Himalayan Safari Tales # 7 – Of Religion & Beliefs

After Nimu and Magnetic  Hill, a few miles before reaching Leh is the famous Pathar Saheb Gurudwara. Maintained by Indian Army, this Gurudwara is a well-known pilgrim destination for the Sikhs. This was our first ever visit to a Gurudwara.

There are two stories about this temple, though the one surrounding Guru Nanak is more prominent. The story is that Guru Nanak arrived here in 1517 after his sermon in the Sumer mountain. A wicked demon who was troubling the local populace, rolled a boulder down from the top of a mountain to kill the meditating Guru. The boulder apparently became soft on touching the Guru and he sank into the stone, without breaking his mediation. The demon realized his mistake and became a disciple of Guru Nanak.

The boulder with a recess in the shape of a human back in sitting posture is inside the complex and worshipped.

However, there is a second story as well. Tibetan history shows many instances of Buddhists scholars being invited from India to Tibet for religious teachings. Among them, the most respected and highly regarded is Padmasambhava who practiced Tantric Buddhism. He was invited to Tibet during the rule of King Khri-strond-lde-btsan (755-797 AD). It is believed that he planted his wooden staff, made of apricot into a rock in Baltistan and that’s how apricot flourished in Ladakh. From Baltistan, he came to central Ladakh after visitng Phokar Zong and Zangskar where he suppressed many demons. While in Ladakh Gonkhar, demons shot arrows at him and he took refuge in a rock where he left the imprint of his body.

Reading these two stories reminded us of the futility of religious conflicts. Many of the beliefs and religious stories are evolved over a period of time and it is impossible to find a true version. It is unlikely that an absolute version exists.  The fear of the unknown, the need for an anchor, the art of storytelling and a powerful imagery—all have contributed to the evolution of religion and beliefs.

Living beings existed 4 billion years back; probably the first man walked the earth 2 million years ago and the last ice age was 13,000 years ago. A trillion stories have emerged over these years, of which we don’t have even a faintest idea of the absolute truth.  Yet we have the time, energy and reasons to fight on behalf of religions and Gods.

12 Comments

  1. Joseph Pulikotil

    Hi Bindu,

    Very thought provoking post.

    While folklores and mythology may not tell us whether a religion is true or not, there are religions in this world which can be proved to have originated at a certain point by certain person.

    While there is no need to fight over religions or beliefs, it us up to individuals to seek salvation by their own choice and there should be freedom to do so without any interference from others whether believers or not believers.

    This is why most constitutions gives freedom of religion to their citizens.

    No one stops an atheist from believing what they want or not believe in God but it is painful and unacceptable for atheists to take a dig or criticize other people who believe in God whether through mythology or tales.

    Most people in this world believe in God and this belief can be based on any frivolous thing according to others.Yet they have the right to believe and worship any God in any form or from any source what so ever.

    Human beings in times of stress and strain,trials and tribulation,suffering and sorrow need belief in something or someone who they imagine to be stronger and more powerful than them and who can that be other than God,Creator of heaven and earth.

    Your post is very interesting and I enjoyed reading it.

    Best wishes,
    Joseph

  2. Sameer Syed

    Very good perspective. Yes, it is ridiculous that we get carried away by godmen, swamis, prophets and fight in the name of gods while forgeting that fundamentally it is about human goodness. it is high time that beliefs and faith help us to nurture humanism rather than disintegrating it.

    thanks !!

  3. Aleem

    Absolutely True.
    The last two paras are really thought provoking. We fight on behalf of the prophecies supposedly made by Gods and their representatives. Worse, interpretations of these prophecies keep varying from time to time.
    Interesting writing.

  4. Anu

    Beautifully written.. so true… the religion itself never really matters.. but how many people actually understand that??

  5. Vetrimagal

    Last two paragraphs touched me. Wish every Indian can assimilate and emulate that!

    I enjoy your blog very much. Thanks for sharing those experiecnes. These are the places I may not be able to see, but , enjoy in your writings.

  6. K.Parthasarathi

    “The fear of the unknown, the need for an anchor, the art of storytelling and a powerful imagery—all have contributed to the evolution of religion and beliefs.” How true.Imagine the utter foolishness of fighting over the authenticity of such lores that have been passed on by word of mouth with all the attendant dilutions/accretions.
    The travel blog looks interesting.Will read the other posts in leisure

  7. PN Subramanian

    “we don’t have even a faintest idea of the absolute truth. Yet we have the time, energy and reasons to fight on behalf of religions and Gods” Absolutely correct.

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