Jainism, arguably one of the most difficult religions to follow by the book, yet probably the only religion where nearly every tenet is deep rooted on some scientific principle, some which are even beyond the current day and age. The Jains are also extremely fanatic, but thank god, they believe in ahimsa, or non-violence, thus limiting the fanaticism to their own selves, else we would surely have had an Indian version of the Crusades æons before the actual ones! Having said so, I am proud to have been born as one, and that too a practising one for the better part of my life, for at least most of the canons are scientific, the temple architecture amazing, the history rich, the stories enthralling, and the ability of the people to fast for days with no food or in some cases even without water, unthinkable! However, thanks to my leaning towards agnosticism bordering on atheism, I now find a lot of practices of all religions and the way people bend them to suit their level of convenience and comfort, utterly hilarious. A few days ago, such an incident happened.
Jain ascetics - Saadhus and Saadhavis, the male and female versions, have a harsh life to lead. I can make my piece with a life of meditation, wearing clothes without stitches, eating only food collected as alms among others, but not using means of transport or electricity and not bathing (yuck!!) and the worst, not shaving or waxing, but having to pluck each hair of their bodies! Giving your body so much pain, to what end? To please the gods, oh please! I bet if he/she does exist, he/she is definitely not a ghostly version of Marquis de Sade or Leopold von Sacher-Masoch (for the rather ignorant people, let me clarify and replace the last 17 words with the following - he/she is definitely not a sadist).
In relation to the aforementioned is a small anecdote; something that me and my brother would not have been privy to, for my mother reasoned that it would just push us that much closer to atheism, but then she decided against her better judgment and ended up sharing it with us. So, one day my mother was at the salon, get her hair trimmed on a lazy Sunday afternoon. I never get why salons charge gals ten times more than what they charge blokes, when they nearly harvest our entire crop, while for the girls a snippety snap and its done! Anyway, she was getting her hair done and her view was blocked by the coiffeuse, so she could not see the person who had walked in; she wasn't expecting to run into anyone, given that it was just one of those hours when the only footfalls are those of employees and tiny crawling creatures, for no one wants to brave the heat and venture out (Honestly, I prefer those times, as you can get all your work done in minimal time; heat versus too many people - the people win hands down, so I avoid them, the victors are always haughty!). The lady walked in and occupied the empty chair next to my mother. When the hairdresser stepped away from my mother, she turned just out of curiosity to see who was sitting next to her and saw the saadhavi, and was she surprised!
If you must know, the nun was from a new breed, part of this association called Veerayatan, where they adopt a somewhat normal lifestyle, using electricity, vehicles, cooking for themselves, using toilets and taking showers (thank god!), and so on, while still preaching religion and studying scriptures, which is a great thing, for in the present times, it does not make any sense to shun all these and to connect with today's generations, it is pertinent that they too change. Obviously, going to the beauty-parlour and getting a mani-pedi and her eyebrows done and skin waxed and hair chopped seems perfectly fine.
On seeing her, my mother greeted her, and she dropped just dropped dead! There aren't very many Jains in our locality and she probably did not expect to run into anyone early on a Sunday, but what do you know! She looked like a kid caught with his hand stuck inside a candy-jar when he wasn't supposed to have any. In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with her wanting to look good for her next sermon, but maybe her guilt caught up with her. She was embarrassed beyond belief and responded with a forced smile. As soon as my mother's view was blocked again, she took off without a single hoot. That was absolutely hilarious. If you're leading a certain lifestyle, why would you hide something as simple as visiting the salon? Having watched Desperate Housewives, it wouldn't have surprised me if she were to shun the path of non-violence and confront my mother to make a desperate plea for keeping it a secret or even buying silence, but I was disappointed.
It is people like these who I would say are responsible for the dwindling masses at religious institutions and places of worship. The new generation does not mind if these leaders do not stick to the books, but they very much mind if these leaders do not practise what they preach and try to do things secretively. Me and my brother could not stop laughing on this incident, much to my mother's chagrin; and we thought that she wanted to laugh heartily, but was just embarrassed to admit it and the fact that she attends discourses by these very people, stifled her laughter. It may be interesting to note, that this particular nun was the very same with which and brother and I had an interesting, somewhat heated, discussion, on some religious topic, and unable to answer it she had then said, "Why don't you come later and we discuss this at length? We are a little pressed for time now." Aren't they always? She just did not want to admit in front of a motley crowd that she did not possess answers to some of our questions, which is also perfectly fine, for some things, are just difficult to explain and it is more a question of faith than fact. But who wants to admit defeat, especially when you are put on a pedestal (then, she actually was seated on a pedestal above us meatball mortals). I just want to say, that if religions want to woo Gen Y in any way, they have to reinvent themselves, be more open and friendly, rather than elitist, and accept the fact that no person knows everything and some things may remain unexplained and that a lot of religious texts may not make much sense in light of the scientific advancements, inventions and discoveries. Only then do religions have some chance of surviving this century. God speed to them!