Religion has always served a purpose in society. It provides believers with hope when tragedy strikes, and gives people the confidence to face any challenge. Religion was used positively in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi by giving Pi the strength to overcome his obstacles instead of surrendering. The book introduces three religions stated to have an impact on society, those religions are Christianity, Hinduism and Islam. Christianity is an Abrahamic monotheistic religion; this religion is based upon the teachings of Jesus Christ. Hinduism is an Indian religion and dharma which consists of more than one God, also seen as a way of life. Islam is another Abrahamic monotheistic religion that teaches everyone that there is only one god, and Muhammad is known as the messenger of Allah. Religions in Life of Pi are shown to have a positive impact on society or on an individual alone.
Christianity is the belief that the holy spirit is one of the divine members in the holy trinity to produce a single substance of god. That spirit is considered to share the same nature as God the father and God the son. Christianity is shown in life of Pi by Father Martin the catholic priest who introduced Pi to the world of Christianity and to their traditions. At first Pi assumes the story to be bizarre as it involves God’s son paying the price for all of humanity’s sins. Following this skepticism, Father Martin explains to Pi the sacrifices Jesus made solely out of love for all humans, this idea of living selflessly for others appeased Pi as this talk with Father Martin helped Pi make the decision to accept Christianity into his life. Christianity helps Pi make better judgements in life by giving him a better understanding on how others perceive different religions, so he gives an explanation on how any religious being should take in religions:
I know a woman here in Toronto who is very dear to my
heart…. Though she has lived in Toronto for over thirty years,
her French-speaking mind still slips on occasion on the understanding
of English sounds. And so, when she first heard of Hare Krishnas,
she didn’t hear right. She heard “Hairless Christians”, and that is
what they were to her for many years. When I corrected her, I told her
that in fact she was not so wrong; that Hindus, in their capacity for love,
are indeed hairless Christians, just as Muslims, in the way they see
God in everything, are bearded Hindus, and Christians, in their devotion
to God, are hat-wearing Muslims. (1.16. 28)
In this quotation Pi is talking about how her friend mis-heard a Hindu phrase “Hare Krishna” referring to Krishna the supreme god of his own right and 8th reincarnation of lord Vishnu. Pi’s friend talks about how she heard hairless Christians and that is what she assumed was being said. Pi uses what she says and instead of bickering on about how that offends Pi’s religion and why Hinduism is better than Christianity, he goes into detail explaining to her that she is not wrong as in the end everyone is praying to god, no matter what those devotees call him or what those adherent’s call themselves. This made a positive impact on her as Pi did not engage in a verbal argument but Pi also is Christian which helps her see Pi’s explanation through the same eyes Pi does. Regardless of what Pi says, this quotation shows how Pi can look past the differences of religion and gods others pray to leave a positive impact to everyone who is not Hindu. Christianity has helped Pi by giving him the virtue of patience, instead of getting offended mid-sentence Pi has the patience learned by Christianity to stop and consider her point before getting offended. It has also affected Pi positively by loving others since Jesus died protecting people who did not deserve to live, his light of love has struck Pi helping him spread love, mercy and justice to those around him even if they do not deserve it.
Hinduism is the diverse family of devotional and ascetic cults and philosophical schools, these schools all share a belief on reincarnation and worshiping one or more of a larger pantheon of gods and goddesses. This includes Vishnu, Shiva, Brahma, Kali Durga, Parvati and Ganesh. Hindu society was originally based upon a caste system. Hinduism is shown in Life of Pi as the first religion worshipped by Pi when he was young, this results in Pi knowing a lot more about this religion comparatively to the others. In India Pi’s aunt forces his mother to drag Pi out into a Hindu temple to learn his culture, because of this Pi claims even if it was long ago that he is still able to remember each memory of his Hindu practice, “I have no conscious memory of this first go-around in a temple, but some smell of incense, some play of light and shadow, some flame, some burst of colour, something of the sultriness and mystery of the place must have stayed with me” (1.16. 27). In this quotation Pi explains his pleasant experience at his first go-around in a temple, this makes Pi even more curious of the religion everyone around him prays. Making Pi consistently attend pooja’s with his family makes him even more passionate about Hinduism; in fact every pooja he attends he finds himself wanting to learn more about the religion than he did before. In the following quotation Pi clarifies why he still decides to follow Hinduism instead of leaving it behind and evolving into another religion.
