Withdrawal

Withdrawal
One small question.

If my wife does not fulfill some of my wishes, or fails me completely when I need her most, should I give her divorce? No, I do get upset, and may be angry; we may fight, and stop talking to each other for few days. But then everything gets normal.

Consider another scenario. I loved a lady, but the relationship didn’t work — may be there was a break up. What do I do next? What do my friends and relatives suggest to me? ‘Come on Amit, such things do happen. Objects collide in kitchen and make noise, it is normal. Forget everything; go and patch up with her and move on.’

In our human relations, we keep on trying, trying, trying, failing at every attempt, still keep our hope alive and keep struggling. We learn few lessons from our misadventure, read books and magazines; elderly people in our family and society teach us (always too ready!) how to maintain good family relations. Accordingly we patch up, modify our approach towards our relation, try again, and move on. And the cycle repeats. In fact, if the volume of movies, TV serials, newspaper and magazine columns, and society gossips are any indication, then I think I can safely conclude that humans expend a major portion of their life and energy (OK, you could call it life-energy) maintaining their relationships — with spouse, children, friends, colleagues, neighbours, society.

However, in our relationships with the Divine, just a small blow shatters our whole faith. Question is: why don’t we follow the same approach in our relation with God as we follow in our everyday relations? Why do we renounce God and all our spiritual practices when our wishes are not fulfilled? Shouldn’t we give the Divine another chance as we give to our human relationships? We would, if we loved It.

‘The team I support lost the match’, ‘I failed in the exam’, ‘I could not get the job’, ‘my relationships are in a tempest’, ‘my boss is upset over my work’, ‘my girlfriend cheated me’ and so on and on — the reasons for giving up on divine faith could be numerous.

I started writing this note in the context of religion, because it is there where this practice is the most common. However, the same holds true in the case of other practices too. ‘I used to help everyone, but they did not respond, so I stopped helping others’. ‘I used to smile on everybody but they thought I was easy, so I stopped’. ‘I used to work hard, still my guide scolded me, now I don’t care’. ‘I used to switch off lights’, ‘I used to exercise and workout daily’ etc etc. As I write these words, I keep wondering how come only good and noble habits and practices are given up? I mean, nobody ever says — “I used to smoke heavily, but nobody around me joined in, so I stopped”! Well, that is a different topic.

This same thought keeps turning up again and again in my mind in various ways. The question remains the same — when we are prepared to make innumerable attempts and give chances to our human relationships, why are we so restless when it comes to our divine relationships, and give up so easily? Same holds for other practices also. In fact, difficulties and problems are occasions to test our values, whether it is our faith in God or in ourselves, our adherence to truth, duty, service, love, or in our own strength, confidence, and optimism. So giving up on any of our philosophies towards life in moments of crisis does not make sense. However, what happens is the complete opposite — these are the practices we give up immediately. It is like when my MSc Physics exams are announced, I apply for a change of subject! A wiser student would appear for the exams, irrespective of the preparation made; and in the worst case of a failure would again appear in the next year.

I am neither in favour of religious practices nor do I oppose them. I don’t have any reservations or opinion against any practice or thought that you might hold. You may follow any line of approach towards your life in general and all aspects of it in particular. Absolutely no problem. Or take no approach at all; again no issues. But once you decide on a particular line of approach, do not give up on it so easily. Keep trying, learning, modifying, trying again, and keep doing it, until you attain your aim. Stick to your path and treat it in the same way as you treat your human relations. This also shows the amount of thinking that needs to be done while choosing a particular path or philosophy before taking the plunge.

A related question is: treating divine practices as a business transaction. A devotee gives up prayers because prayers are not fulfilled (may be job, marriage, examination, recovery from illness), a student gives up hard work because professor does not appreciate, a policeman became corrupt because the system didn’t reward his virtues. Almost always we do expect a return. We treat all our actions and activities as an investment, and as soon as dividends are not received, we withdraw. A lot has been written on this subject, so I would not go into further detail; instead I would quote Voltaire before taking your leave:

“The Eternal has his designs from all eternity. If prayer is in accord with his immutable wishes, it is quite useless to ask of him what he has resolved to do. If one prays to him to do the contrary of what he has resolved, it is praying that he be weak, frivolous, inconstant; it is believing that he is thus, it is to mock him. Either you ask him a just thing, in which case he must do it, the thing being done without your praying to him for it, and so to entreat him is then to distrust him; or the thing is unjust, and then you insult him. You are worthy or unworthy of the grace you implore: if worthy, he knows it better than you; if unworthy, you commit another crime by requesting what is undeserved.

“In a word, we only pray to God because we have made him in our image. We treat him like a pasha, like a sultan whom one may provoke or appease.”

“Prayers” (1770).

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