Religion in Yann Martel's Life of Pi

The central theme of Yann Mattel’s Life of Pi concerns religion and human faith in God. Pi has studied and memorized the stories of all the various incarnations of the Hindu gods, maintaining shrines in his home to many of them. He also possesses a crucifix and a rosary, going to church on Sundays and prays to Jesus. Lastly, he owns and proudly uses a prayer rug, observing the call to prayer several times a day as a devoted Muslim.

Pi tries to find the meaning of life by combining the world’s three major religions: Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Pi was first introduced to God as a Hindu, by his parents, Pi was born into a Hindu family, although neither of his parents practiced it, Hinduism was the first religion that Pi grew up with, and because of that, Pi knows the religion very well. Hinduism opened his heart to the idea of spirituality and gave him a sense of belonging.

Pi said ”I owe to Hinduism the original landscape of my religious imagination, those towns and rivers, battlefields and forests, holy mountains and deep seas where gods, saints, villains, and ordinary people rub shoulders, and, in doing so, define who and why we are.” Throughout the story, he references simple facts or stories that Hindus know well. One example of this is when Pi talks about how he wishes he had as many arms as one of the gods in Hinduism. He also recalled the story about a man falling out of Vishnu’s mouth into the entirety of the universe, This story allowed him to realize how minuscule and meaningless his suffering seemed while on the boat at sea.

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Pi was always amazed with the culture of Hindu beliefs and values, as well as their behaviors in temples and other holy places. “it is my heart that commands me so, I fell at home in a Hindu temple. Another Hindu belief is vegetarianism.

Although Pi does not specifically say this, I believe that his families choice to be vegetarian is because of his Hindu beliefs, While at sea, Pi struggles from the beginning to maintain this lifestyle, “A life of peaceful vegetarianism stood between me and the willful beheading of a fish, The flying fish was dead, I was sixteen years old and I am now a killer. I never forget to include this fish in my prayers”. Pi is constantly talking about how savage he is when he eats meat in order to survive out at sea, so his vegetarianism is clearly a very strong Hindu influence while he is trying to survive, At the age of 14, Pi is introduced to Jesus Christ and Christianity while on a family trip to Munnar. While at a tea plantation, Pi stumbles upon a church and is fascinated with the Story of Christ. “I was fourteen years old — and a well-content Hindu on a holiday — when I met Jesus Christ”  Through Father Martin, Pi is informed of the story of Jesus Christ, and it entices him.

As he learns about Christ and how this Christian god suffered and died out of love for his creation, he initially doesn’t understand why a god would suffer. He believes that is the role of mortals, but the very questions he asks lead him to the beauty of Christianity Pi isn’t directly influenced by Christianity However his Christian beliefs assist him in the lifeboat. He truly learns how to suffer, and that suffering can have a touch of the divine in it. He was comforted that even Christ suffered on the cross, and knew that everything would be okay even if he didn’t survive. The faith of being saved from eternal damnation also comforted him. Pi had several low points in the lifeboat, but he also had a sanctified example to follow. Suffering becomes a pan of him, like an appendage or a beautiful deformity. It is especially noticeable in the chapters set in Canada.

The author interviews a quiet, almost withdrawn, Pi, as if he’s closed off access to these memories of suffering “The essence of the whole idea of positive change is that you accept the trauma as a part of who you are and cherish the positive change you have seen in yourself after it If we consider trauma can make you fall into pieces, it’s not about trying to put all the pieces back in the same way but in a new way.”  I believe this is what happened to Pi, the trauma he experienced in the lifeboat changed his perspective on life and the value of it. The suffering he experienced benefitted him and as a result made him stronger. It is when things are most intense it is journey, as Pi is struggling to survive through storms and hunger that he begins to pray to God, “I was giving up I would have given up — if a voice hadn’t made itself heard in my heart. The voice said, I will not die. I refuse it. I will make it through this nightmare I will beat the odds, as great as they are. I have survived so far, miraculously. Now I will turn miracle into routine. The amazing will be seen every day. I will put in all the hard work necessary Yes, so long as God is with me, I will not die Amenr”.

He uses his strong faith to allow him to push through these low points and gives him a will to survive His suffering is temporarily paused when he catches a fish and Pi realizes the power of God and divine intervention by giving thanks, On a literal level, each of Pi’s three religions, Hinduism, Christianity, and Islam, come with its own set of tales and fables, which are used to spread the teachings and illustrate the beliefs of the faith Pi enjoys the wealth of stories, but he also senses that, as Father Martin assured him was true of Christianity, each of these stories might simply be aspects of a greater, universal story about love, Only a year later, Pi is introduced to the third religion; Islamic. Throughout his voyage, Pi’s prayers kept him sane and he admits to practicing Islamic beliefs while stranded. Islam influenced Pi most through its requirement to pray five times per day.

Before Pi is shipwrecked, he spends a great deal of time talking about how much he loves his prayer rug and how he adores the place in his yard where he praysi He says; “I loved my prayer rugi.,it was a good prayer rug because it helped me remember that the earth is the creation of God and sacred the same all over. The pattern, in gold lines upon a background of red, was plain: a narrow rectangle with a triangular peak at one extremity to indicate the qibla, the direction of prayer, and little curlicues floating around it, like wisps of smoke or accents from a strange language. The pile was soft, when i prayed, the short, unknotted tassels were inches from the tip of my forehead at one end of the carpet and inches from the tip of my toes at the other, a cozy size to make you feel at home anywhere upon this vast earths”.

The connection he feels while praying with his head to the floor, is a deep religious contact that he treasures and appreciates He feels a genuine connection with Allah in the mosque, in this pose while reciting the names of God. Pi states “The mosque was truly an open construction, to God and to breeze. We sat cross legged listening to the imam until the time came to pray Then the random pattern of sitters disappeared as we stood and arranged ourselves shoulder to shoulder in rows, every space ahead being filled by someone from behind until every line was solid and we were row after row of worshipers. it felt good to bring my forehead to the ground. immediately it felt like a deeply religious contact”. When he is lost at sea, Pi doesn’t know what to do without his prayer rug, Islam influences him after the shipwreck because Pi continues to pray multiple times per day. Islamism is known as the religion of brotherhood and devotion, “The Muslim Brotherhood is not simply a religion, but a way of life.” (Jones and Cullinane, CNN)

The name itself coming from the root word of “peace”, Muslims come together and share in their spirituality in an accepting and peaceful manner. Islamic beliefs allowed Pi to know he needed to coexist with Richard Parker if he wanted to survive The interpretation is that Islam believes that all creatures are one entity, and therefore Pi had no choice but to learn to survive with Richard Parker, despite their major differences Pi is exceptional in the fact that he is able to overcome the stereotypical boundaries and have a belief in three separate religions that tend not to like one another. The equilibrium Pi has found with his religions is almost nonexistent because of the unaccepting and strong opinionated beliefs many people have in this day and age.

Muslims are purely Muslim and Christians are purely Christian, there are not many in—betweensi Pi does not follow one specific religion or put one before another because he embraces each religion in a way that accentuates faith. His faith is shaped mainly by his different worship experiences and the time he spent on the raft. He maintains his religious beliefs while on the lifeboat through his daily prayers, fundamentally leading to his survival he was able to somewhat maintain the religious lifestyle he had prior to the sinking of the Tsimtsum, giving him a constant during his suffering Truly, Pi’s religious faith remained strong throughout his journey and assisted him in his survival on the Pacific Ocean.

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Religion in Yann Martel's Life of Pi. (2023, Apr 10). Retrieved from

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