The Practical Wisdom in Religious Texts – #MyFriendAlexa Season 4

The Practical Wisdom in Religious Texts

Right through my childhood, my parents tried to instil a love of religion in me and my sister. They are a very orthodox couple, and in our house, pujas were performed in right earnest throughout the year. Both myself and my sister were encouraged to believe in God and to be god-fearing. But my parents’ plans simply did not work out. Both myself and my sister did not grow up into religious adults. My father performed my thread ceremony when I was in the ninth grade. He used to insist that I recite the Gayathri mantra every day without fail. Initially, out of respect for my father, I used to do what he told me to do. But with the passage of time, I began arguing with my father about the usefulness of all the shlokas that he insisted I recite and the religious texts he insisted I read.

Pretty soon things came to a flash point and finally my father gave up trying to force things down my throat. But later, during some of the most depressing moments in life, I would quietly close my eyes and recite the Gayatri mantra and honestly, the process would calm down my frayed nerves and make me feel peaceful. I read somewhere that all the hue and cry about the Gayathri mantra was unwarranted and the mantra was simply designed to make a person breathe deeply while chanting it. It was actually the slow and steady breathing which resulted in calming the nerves. And it is a well-known scientific fact that deep breathing slows down the thought processes and controls our mind. This according to many people obviated the need for reciting anything. All a person needs to do to calm down is to simply sit and breathe deeply.

Later at some other time in my life, I began examining the verses in the Gita and tried to understand some of the points mentioned in it. The first thing that struck me was all this talk of attached detachment. What the Gita seemed to suggest was that a person should remain completely detached from the results but at the same time act infinitely towards the goal. Well, this sounded like utter gibberish to me. If a person wants to act towards any goal the basic requirement is motivation. It stands to reason that if a person is not worried about the result then he/she will simply not feel motivated enough to act. It is only out of attachment to the outcome that the urge to act is born.

I felt the same is true of Vishnu’s Kalki Avatar wherein it is believed that when there is a complete breakdown in man’s moral code Lord Vishnu will appear as an avatar and destroy the universe. A new era of prosperity is supposed to begin after this event. For quite some time I continued to consider all religious tales and texts to be utter nonsense. I have had numerous arguments with friends and colleagues about religion and various things connected to it. 

Well, I turned 53 a couple of months back, and with age, I have mellowed down. This led me to rationalise some of the things that I had learnt in my childhood. Once again I revisited the question of attached detachment. After a lot of thinking I arrived at the conclusion that what the Gita says cannot be taken literally. Another conclusion I arrived at was that if we separate the wheat from the chaff, the Gita does make a lot of sense. To explain this let me borrow Einstein’s famous equation:


Ideally speaking the above equation tells us that matter gets converted to energy when it moves at the speed of light. And the important conclusion the equation actually leads us to is that it is impossible for matter to travel at the speed of light. The equation describes an ideal state of affairs that simply cannot be achieved. Let us juxtapose this idealism to the philosophical question of attached detachment. Looking at it in this context, the attached detachment mentioned in the Gita is also an ideal towards which human beings have to strive in order to attain their goals, even though this state is unachievable. It is not meant to be taken literally.

Similarly, let us take the case of the Kalki Avatar. As I mentioned above when it is time for the Kalki Avatar, Lord Vishnu is supposed to put in an appearance and destroy everything in this universe. This avatar is supposed to take place when human beings reach a point of total moral depravity. A new era of prosperity is supposed to start after Lord Vishnu destroys the universe. This is again an idealistic statement and it simply means that human beings should strive to be morally upright and should have an acceptable moral code at all times. 

Our religious texts have a lot of unpalatable nonsense. But the point is one has to just grasp the wisdom in them and not take them literally. It would indeed be foolish to try and be totally detached from everything in life. Similarly it would be rather naive to keep a lookout for Lord Vishnu. The need of the hour is to look at our texts with a more open mind and just glean the immense wisdom present in them.   

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53 thoughts on “The Practical Wisdom in Religious Texts – #MyFriendAlexa Season 4”

    1. Yes. it is the rigid attitude and inability to look beyond the literal meaning of the texts that creates a lot of disharmonies. What people should remember when they read scriptures is the actual spirit of the words.

  1. I want to say thank you for this great post. The texts & scriptures have been written with the purpose to explore them and follow in daily life. They really help us show the right path. Even science has proven the theories and found them correct which are given in religious texts as well. If I talk about my personal experience, Bhagavad Gita has shown me right path many times. It reduced my depression to a great extent. Great post!

    1. Yes, if we look at the real lessons the religious texts teach us they become a wonderful guide to us in our lives. Thanks for visiting.

