An uplifting daily fix

What are your thoughts when  you see a place of worship?

  • Devotion and an involuntary prayer.
  • Admiration for the aesthetics of the structure (if it is a grand one).
  • Annoyance at the inconvenience it causes during important festivities and prayer times.
  • The commercialization and corruption associated with it.
  • Fear that it is a hub of fundamentalism.
  • No reaction because it holds no significance in your scheme of things.

You are a devout person if your thoughts are restricted to the first and a lover of the arts if it is the second. (After all, some of the best architecture in the west and in India can be found in places of worship, like churches and temples.) If they are any, or all of the rest, you are part of a small section of the populace. Surprised that this forms just a small section? Just look at the increasing number of people who visit these places and who proudly proclaim their faith. Unlike other religious faiths, Hinduism has no hard and fast rules about going to a temple, and yet we see so many people at any temple, large, small or even a tiny wayside shrine. Not to mention the popularity of spiritual tourism that is being taken up in a big way.

Lotus temple

Lotus Temple: The perfect blend of aesthetics and spirituality

Every morning I see a cross-section of people visit the small temple opposite my building. Just today I was pleasantly surprised to see a young man switch off his mobile as he entered the temple. For, present day youth might go without food but not without their phones, even for a moment! There are others: the young couple on their morning walk, who stop outside the gate to pray; the schoolchildren who run in for a quick darshan; the old man laboriously going round the deity with his walking stick; the mother-daughter duo who sit and pray quietly in one corner of the hall; the young professionals with their laptops slung across their shoulders; the college kids…

A temple serves many purposes: Groups of women assemble to hold bhajan and shloka classes during the day. Some come there for the colony gossip, some, to catch up with friends and for the atmosphere of cultural bonhomie it provides. Some take part in the religious duties with great devotion, cleaning the premises, getting the Prasad ready, and doing sundry other duties.

And then there is yours truly. In fact, I fell in love with this place because of this temple – so close and accessible. If someone had tried to make this the salient feature of a residence while renting a house to me in the past, I would have shrugged and perhaps given a cynical smile. You see, temples and I have never been on comfortable terms. From being a naïve school kid to the cynical teen to the all-knowing adult, who had no use for them, I have traversed the entire gamut of feelings about them.

While we hurried to school, we used to pass a small shrine dedicated to Hanuman. Depending on how late or early we were, we used to go round it, fold our hands and pray for a while or simply close our eyes for a nanosecond and rush on. On other occasions when I accompanied mother to temples, I was more interested in racing my friends who were similarly accompanying their parents.

And one particularly hot summer, during our school vacation, we had made the pilgrimage to Tirupati. As we climbed the Seven Hills and walked the jungle paths, we heard stories of the Deity, sang songs and heard the multitude of voices singing the praises of the Lord. After hours of standing in the serpentine queue, we were ushered into the sanctum sanctorum for the briefest of glimpses of the deity Balaji. I still remember the feeling, on coming face to face with the Lord – it was nothing short of electrifying. And if I can remember the feeling so many decades later, you can imagine the impact it had left on me at that tender age.

Growing up, I went through a phase of bitter cynicism, when I completely stopped visiting temples for the reasons I have listed at the outset. When I did, I picked and chose the ones I would go to, and these were often the smaller shrines and not the big ones which had turned commercial even back then. I liked the ones where I felt a sense of calm and peace – a part of the larger scheme of things and so felt grounded. I didn’t feel the urge to probe the reasons for this feeling. It included churches too, that is, when it was empty and quiet with just a few faithful ones communing with their Maker.

Why, I feel this sense of peace while sitting by the banks of Ganga. I like the times when the pilgrims are few – in the heat of the afternoon, when I have her all to myself as I like being alone with the Divine Presence.  Nature at her pristine best offers peace and serenity no doubt, but somehow, I need a spiritual  connection to find the solace I do. For instance, I loved the Thames, but couldn’t connect to it the way I do to Ganga or Godavari or any other river in our country, which we revere.

There are those who might argue that one need not seek God in temples, and that if He is omnipresent, we should be able to find Him everywhere, but it can’t be denied that places of worship have an invisible but palpable positive force, something I myself had refused to acknowledge for the most part of my adult life.

Consider the distinct shape and structure of these, be they of any religious faith – a Buddhist pagoda, a Hindu temple, a church, a mosque. Have you noticed the tapered structure at the top? This no doubt has something to do with the preservative powers of the pyramidal shape and the fields of energy it generates. If the ancient Egyptians used it to preserve their mummies, would it be any wonder that it can generate a positive energy in a place of worship where the hope and faith of the masses work?

Mosque

Religious structures have a distinct shape — the source of positive energy

It is interesting to note what Architect Norman L. Koonce says about sacred architecture: the goal of sacred architecture is to make “transparent the boundary between matter and mind, flesh and the spirit.”

Little wonder then that in the ongoing tussle between science and faith, the former has time and again had to accept defeat in the face of inexplicable and incontrovertible evidence.  I have heard it said that the prayers get multiplied manifold if offered in a temple. Ample evidences of the miraculous power of prayers and faith – inexplicable medical recoveries and other such events have been chronicled over the years. And once I experienced this power, I have become a convert too.

