SONGSOPTOK: «Belief is simple acceptance that a proposition is true, without regard to reason(s) while faith is the acceptance of a proposition rather than an epistemological (evidence-based) reason.” Does this reflect your understanding of the two words? If so, why? If not, then how would you distinguish between the two?

MANISH: Faith and belief are two intersecting sets of notions that emerge from an interactive process of the development of the cerebral structure of human brain and the social conditions of his existence both as a function of the receptive configuration of his brain and a social product of the environmental conditions. It may sound a bit like a theoretical definition but this is perhaps the simplest way I can summarize my perception about faith and belief in response to this theoretical question. Faith is perhaps the spontaneous organic acceptance of certain social understandings, dogmas, hypotheses or age old interpretations of social happenings. I can sight examples of people who do not have faith in rituals but believe in the existence of god, even in the form of popular deities. His conscious self and the fraction of the cerebellum monitoring his rationality in accepting things prevent him from believing rituals but  the organic development of his cerebellum even from the stage of a fetus  I think is a process of accepting and rejecting signals. This process may encourage in finally not rejecting some strong and recurring social signals. I definitely believe some intelligent people (People having unique cerebellum structures to handle any signal irrespective of the environment) develop their own methods of interpreting signals. We call them rational, though I believe rationality is again a subjective term, subject to the social scenario of human existence and definitely the time axis.

SONGSOPTOK: Each person can inherit, adopt or construct her own set of beliefs and faiths, or it is a combination of the two. How would you qualify your own personal set? Were your faiths and beliefs handed down to you by someone? Who? Or were they acquired? If so, how?

MANISH: I believe I have partially answered to these questions in the first part itself. In continuation to that I can reiterate that of course we inherit and acquire simultaneously. For me, I believed in Gods then started not believing in Gods and then again started believing in Gods. Yes sometimes it was during the exams, sometimes in some stronger social threats but also sometimes with cool philosophical pursuits. Thus I acquired and inherited and also inherited and rejected, accepted and acquired, acquired and rejected. This can never be a linear streamlined process. 

SONGSOPTOK: In your own personal sphere, do you consider worship as a religious act involving rites, rituals or other types of practices? Or is it related to something that transcends religion? Can you explain your position with some examples?

MANISH: I used to worship clay models of Hindu God and goddesses from my very childhood. Even sometimes I used to make my own idols and worship. The strongest influence on me was of the Kali puja that used to happen in the village house of my mother. I still remember the chief priest Nonke Jyathamosai and his melodramatic chanting of the mantras. He used to cry aloud during the Bisarjan. It was a “performance” - all together. I used to get back home and start worshiping or express my vibrations created by Nonke Jyathamosai’s performance. I really don’t recall believing in any god at that time. I was only captivated by the performance aspect of worship and religious rituals. On the first day of the Durga Puja the priest used to tie up a whole banana tree with leaves etc. to look like a woman. They called Kola Bou, Ganesha’s wife. It was amazing for me. I used to observe the whole thing very minutely. This gradual transformation of a tree into a woman was astonishing for me. I never missed the second day ritual of taking Kola bou for a bath to a nearby pond. It was not religious, it was not related to my trust or belief. Now I know that I used to enjoy the performance aspects of these rituals. But the actual story started after this gradually and very naturally the materialistic value of these clay gods went through a transformation process within me. I started imagining a holy space beyond the universe where the gods had their homeland. I started believing in gods.  the religious notions was emphatic on my mind which loved to play with gods. I started associating supernatural aspects with the dolls of my childhood. The play was then a worship, a true worship. Soon after this I started taking up the books on Vedanta philosophy. I had to wait till my college life when I met Partha, my friend who was free from accepting any dogma, social or religious or anything. I used to see Partha and  used to have a feeling of liberation, liberation from the claustrophobic bindings of religious beliefs, superstitions meaningless social stigmas. I never talked to Partha about these but I was liberated.

SONGSOPTOK:  “Faith takes over where reason leaves off” – do you agree? Can you explain your point of view?

MANISH:  Not exactly. One’s sense of reasoning depends on his social existence and the socio-economic features that make him. Thus the term reason cannot have an absolute implication. Sometimes we choose to set up a set of reasons as most logical and try to comply with them. Sometimes this new set of reasoning contradicts age old beliefs and we feel faith has disappeared. It is virtual, it is relative and in occasions it may be subjective.

SONGSOPTOK: Did you ever face a conflict between your beliefs, reason and knowledge? How do you react to such situations?

MANISH: Yes, of course. Like many a people I had faced this conflict many a times in my life. The story how I faced it is very personal in most cases.   

SONGSOPTOK: Are you a believer? What do you believe in?

MANISH: I believe in human relations and love.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that it is essential to convince and convert others to your own system of beliefs and faiths? Why? Can you please describe the reasons for your answer?

MANISH: Not at all. I have learnt to respect differences in beliefs until such times people become dogmatic and furious to impose their feelings on others.

SONGSOPTOK: Do you think that each individual has some form of faith or belief, whether related to religion or not? If yes, then what do you think are the main reasons?

MANISH: Answering to the first question I had already tried to explain my idea that every human being initiates a biotic process subject to the social environment in adopting signals that come to them even from the state of a fetus. So it is the biotic composition and the environment arising from the social existence. Dialectically configure the set of beliefs of an individual and then slowly of a society as a whole. The sexual behavioral patterns of different communities are different. Naturally this is a outcome of the social belief of the community and again this in turn influences the social belief.

SONGSOPTOK: “A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell.” said C.S. Lewis. Do you agree with this view? Or do you think that some form of worship is indispensable for humans? Why?

MANISH: REPLY: The best answer to this question is referring to the history of Glasnost and Perestroika in Soviet Russia.

MANISH MITRA: is a well known theatre personality who has developed a new theatre language and actor’s training methodology sourcing inspiration from the different South Asian performing arts both traditional and folk. Manish founded KASBA ARGHYA, his own theatre group in the year 1989 to develope a space for all kinds of innovative and Avant Grade theatre practices with young and creative people. Manish has conducted workshops on Indian Drama in different cities of Europe. He publishes a highly acclaimed theater journal in India. Manish has travelled across the globe with his productions ‘Mahabharata, and ‘Macbeth Badya’ and has also directed an international production of Post Office a Rabindranath Tagore play with actors from India, USA, Germany and Poland, which was premiered in Warsaw

We sincerely thank you for your time and hope we shall have your continued support.
Aparajita Sen

(Editor: Songsoptok)


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