Rituals - My tryst with India
by Glen P. Kezwer
Religion and spirituality are both intrinsic to Indian life and culture. Every Indian home is adorned with a puja ghar (shrine) containing pictures of Lord Krishna, Shri Ganesh, Shiva, the Goddess Lakshmi, Saraswati, or other deities, garlanded with a mala, surrounded by diyas and incense. It is here that people would stop for a pranaam (devotional greetings) to the god or goddess, ring the bell and sit with their eyes closed and hands folded for a few minutes every day. For the worshipper, this aspect of Indian culture serves as a constant reminder that behind the material forms which constitute their daily world is an unchanging consciousness that permeates everything.
I myself am not of Indian origin. I was born and raised in Canada, but have been visiting this country regularly for more than 20 years. In this time, India has worked its way into my being. I have traveled her highways and byways from Kerala and Tamil Nadu to Kashmir and Himachal Pradesh. I have visited her temples, colleges, universities, cultural institutions, and government offices and many homes. I have been nourished by her wholesome dal, subji and roti. I have been welcomed and treated as the godly guest in the most humble mud houses and the most grandiose mansions. I have sat in meditation in her majestic temples, lectured at her institutions and universities, and waited in queues at the bank, train stations, government offices and petrol stations. I have felt the warmth of her sunshine, been refreshed by her rain and breathed the air of this enchanting nation.
My experiences in India have been diverse. I have been awed by the beauty of the dawning of a new year in a farmer‘s field, south of Delhi. I have been greeted by the first rays of the sun, as I sat in a crowded motor rickshaw on a cold winter morning in Farrukhabad. I have sat on a rough bench in a beautiful garden in Bhind and been dazzled by the heartfelt tales of a venerable freedom fighter. I watched the delighted look on the faces of Gandhian workers as I spoke of meditation and highest awareness at the Mahatma‘s ashram in Wardha. I have had similar experiences when speaking to the senior officers at the National Police Academy in Hyderabad, science students at a college in Delhi, and intellectuals gathered at the India International Center also in Delhi.
And everywhere, in every experience, I have known India‘s unique, essential spirituality. It is built into the very fabric of this nation. Where else could you find a city like Ayodhya, which is home to 6,000 temples? In what other country could you find holy communities like Rishikesh and Benares, dedicated to the worship of the highest, where meat and alcohol are not to be found? Where else could you watch the evening news on the national television network, and find the words Satyam, Shivam, Sundaram-- Truth, Consciousness and Beauty-etched on the screen behind the news reader? In what other country would the name of the national radio network be Aakaashvaani-the Voice of the Heavens?
Where else would you find establishments with names such as ‘Krishna Dry Cleaners‘, ‘Laxmi Eye Clinic‘ and ‘Ram Silk Store‘? Where else would vehicles stop on the highway at a temple to take the blessings of the goddess for a successful journey? Visit an Indian home and there is a good chance you will find on the wall a poster with a picture of Krishna and Arjun on their chariot. Under the poster will be Krishna‘s immortal words:
Yadaa yadaa hi dharmasya glaanirbhavati bhaarat
abhyutthaanamadharmasya tadaatmaanam srijaamyaham
i.e., ‘‘Whenever dharma, the knowledge of Oneness, declines, adharma, the sense of duality increases. It becomes so powerful that pain and suffering begin to arise everywhere. At that time, in order to revive the sense of Oneness, I, the Pure Consciousness, manifest Myself in the form of a body and carry that Knowledge with Me.‘‘
Indian currency notes bear the motto Satyamayv Jayatay meaning ‘‘Truth alone prevails‘‘, a phrase which brings to mind the unique truth which is the underlying reality behind all material existence. This is India‘s essential spiritual message, and this truth permeates every aspect of Indian life. Two incidents illustrate what I mean.
I was once in the office of the Registrar of the High Court of Himachal Pradesh. I sat there for over an hour and watched as he was being harangued by countless lawyers and applicants pressing him to present their cases to the court as soon as possible. I noticed that throughout all that, he maintained a calmness and fairness to everyone, whereas anyone else would have been agitated or annoyed. During a break I asked him what the secret was to his unruffled attitude. He smiled, and then pointing to a picture of Lord Krishna on his desk, said: ‘‘I know that he is doing everything.‘‘
On another occasion I had been invited to give a talk at a temple in Bhind, where my message was that one‘s true nature is immortal and blissful. After the talk was over, I was surprised to find a long queue of people waiting to come and greet me personally. I was deeply moved by this gesture as it clearly showed that to these people it did not matter that I was not Indian, but I had spoken of the knowledge of their land and they wanted to respect that.
From times immemorial, India‘s message has been promulgated by her saints, sages, gurus and rishis and transmitted by them to those who were desirous of knowing the truth. The essence of their message is simple: Behind the eyes of every living being on earth there shines a light which is the same in all beings. This light is immortal, blissful, eternal and indestructible. It is the light of consciousness which makes each and every one of us alive and alert and gives us the power to breathe. The following words are written in Chapter II, Verse 30 of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita:
dayhee nityamavadhyoayam dayhay sarvasya bhaarat
i.e., ‘‘the spirit which dwells within the body is eternal and indestructible. It dwells in the bodies of all, and is therefore the selfsame spirit in every living human being or creature.‘‘ This spirit, which can also be called Atman or Self, is the true nature of all. It is indivisible, being one and one alone, and is the unchanging reality behind the changing world which we experience every day through our senses. To know or realize this Self is the quest of every spiritual seeker throughout history, and the means to achieve this loftiest of goals can be found in the spiritual heritage of India.
(Glen Kezwer is the author of Meditation, Oneness and Physics, Sterling Publishers, New Delhi, email: firstname.lastname@example.org)
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