Updated: Feb 3
Wandering around the streets of Varanasi, I kept cold-asking the monks, “do you believe in god?”. Mostly the answer was yes and sometimes it went too far about how the gods made us and everything around us. But one time, a monk didn't reply to anything. Probably he was too high on oxygen (a common phenomenon among yogis). I asked him again but this time he looked at me and the conversation went like this:
Me: Do you believe in god?
He: What do you mean by belief?
Me: It means whether you think God exists or not.
He: Do you think I exist in this world?
Me: Yes, you definitely exist! There's no question about it.
He: Then why question god’s existence?
Me: Because I can see you but I have never seen god.
At this point, I knew where the conversation was going. He would probably tell me, “then how do you explain the existence of this beautiful nature?” then I would tell him,” its evolution and natural selection. Also feeling of beauty is a product of evolution, and depends on whether something is beneficial for you or not”. Then, he would not understand a bit and I will have to move on. But that's not what happened! The next conversation was so powerful that it will change my perception about beliefs for the rest of my life. It went like,
He: Ok, I believe you!
Me: What! So you believe that God doesn't exist?
He: No, I believe in your existence.
Me: What? It doesn't make sense to believe in something that is just true.
He: Nothing is true or false. You either believe in something or you don't. For example, my eyes told me that you're standing there, my ears told me about the words you spoke. But I can never prove if my eyes or ears are right or wrong. I choose to believe them. That's why I believe in your existence. Now, do you believe in god?
Me: I don't. I mean, my senses never sent me any information that may be coming from god!
He: Oh they did! But you ignored them.
I was speechless for a moment after that. I mean think about it, it's true. My entire memory is just a bunch of information collected by my senses. I was told that this is a human, this is a cat, a car, etc. But what about god? It was always unclear. They pointed at a picture, a statue, an imaginary figure, a book’s character, etc., and told me it was a god. Never in my life has someone pointed at something which is not something else and told me that it is god. I don't know what god looks like or sounds like or feels like! Then how am I supposed to recognize the information sent by my senses that was coming from God?
Me: I agree. I choose to ignore a lot of noise. But What else can I do? Can you sense the
information coming from God?
He: No I can't, But when I close my eyes, in a quiet place, I try to focus on my sensations. I can feel a lot of things. I may not pinpoint god among those feelings, but I know that God must be there among those subtle sensations. Or perhaps, every single sensation in some way is information coming directly or indirectly from god. And that makes me highly emotional and I feel ecstatically connected to god.
He then went into meditation with some tears in his eyes. I just sat down trying to process what he just said and the implications of it. I have always been a strong believer in scientific ways because it has always worked for me. If I wanna know anything, do anything, my only available path was observe-experiment-repeat until the goal is achieved. I have never in my life just believed in something so much that I completely rejected the idea of it being wrong, or so I thought. This conversation made me realize that I have always believed in something and I completely rejected the idea of it being wrong by calling it by a different name, i.e. knowledge.
To understand this absurd-sounding idea better, I needed someone who can be classified as a blind believer and my mother was the perfect candidate for that. I observed her for a few days and noticed that even if she understood some logical arguments against her beliefs, she never accepted them. She always replied that whatever you deduce logically is not the full truth and your logic must be wrong. To her, the imagination of an all-powerful all-knowing God (by definition) is the real knowledge and does not need the backing of any logic. Logic is not a powerful word for those who think human beings are inferior to gods and thus don't possess the ability to understand the world just like God does. For them, logic and senses are just tools given to humans to survive. So, just like we use our knowledge to find the cause of an event, she uses her knowledge of the almighty God (which can explain everything by definition). For every taboo word (in religion ie. logical argument) I threw at her, she retaliates with her own taboo words (in science, ie. consciousness, death, birth, the meaning of life, the reason for our existence, etc.). Since then, I have observed and talked to many people who believed in various religions, conspiracy theories, etc. They all shared the same characteristics about their belief being some kind of knowledge based on facts. Even if they see proof of their ideas being wrong they will always question their own senses and think that "I must have misunderstood something or missed some vital information".
I have always thought of belief as a hollow word and knowledge as a very powerful word. But what I realized is that they are not different concepts, they represent the same idea. Knowledge tends to become a belief and sounds hollow when our trust in our senses decreases and we are left with our imaginations. And when enough people talk about the same imagination and agree on that, belief tends to become knowledge. On the contrary, when we are more confident, sharp and blindly trust our senses, knowledge tends to represent the learnings from, our experiences. We completely reject the idea that we may be getting incomplete data from our senses.
So, do I now believe in god? Well, that depends on what do you mean by God. If god is some character from some story or inventor of some rules and humans already know everything about him then it's unlikely that these characters would be able to make this complex world. But if God is someone who made this world and who is there outside just waiting to be looked at, just trying to communicate with us and we know nothing about him, I would say, I am open to the idea.