Caveat: This piece of writing is purely the personal view of the writer; not to be judgmental.
I am not quite sure how to call myself now; pious, agnostic or atheist.
I passed and had been passing through all these stages; probably, every individual will. I was brought up in an atmosphere where I had to get up to the loud chanting of several slokas by my very pious mother. So even, if I haven’t given much attention, by constantly hearing to her, I caught up several slokas like Ganseha Pancharatanm, Annapoornashtakam, Meenakshi Pancharatnam, Subrahmanya Bhujangam to name a few.
After becoming an adult and an independent thinking individual, I was very impressed with the Venkatesa Suprabhatham and Vishnu Sahasranamam of MS Subbulakshmi. I just wanted to learn it because of their tongue twisting verses in Sanskrit. I started playing the CD one day every week and started chanting with the singer. Yes. In the course of time, I became quite conversant with the verses of both Suprabhatham and Sahasranamam. So the (in)direct guru was MS Amma.
After a point I didn't need the support and I myself was able to recite them with the book and after some more time it automatically sunk into me.
Nevertheless, I reached a point when I started wondering what in return I get out of it. Great satisfaction or pleasure or expecting something from the God that he will listen to my chanting and answer my prayers? When I started the exercise, it was only for myself to recite them because I felt that these slokas sounded as sonorous as music. Anyone can sing irrespective of a good voice or not, for their own satisfaction. So I was satisfied at one point that ‘even’ I could ‘recite’ the tongue twisting poetry of eons. Venkatesa Prapatti was tougher than Suprabhatam; In Vishnu Sahasranamam struggled to repeat especially the starting of the Pala Sruti and 'SasurAsura gandharvam sayakshoraga rAkshasam'; but after a point I could. I didn't ask anything from God in return and he too didn't offer anything special; because I did these purely for my own pleasure or satisifaction.
Now, I don’t recite them as I was doing earlier; but, I could pick up the slokas thread whenever I hear them somewhere and my memory helps to continue it within me for a while; like my favorite song of one time, some Tamil verses and Thirukkural taught in the school to memorize, some mathematical formulae, chemistry or physics equations studied in the college, engineering terminologies I learnt and used in my profession. True. All these gave me ‘Happiness’ to my mind at those points of time.
It is well known that Happiness is the State of Mind. However, MY Mind keeps changing.
Post Script: That pencil sketch of young MSS is done by me.