They, God fearing, believe you get an audience with God only if you are destined, and destiny is God’s sweet will. So simply said, you see God’s physical manifestation on earth, if and only if, S/He wants it. By God’s physical manifestation I mean certain select temples, mosques, churches or religious ceremonies.
I am a God loving person not motivated enough to visit God’s physical manifestation on earth, though most are easily accessible. Because: I respect God and believe S/He knows all, is everywhere, one place can't be more sacred than the other. Just by spending (lot of) money (this is not to discount the fact that most of the charity happens in the name of religion) and bearing enormous physical discomfiture, S/He is not going get impressed to shower out of turn booty that was otherwise suppose to go to a neighbour.
But religion is not about logic. In fact religion starts where the logic ends. But I am not going to shed logic so easily. To me God is there. Notionally S/He guides me, somehow. No. Not just that. That fact that he is there, the presence i feel, like S/He is behind me, standing close, assuring: do what you have to, I am there for you, in good and bad times. Though, I feel God clearer in bad times. "Tum mere paas hote ho goya / Jab koi doosra nahi hota" as great Urdu poet Mohin Khan Momin has said.
I have no qualms in acknowledging something that will not come as surprise for anyone: I am a sinner. I don’t go to any place of worship where people congregate with their long list of grievances. But strangely, I end up time and again doing things ‘supposedly’ in the service of God, by sheer coincidence or thanks to certain circumstance that are unavoidable. I am tempted to believe that I am the preferred one by the God. Or is S/He is teasing me?
Last week, I was made to participate in langar (sacred food service) at a Sai Baba temple in Noida for four hours, reluctantly, that became utter disgust, and then when I reconciled to the fact that things happen because they have to, so i don’t need to try hard to reason out things, in this case, just distribute puris to never ending stream of people, rich and poor, old and young….
I was to accompany my sister to Sai Baba Temple at Sector 62 of Noida where she paid for a langar that fed about a 1,000 people for over four hours. She fooled me by telling that it will just be a ten-minutes affair, and promised me a grand dinner afterwards. I was to look after my niece, who happens to be my sister’s daughter, and my mother, while she will indulge in this profound act of feeding people to thank Sai Baba for something good that happened to her recently. I realised at 6:30 pm that I cannot leave before ten -o’clock. My sister was categorical: “I will not leave till the last person is fed. You can go if you want and don’t create a scene here.” I looked at the entry door, hundreds of devotees were waiting for their turn to enter, made some enquires, it was confirmed to me that it was just a beginning. I was furious at my sister. But she did not budge. I couldn’t have left, for no religious reason, but simply because I couldn’t have left my three years old niece, who was making me run around, in the custody of my 70-years old mother on a cold evening, while my sister merrily distributed halwa-puri. So, I had to stay on in the service of Sai Baba. But, my niece, she is so cute, kind of helped me come over my helplessness about the situation. She asked me a thousand questions, one of them was: “Who is Sai Baba?”
I blame Sai Baba for my predicament. I recited loudly: Jai Sai Ram tumney mughey fassaya! Sham-bhar mughasey puri batvaya (Hail Sai Baba you saddled me here; the whole evening you made me distribute puris). Some of the elderly folks, there perhaps to seek an easy way to salvation, were utterly disgusted to hear me. The younger lot smiled reluctantly, bemused they were, queued up for divine intervention to bring riches and other worldly pleasures in their mundane lives. The poor kids were there in large numbers for immediate divine intervention: food.
This is not the first time that I was graced in this fashion. I was travelling for a story on the Gir Loins to Gujarat some five years ago. I was on an overnight bus from Ahmedabad to Junagarh, was suppose to get off the bus at 5 am. I did not. I woke up at 7 am when the Bus made its final halt near Somnath Temple at the far tip of Gujarat over looking the Arabian Sea. No bus was to return before 9am. So I went to Somnath Temple felt blessed to hear morning chants there. This is the temple that was attacked in 1025 AD, some thousand years now, by an invader Mahmud Ghazni who plundered enormous wealth of the temple. This temple at that time housed over 300 musicians, 500 dancing girls and 300 barbers to shave the heads of pilgrims. Ghazni carried the booty on hundreds of elephant or camel or horses I am not sure. But what I am sure is that enormous wealth was plundered and looted.
Somnath Temple now stands with majestic ease overlooking Arabian Sea. The stones inside the temple are smoothened by the bare feet of pilgrims who visit in thousands everyday in trans-devotion. The faith hung thick in the sanctum like a profound smell of purity. I was connected to the temple’s past while mesmerised by its present, and thanked whoever was responsible to get me here.
As a child, I have been to Kedarnath and Badrinath temples with my parents some four times as part of our annual-summer-month-long trip to the Himalayas. I am an undeserving witness to an elaborate ritual held inside the Badrinath temple, with ten Brahmins reciting Vedic mantras while performing Rudra Abhishek (Rudra is Shiva being worshipped in the form of Linga or Lingam while Abhishek, a Hindi word that means 'installed as king' is performed with different articles like flowers, belpatra, milk, coconut water, honey, curd sugarcane juice..and more).
Then I have been to Varanasi’s Kashi Vishwanath temple with my aunt and witnessed a similar ritual. The prime reason to visit Varanasi was to buy sarees for my cousin’s wedding. I landed up in Jagannath Puri, in Orissa, by sheer coincidence was not planned. Reporting for a story took me to Haridwar, where I had company of few sadhus for a couple of days who gave me some useful tips about what is not spirituality (will discuss sometime later). I have been witness to largest congregation of humanity on earth, the Kumbha Mela at Allahabad, takes place ever 12 years, simply because I am a local.
I have had many close encounters in places where God is believed to be more accessible. People are able to make it to these places after lot of trouble; to me it happened by chance, and for some strange reason it keeps happening.
Jai Sai Ram tumney mughey fassaya! Sham-bhar mughasey puri batvaya.