Dark Side of ‘Mata, Pita, Devo Bhava’

Once upon a time there was a little girl who learnt very early on (it was part of her culture) a phrase called ‘Mata, Pita, Devo Bhava’. Now I (who am turning 40) am no authority on scriptures to understand or interpret the true meaning of this phrase, and neither was this little girl at the tender age of 5. She simply interpreted it to herself as, ‘My Mother and Father are my Gods’. Her parents were amazingly humble and genial people by the way who never ever proclaimed themselves to be ‘Gods’. She picked up this phrase from school and from stories that were based on some of the Indian Epics. This little girl was a very sincere student, always eager to learn and she took this phrase to heart. She created a frame (or mental model) of ‘God’ in her mind and everytime she thought of her parents she processed it through this frame.

Now you might think that this would have been a benign and harmless frame for her to have held in her head, especially since her parents were actually very nice people who always tried to help and support her. However, this frame (that got firmly ingrained in her subconscious) got the girl into all sorts of problems in her later years.

The frames we create in our minds (and the related scripts) form the basis on which we create new thoughts and beliefs and also process the incidents and events in our lives. This little girl had an unbelievable fondness (and obsession) for what she had created as her construct of ‘God’. To her, God was her creator, a loving omnipotent and omnipresent and omnipowerful entity who knew and understood everything, who could never be (or do) any wrong, and who could be endlessly called upon for any kind of help or support. God was someone you could turn to no matter where you were, what your condition was, and how badly you might have messed up. God was infinite power, infinite kindness and infinite energy and God would never say no to helping you. God always knew what was best for you and best for everyone else and you could simply surrender your problems to God and trust that everything would work out according to the divine plan. Most of these beliefs and scripts about God served this young lady pretty well as she was growing up. They gave her a strong anchor to turn to and a faith that kept her alive at times when everything else in her world felt like it was crumbling. However, the combination of her beliefs about God, and the deeply rooted script of ‘Mata, Pita, Devo Bhava’ created some really convoluted traps for her (many of which she is only now being able to identify and unravel and untangle from her unconscious mind). Let’s explore two specific examples.

Example 1)
Combine the idea of ‘Mata, Pita, Devo Bhava’ with ‘God is always Right’.

This combination script is deadly enough to drive any person nuts. This girl’s parents were just normal human beings with their own sets of beliefs, ideas, assumptions, and fears. However, led by this combination script, the little girl would interpret everything her parents said or did as ‘right’. Because of this, each time when there was a difference of opinion between the two parents, or if one or both parents changed their mind about some issue (which they definitely had a right to), her mind would go into a panic of ‘right versus right dilemma’ which has no exit!. Even worse, every time her parents said or did something that went against her own inner knowing (or what her instinctual preference was) she quickly made herself ‘wrong’ so that she could uphold the fundamental script (belief) of ‘my parents are always right’.

This combination script also led her to aim to operate within a reality that was tightly constrained to lie within the intersection of what was ‘right’ according to each of her parents. Being a free-spirited girl, she often failed to stay within these boundaries and each time her being (or her actions) fell outside this boundary of ‘right’, she made herself ‘wrong’. She scolded herself internally and piled on yet another layer of self-reprimanding and guilt.

As the little girl grew older her own personality took wings and she felt like she was constantly at war with a part of herself that was internally scolding her and asking her to stay within the boundary of ‘right’ that she had scripted for herself based on her observations of her parents. She found these boundaries constraining, and even limiting her growth, expression, enjoyment of life, and ability to contribute to others. Since she could trace these boundaries vaguely to her parents values, beliefs and fears, she somehow started viewing her parents as her jailors and started building resentment towards them. But each time she became aware of the resentment, she would immediately scold herself, and make herself wrong yet again for harbouring resentment towards the two people who had been nicest and kindest to her in her whole life.

The irony of this drama was that her parents had never ever ‘forced’ their beliefs upon her or ever emphasized that they were right and she was wrong. They had been fairly liberal and understanding and had mostly allowed her to make her own decisions and choices. It was in her own head that she had created the limiting boundaries and the accompanying drama, by first ascribing to her parents a ‘God Status’ and then operating from her other favorite belief that ‘God could never be wrong’.

The last manifestation of this combination script has been that she was giving her parents a zero margin of making any errors or mistakes. She was expecting them to be right and perfect in every way and at every time. This is a really harsh expectation to have of anybody and it showed up in her behaviour as an unkindness towards her parents, and an intolerance of any failures on their part, all of which she has only started becoming aware of.
Example 2)
Combine the idea of ‘Mata, Pita, Devo Bhava’ with ‘God is Infinite energy and Power and can be Endlessly be called upon for help’.

Even just looking at this combination script fills me with compassion for the parents. It is one thing to hold an abstract concept of ‘God’ and give all your problems and worries over to Him or Her, but quite another thing to do that to real human beings who are already coping with their own share of worries, problems, and anxieties. For this little girl, it just never occurred to her that she might have been burdening her parents with her own worries and problems. In her mind they were magical super-beings, Gods and Goddesses who could deal with anything and so she would turn to them without blinking an eye every time she needed help or support. In fact she even ‘expected them’ to solve her problems for her and if her problems did not get solved then of course the easiest people to blame would be her parents.

Clearly, this was unhealthy both for her and her parents. She increasingly began to hold them responsible for her own happiness and sorrows, success and failures, absolving herself more and more of taking responsibility for her own life experiences and emotions. The parents too, over time began to get fatigued by her over-reliance on them (especially emotionally), but still they tried to be there for her no matter what.

The irony here, again is that she was not a mean girl at all. With everyone else she was usually compassionate and used to go out of the way to help and support others. She hated being a burden on anyone else, and she usually took care to give and contribute to people, animals, and other beings around her. However, with her parents she was just a different person. In her interactions with them she felt free to simply demand and ask for help and support – anytime and anyplace – and she did it from a place of innocence (not exploitation). In her mind they were infinite reservoirs of energy – just like God!

The truth however, was that her parents were human, and they would get tired, and there were times they had to say ‘no’, and there were times they could not give her what she wanted. At these times again she started to internally build resentment against them and blame all her problems on her parents. But then again she would feel bad for feeling resentful towards the very two people who had actually been contributing the most to her life.

This is a very sad example of how there was resentment building between two parties, where both sides were wonderful people. One side (the parents) were two amazingly generous and helpful people who just keep giving. However, the other side (the little girl – though now grown), had a subconscious expectation that they ‘should’ always be there for her and that they had infinite energy and powers because she had equated them with ‘God’. Because this was a combination of two subconscious scripts, she was not even aware that she was processing her interactions with her parents through these frames.

As you might have guessed by now, the little girl was me and the two amazing people who have not given up on me despite my inhuman demands and expectations of them are my parents. Today when I meet them and I will relieve them of the ‘God Status’ I had given them when I was a little girl and I will befriend them again as two amazingly gorgeous, kind, lovable, generous, supportive, interesting, fun-loving, and inspiring people I have been fortunate enough to have shared so many years with. I do not know the wisdom behind, ‘Mata, Pita, Devo Bhava’, and I might have misinterpreted the whole idea but clearly I’d like to dissolve that frame now. I want to give my parents the permission to be human, and to fail, to make mistakes, to falter and to be wrong at times, just like the rest of us. I know that I will love them and care for them whether or not they are super beings and Gods.

Mata Pita Photo

Published by Ramya Ranganathan

My identity is crafted around four Ps - Poetess-Philosopher-Parent-Professor. You can read more about my journey here (http://craftingourlives.com/ramya/)

%d bloggers like this: