Growing up I was immersed in the rituals of Hinduism. I learnt Sanskrit prayers, participated in rituals, went to temples and learnt about Hindu mythology. Religion was a significant part of my life. At some point between adolescence and adulthood I began to reject formal religion and its practices. I was somewhere between the agnostic and atheist spectrum. Since a few years I have begun to embrace the presence of something bigger than us, that I call the Universe and Nature has been the manifestation of this superior entity. It has also led to the distinction between spirituality and religion. Trees, flowers, seas, oceans, mountains, rains, rainbows, animals have begun to represent the mysticism of the world we live in.
Only recently I have begun to acknowledge the power of symbols and rituals in bringing peace. As I lit the lamps at the altar of a Buddhist temple this evening, I experienced the power of this ritual – aligning them, lighting them, watching the flames dancing in the wind and the serenity this act brought me. I didn’t ask for anything or imagine I was lighting the lamps to worship any particular deity, but the simplicity and beauty of the act was calming. It was similar to the peace I feel when I look up in awe at a tall tree, the snow capped mountains, or the vastness of the sea.
I suppose in some ways these rituals were meant to represent a moment in a day when we practiced mindfulness – the act of being in the present. The reverence towards a ‘God’ was probably meant to relieve us of some of the burden of the lives we live. Recognising the presence of something bigger than us, that we are but a tiny part of this thing we call the Universe, that our role is a mere contribution to something much, much grander is a relief. It helps lift some weight off our shoulders. Especially in moments when everything feels too overwhelming, the act of lighting a few lamps can seem so full of beauty.