Go beyond rituals to connect with the divine

From Pratiksha Apurv's desk

Pratiksha Apurv writes in The Speaking Tree (The Times of India) on November 17, 2022.

Futility of rituals

Of late, a lot of research is being done across Indian and foreign universities on the profound message of Kabir. The answer to understanding the 15th-century mystic poet, though, is contained in his very words, ‘Jab main tha tab Hari nahin, ab Hari hain main nahin/ Sab andhiyaara mitee gaya, jab deepak dekhya manhi.’ Kabir bravely calls for the breaking down of all stereotypes to bring on an inward revolution to realise the true Self. When ‘I’ disappears, nothingness blossoms within. This state of nothingness can be described as the dissolution of self into the Infinite and the birth of a new man.

Every society loves to have people who, besides being good citizens and excellent professionals, are sensitive, compassionate human beings, whose goodness is reflected in their actions. This inward revolution or inner transformation is not possible if we lead superficial lives. Scriptures have always inspired seekers to look beyond rituals for the ultimate union with the Divine, to experience the state of oneness. Oneness springs in a state of no-mind. But the real challenge is the human mind itself that often stops at performing mere rituals, which are only mechanical acts, not real, conscious efforts to propel us on an inward journey.

Futility of Rituals by Pratiksha Apruv
Futility of Rituals, mixed media on canvas 60×48″, 2021, by Pratiksha Apurv

In another verse Kabir says, ‘Mala pherat jug bhaya, phira na mann ka pher, kar ka manaka daar de, mann ka manaka pher,’ giving a subtle message that we have spent ages whirling the rosary beads in our hands and praying. However, all that whirling has not brought any peace to the mind. He advises us to stop turning the rosary in our hands and consciously turn around the feelings and thoughts in our heart.

A recent research project by students of William & Mary College, Virginia, USA, summarised poet Kabir’s objective as an exploration of the preciousness of life and the presence of the Divine within us. Our scriptures say that rituals performed consciously act as a medium for this. And that conscious whirling of the rosary is a medium for meditation, a way to enter the inner sanctum. But it is futile if done mechanically, since there will be no churning within.

Osho too underscores that rituals are only ways. Citing a Sanskrit shlok to simplify his message, he says – ‘Sarva karma nirankaranam awahanam’ – before starting the worship one has to invoke or invite the Divine. That’s the first step towards surrender.

In the Bhagwad Gita, chapter 18, Krishn states, ‘Sarv dharmparityajy mamek sharan vraj’ – abandon all varieties of religion and just surrender to me. And, this is what the mystic Kabir is saying in almost all of his verses for an evolved, peaceful and prosperous society.

Kabir never talks about renunciation. He only suggests that while living in society, our outward actions should not become mechanical or else they will act as a barrier in connecting us with the Self. He calls for harmony in the individual to create a harmonious society, when he says to be spontaneous, and if one is sitting silently and a prayer arises, let that be said. The foundation of a good life lies in doing things from the heart, praying from the heart, and not acting superficially, like chanting prayers merely as a ritual.

Pratiksha Apurv

Pratiksha Apurv is a painter and writer. She lives and works in Pune. www.pratikshaart.com

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