Know then thyself, presume not God to scan, the proper study of Mankind is Man. – Alexander Pope
I was not brought up in a religious household. My family is originally Muslim, but I am ashamed to say I know very little about the religion, or religion in general. I went through many stages in terms of my beliefs about God and religion. Like many young children, I merely mimicked the adults around me.
When I was very young, I never gave a thought to God, as a result of my parents' influences and behavior. At school, I learned from the teachers and children around me that going to church and praying were the only ways to get to heaven. So, I started praying at night in my bedroom.
Without much knowledge on this issue, I did the best I could: “Dear God, please let it snow tomorrow so I won't have to go to school. I promise I will be good forever. Bless Mom, Dad, Takkin, Arash, and Spot. Thank you and have a good night.”
Then, came my teenage years and as most teenagers are, I became very cynical. I declared myself an atheist. Not because I truly believed it, but because it was the “cool” thing to do. God does not exist, I told myself over and over again.
I began to despise religion and thought of all religious people as weak-minded and ignorant. I was disgusted at the idea of organized religion, church, and the many rules and limitations that one must live their life by in order to achieve salvation. Needless to say, I was very set in my beliefs and refused to even acknowledge others' opinions. Then, I grew up.
I cannot say exactly how and when the change came. I became very interested in philosophy and wanted to become as intellectual as I possibly could. One day, in the library, I picked up a book about Buddha. The ideas of Buddhism intrigued me and I struggled to open my mind to the new ideas.
Eventually, through much education and practice, I have learned this: God exists in everyone and everything. It is not something you can put a name or a face to. He is the personification of everything good and bad in the world. He is everything and everywhere. To know this and to accept this is to be truly enlightened.
To have God in the purest form inside of yourself, to be a truly good person, is the ultimate goal in life. I have not reached this total enlightenment yet, but I am on the path. Now I understand why so many have turned to organized religion. People need something to believe in, people need to know that there is more than what is presented before us. If they need to put a face to their God, then so be it. It does not make them weak or ignorant, but hopeful and determined to gain the full understanding of existence.
I feel that I now have a greater purpose in my life and that I am not just floating about in the world. I am on a path to truth. I was sitting in my backyard the other day, staring at a tiny yellow and purple tulip. It was born of a bulb, and was now alive and full, and would be dead next week. I thought to myself, there is life in this flower. There is the world in this flower. There is God in this flower.