Thursday, March 12, 2009

In the Name of God

I've only recently picked up on this, and that surprised me.

I'm sure most people are aware that one of Christian commandments is to not take God's name in vain, wrongfully use it, etc. In addition to swearing, it's apparently also not proper to exclaim things like, "Oh my God!" Evidently, people take a lot of offense to that, as it "breaks a Commandment."

I'm surprised at how out of place that is!

Hearing my parents and grandparents exclaim "he prabhuu," and "raam, taarii maayaa," (yes, I'm Gujarati) here and there just jogged me one day. Isn't it a good idea to have God's name on our mouths?

I can't say I know too much about Judaism here, but in Islam, you have a myriad of greetings and pleasantries that name God. "Khoda Hafiz," "Al Hamdulillah," "Insha' Allah," "Masha Allah," take your pick. In English, we say "God bless you," "God forgive," and "God given," just to name a few. Let's even throw in the pan Judeo-Christian "Hallelujah," and the equivalent (in terms of use anyway) "Allahu akbar."

And, for those of you who go on about terrorism the second you hear the word "Allah," shame on you!! "Al-lah" literally means "The God." It's really more of a title when you think about it. "Lah" is a word that applies to all deities, even those of polytheists. Tying "Allah" to terrorists makes about as much sense as tying "the Lord" to terrorists. Which says a lot, actually, when you stop to think about global religous fundamentalism. And, this is me covering my ass and saying "I am not a terrorist, not have I ever been one, nor do I plan on ever being one." Even 7 years later, I'm covering my ass. That's what things have come to nowadays.

But to see someone get so indignant at my use of the word "God" really caught me off-guard, especially since it wasn't used generously as is the status quo. Immediately I was reminded of a Hindu parable.

The 'Pandavas' (Deva: पाण्डव's) eventually die and enter Heaven. Who else would they happen to come across except 'Duryodhana' (Deva: दुर्योधन), their nemesis. Arjuna sees him and can't understand why he would be there with them! As he goes to confront Duryodhana, 'Krishna' (Deva: कृष्ण, kRSNa) appears and explains in kind. "Just as you are here because of your devotion, so is he here because of his. You have spent your life reciting my name in praises, and he has spent his reciting it in curses. But, just as your attention has never left me, neither has his."

Actually, there's another reference related to the Ramayana (Deva: रामायण, raamaayaNa). In the Bhagavata Purana (Deva: भागवत पुराण, bhaagavata puraaNa), the two gatekeepers of Vishnu's abode, Jaya and Vijaya (Deva: जय and विजय) get a curse placed upon them whereupon they must undergo human birth, and thus, work their way up into Heaven again. Vishnu offers to soften this curse by giving them a choice: they may take seven births as Vishnu's devotees, or three births as His enemies." They choose the latter and appear as:
  1. Hiranyaksha and Hiranyakashipu (Deva: हिरण्याक्ष and हिरण्यकशिपु) during Vishnu's Varaha and Narasinha (Deva: वाराह and नरसिंह), or boar and lion-man avataras (Deva: अवतार).
  2. Ravana and Kumbhakarna (Deva: रावण and कुम्भकर्ण) during Vishnu's Rama avatara.
  3. Shishupala and Dantavakra (Deva: शिशुपाल and दन्तवक्र) during Vishnu's Krishna avatara.
Each time, they appear as some of the most vile enemies of God, only so that they may be expedited in returning to Heaven and being near God.

Personally, I think it's great using God's name. Cursing or praise, when we use "God" we think of God.

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