By Dr. Suresh Kurl
The terms may sound abstract but they are closely connected to our everyday lives and adopting them in everyday life can help us survive everyday problems. Suresh Kurl explians
Half a century ago, I left India, the country of my birth, but continued to protect and preserve, rather jealously, a travel kit my parents had handed me as their parting gifts. They were, “Faith in humanity, faith in God and spirituality.”
This essay is a ‘Thank-you’ note to my late parents and to my birth country, which afforded me the courage, a positive attitude and opportunities to move forward on my journey. Also, through this essay, I intend to let you into my sanctum sanctorum to view my thoughts on my parents’ parting gifts: faith, God and spirituality.
I view FAITH as a feeling, a trust, belief and confidence, as the soul of all disciplines, including religions; not something we are born with, but seeded and nursed in us by our parents, guardians, our educational and religious institutions and gurus, rather consciously.
Faith is an exchange of that confidence that binds us with God and with each other as human.
It helps us believe in our self, in people we grow up with, in strangers and in humanity. As life moves on, it helps us believe in ideas and theories, which have the potential to change into concrete actions.
Faith is an outcome of an on going satisfaction we experience in our own ability to achieve the intended results of our actions and of the actions of others we depend upon.
The degree of satisfaction from our own actions or from the actions of others could increase and stay with us till the day we die, or it could decrease or die in one-self, in someone else, especially in politicians; even in God. When God does not answer our prayers, we lose our faith in Him. If and when that happens, we stop praying to Him, start distancing from Him and start giving away all those items that remind us of Him. I personally know individuals, who have done so.
The difference between our faith in God and between human beings is that faith in Him is a one way street; that being the true test of our faith in Him, but faith between human beings is a two-way street, always.
Losing faith in self or in others we depend upon, in ideas we believe in or in God could trigger cynicism and isolationism; erosion of self-esteem, loss of interest in living, loss of respect for those who loved and cared for us. If and when that happens, we look for alternatives to faith, which could prove dangerous, even deadly. We do not have to go too far to experience it. Death by drug-over-dose of over 900 individuals in Vancouver alone this year is a testimonial. Therefore, faith being the foundation of relationships has to be protected.
We have heard of “Faith Cure,” meaning improvement in health as a result of patient’s confidence in his therapist and his therapeutic methods. People have faith in superstition, black magic or Satan worship. The Atharva-Veda, one of the four ancient Indian scriptures deal mainly with magic formulas, spells, and incantations, intended to counter-act diseases and calamities.
The second gift in my travel kit was GOD. He is the easiest to define, because He is. He has been. He will be. He is universal. He is unsurpassable. Although some of us do not believe in His existence, but I believe in Him. I believe I was born with Him in me. Sure, I did not known Him when I was born, but not knowing someone does not mean He does not exist. How many babies know who their parents are when they are born? They come to know them slowly, when they start growing up and start connecting with them.
God is abstract, but His manifestation is concrete. He manifests through colourful birds, flowers, animals, trees, deserts, fire, rivers, oceans, mountains, sun, moon, stars and so on. The Aboriginal culture believes that plants and animals have a spirit. People are never alone. They share their lives with the spirits of nature. Recently, the New Zealand Parliament has passed a bill to recognise Whanganui River, long revered by Maori people, as a living entity.
The next gift in my kit was SPIRITUALITY. But before I define it, I would like to say that Spirituality is not the property of any specific religion. As a matter of my reality, you do not have to belong to any religion at all and yet be spiritual.
Spirituality it is the SOUL of humanity. It is an abstract of virtues, which transforms us from just being an organic entity — living only for the sole purpose of sustaining our physical being — into a human being with the ability to care beyond self.
Spirituality brings us closer to divinity by propelling us to serve humanity. It is that form of energy that develops our conscience, births love, compassion and forgiveness. It makes you think and feel.
Millenniums ago, sages declared dharma (righteousness), ahimsa (non-violence), daya (compassion) and abhaya (fearlessness) as supreme virtues. Today these ideals form the fundamental Charter of the United Nations.
Spirituality is a shield against self-centeredness, anti-social behaviours, impulsivity and narcissism. A majority of criminals will tell you that they believe in God, but they would be lacking His virtues. This observation is based on studying thousands of files of criminal histories of convicted murderers, rapists and thieves.
Opposite to the physical pleasure we enjoy under a warm quilt during cold winter nights, the joy of spirituality is divine. We feel it in loving someone, protecting someone from violence, consoling someone in grief, and helping someone in need.
Spirituality has redemptive powers. But this power could also be lost if we stop investing it on lives. It is a unique kind of wealth that we have to spend to grow it. The more we spend the more it grows. However, once it is lost, no de-programming therapy can reverse our spiritual poverty. Don’t believe me? Review professional murderers, schemers, and psychopaths, who live only to hurt other.
Despite all the efforts our well-wishers make to seed spirituality in us, it remains a personal achievement; never a collective endeavour. One could pray collectively, practice yoga collectively, visit temples collectively, but cannot develop spirituality collectively. If this were not the case, politicians would have promised to legislate it and deliver it to every voter.
Spirituality, unlike material wealth, has no beneficiaries. It cannot be willed to family members or left for the Hospice Centres. When we leave this world, it is no longer a part of our travel kit. The next world has no use for it.
Spirituality has two forms – active and passive. The active form of spirituality is Karma Yoga – a conscious attempt to coordinate thoughts, emotions and actions to serve selflessly — build a society free from starvation, diseases and homelessness. It is to serve altruistically.
The Passive spirituality comes from meditation (samadhi) and concentration (dhyana). It makes us feel tranquil, but helps only the individual who practices them.
Jesus Christ, Guru Nanak Dev, Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter, all those philanthropists, such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, George Soros who share their wealth were/are karma yogis. And these three individuals neither do they belong to any religion nor do they believe in God.
Dr. Suresh Kurl is a South Asian Community Activist, a former university professor, retired Registrar of the BC Benefits Appeal Board (Govt. of B.C.) a former-Member of the National Parole Board (Govt. of Canada), a writer and public speaker.