This quotation talks about every process before starting Hindu prayers for the gods, from the flames of an aarti lamp, to ringing bells to announce one’s presence to the almighty. Pi expresses his love for his religion by emphasizing his devotion for every step before praying and how these steps provide him with the joy and faith that he is protected whilst praying. This is because the gods in Hinduism do not have any weaknesses or negative portrayals, Hindu gods symbolize love, passion and strength. This leaves Pi with a positive impact as it provides him the confidence and faith to face any challenge that lies ahead. In the quotation Pi references the “flames of arati lamps circling in the darkness”, Pi is referring to the darkness in everyone’s heart. In Hinduism lighting an aarti lamp is not to just provide light for anyone to see, it is commonly believed to cleanse one’s soul spreading peace and prosperity to everyone’s heart. Thus, making a positive impact by burning the darkness in everyone’s heart. Pi could be implying that in his youthful days he had some darkness hidden inside of him before he visited the temples, but after having consistently gone to the temple and witnessing the aarti light up it burned the darkness in his heart solely leaving positivity behind. Pi also talks about “bhajans being sweetly sung”, Pi mentions this because bhajans are devotional songs sung towards the gods above. In Hinduism it is a belief that once an individual listens to a bhajan, that person will eventually understand the true meaning behind each word helping him or her. This helps him or her by cleansing anyone’s mind of all negative thoughts/feelings toward anyone or anything, helping society become more positive with every decision made in the future. Bhajans also are for kids attending school helping them grasp more information to help them understand the content taught to them. Pi could be implying that the bhajans had helped him remove the negative thoughts hidden deep in his head such as doubt and fear, and those bhajans could have helped Pi by removing those negative aspects in his brain. Pi mentions another detail important to Hindu culture and that is “baskets of yellow turmeric nuggets”, turmeric more commonly known in India as haldi, is a sacred tradition that takes place in temples. This tradition is more commonly used in marriages as Hindu’s prefer getting married at a temple. Haldi can also be used on anyone at a temple but it is less common, haldi is used to apply on anyone’s body to purify their skin or to cleanse their soul so that person can be happy their whole life. In marriages it is put on the bride and groom as a sign to bless them for a lifetime of joy and happiness, while making their bond stronger in hopes for a healthy marriage. It also is for cleansing their soul, but this leaves anyone with a positive impact by helping them feel reborn by removing the negativity out of their bodies and replacing it with positivity. Pi could be implying that he had haldi applied on him which could have helped him be reborn into a brand new positive person.
Islam is acceptance and obedience to the teachings of god which was revealed to his last prophet Muhammad. Islam translated from Arabic to English means submission to god. In Islam there are 5 principles that one should follow; there is Salah which is the 5 daily prayers, Tawhid which is the belief in the oneness of god, Hajj which is the pilgrimage to Mecca, Zakat which is donating to charity and lastly there is Saum which is the fasting in the month of Ramadan. Pi first was skeptical of Islam as he grew up in a Hindu household and had heard many bad things towards Islam due to the hostility between the two nations. Pi learned the truth about Islam when he was exploring his hometown and found Mr. Kumar selling bread , then stopping midday to pray. Pi assumes Islam is nothing but an exercise: “Why, Islam is nothing but an easy sort of exercise, I thought. Hot-weather yoga for the Bedouins. Asanas without sweat, heaven without strain” (1.18. 34). Pi underestimates Islam here jokingly by calling it a daily routine that anyone could do for exercise, Pi eventually realizes his mistake and learns about passion and belief the more he meets with Mr. Kumar. After Pi learns the principles of faith in Islam he can’t help but follow Islam just like Hinduism and Catholicism. Pi truly understands Islam and the true meaning behind it: “I challenge anyone to understand Islam, its spirit, and not to love it. It is a beautiful religion of brotherhood and devotion” (1.19. 34). Pi has finally understood Islam and that it is not just an exercise or daily routine, it is a religion of brotherhood and devotion to god. Pi also talks about Islam’s and his favourite colour: “Green is a lovely colour. It is the colour of Islam. It is my favourite colour” (2.92. 141). This is important information because Muslims believe home and safety is represented by green, This religion has impacted Pi positively because Pi started off disliking Islam as Hinduism and Islamism are opposites and do not normally get along, but after experiencing Islam Pi has realized that Islam is actually about devotion and a brotherhood helping him get even closer to god with the help of the religion of peace. Islam has also given Pi a different angle to view the world from by focusing on the positive and disregarding the negative, while not letting others corrupt your mind to believing false facts about a certain religion.
To conclude in Yann Martel’s Life of Pi a positive impact is shown through a civilization or just one person by religion. Christianity has impacted Pi’s life by affecting Pi positively by loving others since Jesus died protecting people who did not deserve to live, his light of love has struck Pi helping him spread love, mercy and justice to those around him even if they do not deserve it. Also by giving him a trait of patience. Hinduism has impacted Pi’s life by positively cleansing his mind, body and soul removing all darkness inside him and replacing it with a shining light. Islam is shown in Life of Pi as a joke to Pi since he believes it is just a routine every day almost like working out. He realizes that Islam is more than just a daily routine, it is a beautiful religion that is about brotherhood and devotion. This makes a positive impact on Pi’s life since it helps Pi understand that he was wrong and should never judge a religion by how it looks and what others tell him about it. Mankind has always had a tendency to follow religion throughout history, religion has always been there to prevent wars and cause peace throughout the world. Religion not only enforces structure and morality within a community, but provides a glimmer of hope for society that despite the hardships one goes through, one is never alone in the world. [idk more]
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