 comments:

Ciss B said...

Amen...we need to step out and embrace it or we don't really live.

JCF said...

Quoting me? I'm so flattered! :-)

Off to download the rituals...