A matter of faith

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A matter of faith

In today’s context, religion and faith are two minefields that no one is willing to enter. Yet, these are the subjects that should be discussed in order to bring transparency, clarity and trust to people of different races.

If you ever wondered who would have the initiative and courage to tackle these topics, wonder no more. None other than the former talk show empress, Oprah Winfrey, who takes on these themes in the seven-part documentary series Belief that airs on Mondays at 9 pm, on Discovery Channel.

One of the stories featured in this show is that of Reshma Thakkar, a 30-year-old single woman living in Chicago. A healthcare IT worker, she was career-driven for a while, but then found herself lonely, with something vital missing from her life. That was when she decided to quit her lucrative career and journey to the Kumbh Mela in India to reconnect with her roots and her Hindu faith. Two weeks before she was to leave for India, her yoga guru called and told her that a camera crew was interested in going with her to the Kumbh Mela. That was how she came to be in touch with OWN, the Oprah Winfrey Network, that was interested in exploring beliefs and faiths throughout the world in a compassionate manner.

As we all know, the Kumbh Mela occurs every 12 years. It is the occasion on which Hindus from all parts of India come together to take a ritual bath in the holy Ganges and purify their souls. “Being in the water with millions and millions of people, all of us yearning for the same thing at the same time, believing that we are all in this together,” says Reshma, “the answer I was looking for was within me the whole time.”

An interview with her threw more light on her experiences, faith and belief. Though she was born and brought up in the US, she had strong connections with India. “I grew up in a religious household,” she says. “We prayed everyday. I knew prayers and ceremonies, but I didn’t have a solid understanding of the philosophy behind it.”

At the Kumbh Mela, she was overwhelmed by the rituals she underwent and the energy of the crowd. However, an experience stood out. “… the pivotal moment for me was a conversation I had with a family sitting on the banks of the river. It was an elderly man and we just had a conversation — I asked him how do you have so much faith in something? He said basically the answers are within you and the goddess, like Mother Ganga, will know when you’re ready and as you’re ready, she’ll give you what you need. So just be patient and kind of go with the flow of life. It was just a beautiful, peaceful feeling because he helped me take the pressure off myself to have all the answers right now, right away.”

Her trip made her understand that people attach themselves to a lot of different rituals and practices, something which is not a bad thing. However, when there is no philosophical understanding, they do not carry much weight. She found herself going back abroad with a tolerant view of all world religions, all faiths and all backgrounds. “I think religious practice, spiritual practice, if it’s done ‘right’, will inspire you to love everybody and be compassionate towards others and love thy neighbour because I think that’s at the core of every religious teaching in the world.”

Reshma came away from the Kumbh with “an amazing sense of peace and understanding and just softness”. The way she lives her life has changed, and now her belief is a lot more open-minded. She also feels a new freedom to pursue her own life path. It has also given her a different perspective on how to manage her relationship with her loved ones.

An amazing programme with breathtaking visuals and fascinating stories, Belief will touch your heart.

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