Sunday, December 29, 2013

Visit to a temple

One day we were visiting a temple near our house. It was some occasion, I don't particularly remember. So the place was crowded with people from different paths of life, young, old, locals, some visitors. As soon as we entered the temple, I saw some women filling 'daone' (a sweet that is offered in the name of God and then distributed among the devotees as prasad-basically return gift from temple). I was excited to help too. They were very happy to have another helping hand. So after a quick 'darshan' in the temple, I went and joined the volunteers. What surprised me was none of the people (my friends and relatives) except one came forward and joined me to help. They preferred sitting right in front of the deity seeking blessings.
This bothers me. You are in a temple seeking for blessings or some kind of connection with God. What better way than to offer service? People tend to do things that they have been seeing and doing from childhood. Go to temple, offer flowers, money to God, make promises to offer more money or some goods IF my dreams get fulfilled.
Ok, ok. May be I am being too judgmental. We may not know what people have going in their lives. May be just sitting before the idol brings peace they are looking for. But then I don't see that sincerity in their behavior while in the temple either. They would start gossiping with friends and relatives that they meet, or show off their expensive jewelry or sarees. You can hardly see anyone with eyes closed, calm composure, relaxed. Everyone seems to have a anxious look on their face, as if remembering all the sin they have committed and waiting for God's pardon. The focus is more on, have I completed all the rituals properly? Did I take 1 or 3 turns around the idol. Did I ring the temple bell when I entered. Did I do a saashtaang namaskar (pray bending knees down on the floor, nose touching floor)? Did I get to eat the prasad! Do I have enough to share with my folks back home who are not with me. Did I give enough money to perform some ritual and did the priest say my name correctly before God. Else, God may give blessings to someone else by mistake.
So while I was enjoying talking to the strangers while filling the prasad, the temple bells begin to ring loud, announcing an aarti; basically the time when priest talks to God asking for blessings for people present before him and offers the prasad and distributes it among people. BTW, this is also the time, he goes around with a lighted diya and people make sure they get to touch the diya; otherwise the temple visit will not be complete. Priests collect money (small change) as he carries out this act.
So, as the bells started ringing, people with me left whatever they were doing and ran inside the temple. I had no choice but to follow them. The scene inside the temple was chaotic. There was a big rush, each one trying to get in front so that they can 'see' the idol clearly. My friends and relatives were not behind either. One shouted to the other 'come this way', almost pushing few others along the way.
Here my problem was, how can people not understand that just like how important it is for you to get the 'darshan' and the best spot, so it is for other people too. What if one of your relative cannot stand in front? What if one of your relative cannot touch the diya when the priest comes with the diyas? Don't you see others are humans too and probably God would like some order while prayers are being offered. So let those who got ahead get the best view and be the first to get the prasad. Why this race and fight?
Again this bothers me. No one seem to be considerate of a fellow being. Even at an auspicious place like a temple.
Outside the temple, you can usually see some beggars seeking the temple visitor's kindness and begging for a a few rupees. And usually what is the reaction from the people they get? They are completely ignored or looked at with doubt that these beggars may rob my shoes I left at the door. Very few are kind enough to give some change to them.
Again this bothers me. You can spend hundreds on some rituals and prasad, but cannot spare a little to some needy? I've heard people say that these beggars should not waste their time on easy money but go look for some job and earn money in a more dignified way. But my point is, if you give the same money that you would otherwise offer to the temple, to the beggar instead, will you become poor? Temple has enough money. May be with the money you give to the temple, the God idol will be painted in gold, or worn some expensive jewelry. Why do we need this drama? Why not make use of the money to feed someone who cannot afford a day's meal? May be with the money you give, they will be able to apply for a job.
What is your imagination of God? How do you please and seek God's blessings? Do you question the ways you have been taught? No, then why not? 

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