Thursday, June 21, 2012
A moving experience of religious communion
When the daughter says so, I must. Well this time she beseeched me to pray for her, typically outsourcing all prayer to me, while she does all other things that make her happy. When i enquired into her strategy, she explained in typical Bschool parlance "it would be highly inefficient for you Amma to edit my calculus just as it would be for Appa to edit my essays. And so with prayer- it is much more efficient done by you Amma, than by me. There is much technique to prayer and you optimize better than I do". Ridiculous as this sounds, I buy her argument only because I thrive on the feelings prayer dredges up. For starters I love the paganistic appeal of our religious rituals, the smell and look of our temples with their ash, vermillion, incense, flowers and oil lamps. But most of all I love the religious communion with people at different stages in their lives as they purposefully saunter in and out of temples at all hours of the day, seeking divine grace. This morning when the daughter bid me to pray, I took my mission seriously and walked to the Shirdi Sai Baba Mandir in crowded Mylapore on it's most auspicious day, Thursay ( of importance to our spiritual teachers). At 6 am there were already 500 people crowding the main hall waiting in an expectant hush for the door to open and the deity to be revealed. There was a chant and loud music on the nagaswaram rising to a crescendo in anticipation of a climactic moment. After a 20 minute wait the door opened with much ceremonial clanging of the bells, the large oil lamp was held up to the deity's face and there was much religious fervor expressed. I was moved by the sheer power of this mass appeal to something incomprehensible and humbling. As I walked the precinct and observed the symbols of Jesus lit with candles, that of Allah similarly venerated and all the indicia of Hindu worship as well, I sobbed uncontrollably experiencing a deep sense of religious communion with all my fellow human beings and immense gratitude for whatever had brought me to this place at this time, besides, of course, my little girl!