  2. The problem is always that people do take these words literally… and nowadays find great pleasure in mocking those very words from other religions instead of imbibing the best of their own… we are definitely pretty close to the Kalki cameo, I would reckon :/

    1. Yes, literal interpretation and the tendency to compare each other’s faith have create a lot of problem in society. And this is particularly true of the times we live in when there is so much religious mania polluting the fabric of society.

  3. Can I say self-realization? Not exactly but slightly. This is how things work when you were forced by your father, you never thought about chatting the Gayatri mantra.

    But when you felt, you instantly tried.

    It is not your story only, this happens to everyone.

    Chantting any mantra gives you positivity and power. This is my personal experience😊

    1. Yes, things always lose their value when you are forced down a person’s throat. The quest for betterment is by discovering the route yourself.

  4. We definitely need more writing works like these. So many myths and misunderstanding on the basis of manipulated stories are prevalent and people keep calling names to Gods without even understanding the basis of teachings.

    1. Yes, the wheat has to be separated from the chaff. People need to know what is the essence and not take things literally.

    1. The statement E=MC2, as well as attached detachment, are both ideal states that cannot be achieved. In the context of what the Gita says, it is simply something that people have to strive towards even though it is unachievable.

  5. With time I have come to an understanding that the religious texts are layered. Most people believe the power of text as golden words without actually peeling it. Looking forward to the next posts.

    1. Yes, it is the misunderstanding that the text itself matters more than the actual meaning that leads to a lot of disharmony in society.

  6. Agree we have been blindly following some faiths.
    whenever I ask or question at my home why this or why that no one has an answer to it, it’s only in the name of god it’s going on since ages.
    But I am always seeking scientific connect and reasoning in it.
    Loved your posts connect with E=MC2 and Gita too.

    1. Yes, it is extremely important to be able to understand the spirit of the words in the scriptures and not get bogged down by a the unnecessarily over the top way of presenting simple things.

  7. Religion means different things to different people and so do the religious texts. It was heartening to see that how humbly you have changed your stubborn views. My take away from this magnificent post is that always be open to change your beliefs even the most steadfastly held ones!

    1. Thanks for the compliment Rohit. It is difficult to change one’s opinions especially if a person happens to be opinionated by nature. But then our experiences in life are the best teachers. Just like rocks get eroded by rivers over the years, changing circumstances in life manage to change our beliefs.

    1. Yes, indeed. Our scriptures are very good guides provided we do not take them literally and go by the spirit of what they say.

    1. Yes indeed, people should realize that religious texts are not meant to be taken literally. Too often people get attached literally to the scriptures and this leads to a lot of acrimony between different religious groups.

  8. Loved the way you related Gita to Einstein’s equation. That made a lot of sense to me! I’d never thought of it that way before. Our religious texts have a lot of wise words in them. Unfortunately, not everybody can interpret them correctly. This was a great post. I really enjoyed reading. :?)

  9. We used to have sessions in school where the Ramayana and the Mahabharata were taught to us. While we were too young, and distracted, to really understand the wisdom, I have come to love the symbolism that scriptures allude to. Really liked how you have brought this point out in the post. Kudos.

    1. It was fun listening to the Ramayana and the Mahabharatha from our grandmothers and grandfathers. I used to be fascinated by the way my grandmother used to describe Krishna to me. But then sooner or later we reach the stage where symbolism takes a back seat and we realise that it is the wisdom in these tales that really matters. Thank you so much for visiting and commenting.

  10. Happy to see a sensible take on what has sadly gone mad now. I feel with the media also turning a blind eye, it becomes more important for actual bloggers to take a stand and draw the line between normalcy and obvious idiocy.

    1. Yes, today our society has reached a point where we need to educate the masses to emulate the characters of Rama and Krishna instead of beating up people who do not chant Jai Shri Ram.

  11. I liked your way of thinking about religion. Everyone can have their own view, opinion, and beliefs. One thing I have learned is, there is no bad in religion. It depends on us how well we take it.

  12. Loved reading your post. I could relate to a lot of points. i guess religion and spirituality need a level of maturity to understand and hence while in young age, it all feels unnecessary and forceful when our parents tell us to follow rituals and religious deeds. I too was the same at one point of time… Infact even today i follow the Law of Karma more than any other spiritual school. But that too has a deep connection with our scriptures and mythology.

  13. Such a lovely post! This is what everybody should be learning from these books. I am trying to tech her gayatri mantra but i think she is more interested in “ek Onkar” and with which i am okay. i just want her to learn something and then understand its meaning. not just to show off.

  14. An interesting article charting out your point of view and the thoughtfulness behind them.
    Definitely, one needs to look deeper at the texts and not interpret them at a superficial level.

    1. I am happy you chose this article for reading Ishieta. Yes, most often there is discord in society because the general populace interprets religious text literally without questioning it. Critical thinking is important even if the information comes from old religious texts which have been taken for granted for centuries.

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