This flower is India’s favourite one. It has aesthetic, spiritual and social appeal. It has become the symbol of purity and excellence. It has gathered innumerable connotation , all pointing to man’s aspiration for excellence in matters pertaining to the higher intelligence and the spirit. It acquires a mystical aura as it is deemed to be the seat of God’s and Godesses.
It is the way we have come to understand detachment and flowering of the soul. The lotus blooms in muddy waters of lakes. Although the lotus plant has its roots in the slush , it remains untouched by the dirt and swamp surrounding it It’s leaves do not become wet by the water surrounding it. Similarly, a wise person remains untouched by the distress , the misery , the poverty , the many afflictions that beset the average human being. Rather , he takes sustenance from the soil of life , but remains immersed in the contemplation of pure being.
The offering of a lotus to the Godess Laxmi augurs good fortune. Godess Saraswati makes the lotus her seat . The lotus is so special that Lord Krishna is described as lotus eyed lotus foot. Anything auspicious is compared to a lotus.
When I think deeply about women who work for improving the quality of life of their family members, I have to speak about the super maids in cities like Mumbai. I cannot but wonder at their tenacity and Bon homie . Not only are they the very pillars on which their families rest, they are the very source of values like hard-work, fortitude , adaptation and a passionately ambitious attitude so far as their children are concerned. Exquisite cooks, washerwomen , ayahas , nursemaids to the old and what not, they display a rare capacity to blend swiftness, sweetness and caustic wit to suit situations and people they serve.
I sometimes watch their madams stepping out in the mornings , with their office portmanteaus , laptops and an intent professional expression on their faces. I think of their house help who takes up the cudgels at home, preparing lunch and dinner, escorting their children to the school bus and again back in the afternoon.
A wide river of flowing humanity, keeping the soil of a vast city alive by their dedicated service, making the city flourish with variety and colour, takes strength and succour from the contributions of these maids. They keep their own home fires burning by burning themselves in the homes of their madams . And in the process , they bring so much prosperity to their own husbands and children .
Their children attend schools and colleges and emerge out of the chrysalis of darkness as butterflies flying towards light.
The way things are going on these days all over the world , it becomes imperative to rethink religious beliefs as they have been existing for a long time now. It has been an accepted practise to leave religion out of debates and reconsiderations, as they are believed to be sacrosanct, and religiontherefore not amenable to discussion . At best , the philosophy behind religion engages our attention, as it involves a purely intellectual exercise, and absolves us of the necessity to put faith and intuitive understanding to test. The gap between faith and rational understanding therefore creates the opportunity for vested interests to use it as a tool to manipulate the political situation at every instance , and create dissension among the people of different religious sentiments . The votaries of different religions use mutual distrust, lack of humanitarianism and the propensity to violence inherent in the human psyche, as weapons of further destruction and dissolution.
That there is a volcano of dormant negative passions in the best of men and women, is an idea that needs to be considered. Evolution should be a continuous process that grooms the sensibilities in a way that constantly examines and reassess humanity on the basis of their growth on spiritual terms , and not merely on its economic and technological achievements. It was hoped that religions would be aiding the growth process by propounding ideas of discipline, non violence, love and compassion, and thereby achieving for humanity a degree of sophistication. But this has not happened. We have allowed religions to be grounded on violence . We have weeded out the compassionate aspects of religion, and fuelled its hidden agenda of violence. Proxy wars are being fought on all sides of the globe, apparently to protect different gods , apparently to stop blasphemy and destroy “unbelievers ” , but the worst has happened. These wars are not crusades, but excuses for expanding the territories of different ideologies.
We cannot protect religion by destroying humanity. If we desire to keep religions alive and vibrant, we have to put it under scrutiny, and review them on the basis of how they add to the richness of life , and how they further the interests of humanity as a whole. Our myths and legends that speak of violence as a tool to remove evil, may have to go under the scanner first, for it is here that the child who is the citizen of the future world learns his lessons . Rituals that subject us to mental and physical discipline, can be encouraged, but here again , any kind of sacrificial killing should be avoided.
We are entering a new millennium of cooperative living . The whole world becomes just a room in which we have to live together as human beings. Our differences , which we use to express our individualistic identities as a religious group , should not disallow us from mingling with each other on the basis of a common identity as human beings. Will we be able to protect our humanity and still remain religious?