“Acceptance of the Vedas with reverence; recognition of the fact that the means or ways to salvation are diverse; and the realization of the truth that the number of gods to be worshiped is large, that indeed is the distinguishing feature of the Hindu religion.” B.G. Tilak’s definition of what makes one a basic Hindu, as quoted by India’s Supreme Court.
I went to the Hindu temple in Glasgow recently (the one at Partick). It is mainly frequented by south-Indians, the chairman and majority of the members being so. I have not traveled the south of India extensively and have just been to one temple in Karnataka. I have had a few south Indian friends, but religion and prayers were strictly personal or something to do with home. The intent behind saying this is that I was not used to seeing how they pray, with the complete understanding that they may do it differently.
This experience however made me feel sick being in a temple for the first time. I am not an overly religious person, and I strictly go to temples only when I feel it strongly. After the initial prayers, we were to queue for amrit, and when I reached, I instinctively sipped it and put it on my head, I mean I hope I can get across the picture! And immediately the pandit refused to put the topi (some topi they had to put on everyone’s head as a blessing!) on my head, cos they don’t put the hand to their head like I did. I was like whatever! I didn’t know the reasons for either (I don’t know if he did too!).
Moving on, the chairman began speaking. Since this was immediately after the bombings in Bombay, quite a few religious leaders (Asians) have been interviewed by BBC, and Mr Chairman was interviewed too, so of course we had to listen to the crap he had said on BBC. What was astounding was that standing in a temple, he actually had the nerve of telling everyone that Hindus don’t like being called Asians, and they have a separate identity and all that crap, which basically meant that we are not Muslims, we don’t bomb!!
Thing is it’s not a question of pro-Hindu/ Muslim but I couldn’t understand the reason for saying such things in a temple! Being Hindu definitely doesn’t entail the right of denouncing every other religion. It infact defies the basic principle of being a Hindu.
I am not a religious leader, not even a priest. I rarely go to a temple. But I know this from within.
The chairman continued, you should get your children, grand children, great grand children to come here and learn Telugu, Tamil, Malayalam and Kannada. They need to know their culture and language to be Hindu. He throttled it down everyone. I have no qualms with the language bit, but not knowing those languages doesn’t make me any less of a Hindu! And I honestly felt like going up and telling him that he should rechristen it the South Indian Hindu temple in that case.
It is a very big religion and a lot of people follow it through the length and breadth of India. It has been alive for thousands of years. Restricting it with a language and bringing up the thought process that we are good cos the others are bad, is a horrendous philosophy. And speaking so in a temple, you are just insulting anything and everything you worship.
I went to a Cathedral yesterday. I prayed in silence. I didn’t matter whether I was Christian or Hindu. It didn’t matter whether I was from Italy or Scotland. It felt peaceful.
I wish someday the religious leaders we have can understand that that’s all there is to it. Pray. Peace. Fulfillment.