Mass congregations of the faithful, as the Maha Kumbh, exude this energy, which has been explained beautifully here by my friend Srini.  Likewise, I am sure that if someone were to measure the positive energy coursing through the dargah at Mecca during prayer times every day — when so many millions are sending their faith in that direction — it would come as a revelation.

And so, I rush to the temple every morning with the same eagerness of a child running to the playground or the enthusiasm of a new convert. I feel strangely listless when I am unable to go on some days. I am not sure I would have felt the same way had it not been so close to my house or if it had been a famous and/or commercialised one. But as of now, I have found my daily fix, which provides me with the strength to get through another day…

Images credit:

Lotus Temple: spirittourism.com

Mosque:  www.meteolive3d.com

 

82 comments

  1. Sorry, to have disagree with you. I used to be religious, ie, a Roman Catholic, till I was 25. Now at 62, I remain an atheist, like my hero, Shahid Bhagat Singh.

    Sadly in India as in many parts of the world, Hindu mandirs, Muslim masjids, Christian churches, Sikh gurdwaras, and other places of worship, are slowly and systematically being taken over by fanatics and becoming hubs of fundamentalism. 😦

    The common people, who still have faith in God, flock to such places of worship. But their innocent faith is being grossly abused by fanatics, who are mixing religion and politics.

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    1. Good to see you here after a long time, Joseph M.Pinto. I am sorry to be responding so late. You have not disagreed at all. The post has outlined the various feelings that a place of worship evokes in a person and this feeling is one of them 🙂 I have merely told of my liking them and the reasons why. One of the reasons I go to these places when I can be alone is to avoid such people who are misusing them. My relationship with God is my business and I don’t want anyone dictating to me about how I should worship Him. I will not let someone make me cut off my nose to spite my face. I had shunned the temples for the better part of my life because of blatant commercialism prevalent in them before realising that I was missing something and then found it. Unlike you though, I never became an atheist. Maybe you’d like to read my other post on the subject — Faith and Surrender? It would be nice to get your perspective.

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  2. […] And on that note, I will take your leave, for it is time for my daily fix…. […]

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  3. I am one of those people who likes to visit temples almost everyday. And that part where you wrote that, you saw a young man entering inside a temple after switching off his mobile made me laugh. I too switch off the phone before entering any holy place and now I’ve to make sure that no one is watching this behavior of mine. 🙂 As always a very thoughtful post!!

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    1. I am glad to know that you belong to the group of youngsters who find solace in places of worship. And why should you hide the fact that you switch off the mobile from anyone? It only shows you respect the sanctity of the temple 🙂

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  4. A very profound post, Aunty. In my personal experience, not all thoughts may be mutually exclusive and it might be difficult to pick up just one for the sake of categorization. When I visit a temple, the thoughts crossing my mind vary at different points in time even when the place of worship is still the same.

    I suppose eventually all that we find in temples and shrines are nothing but a reflection of our own spark that resides within our heart. If my mind is tranquil, then even a crowded temple might succeed in evoking emotions of calm in me but if my own mind is disturbed and tensed, then I might find nothing special even on the banks of the serene River Ganga. Of course, I have a strong belief in the power of combined thoughts and the energy fields they create but one certainly can’t ignore the powerful influence of our own thoughts as well that finally help us with the overall experience of the place.

    PS: I know I am very late here, but a visit here after a long time refreshed some very fond memories for me. We all do miss your pearls of wisdom and the ensuing discussions… Sending you big bear tight hugs for now, Take care. 🙂

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    1. Your comment is always welcome, late or early 🙂 And I like your perspective too. It is ultimately our inner thoughts and peace that determine if we find a place of worship restful. Sometimes though, we can connect with our inner self in such places and then the calm descends on our souls and gives us peace. In that sense I envy those crores of devotees who throng the crowded places of worship or even the Ganga during the Kumbh melas.

      Thanks and hugs right back, Arti 🙂 (My blog is having some server problems and doesn’t open and without Vinni around, I am helpless.) hope I will be able to post something soon 🙂

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  5. remo1323 · · Reply

    For me, it would be the first two and an added one, the inconvenience that they don’t allow cameras inside temples. There is so much beauty and they don’t allow us to capture it.

    My childhood home was next to a temple and as a kid, I would spend my evening in the temple compound playing with other kids. As I grew up, the frequency of visiting temples went down, probably only restricted to the times before exams/results when I joined my friends hoping to get some divine blessings.

    These days I visit temples mostly to take pictures. But, one thing has never changed for me. Anytime, I am in a temple compound, I feel a profound calmness. Sitting on the steps of a temple, bathed in the serene environment, the thought process becomes very clear.

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    1. The no camera rule sometimes seems valid, when they are trying to protect the valuable sculptures and costly adornments, but when they apply it to all temples, it becomes irksome. The reason why you must be feeling the connect and calmness in a temple precinct is probably because of the association with your childhood experiences. I saw your photo essay on the church in Bangalore and loved it 🙂

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  6. Weather a temple or being in nature, the important thing is as long as one can find that peace and connection some where or someplace. We all need that. For me it is in nature. I am less distracted by all the decor or people. Not to say the temples and churches can’t be beautiful as well.

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    1. I agree with your observation, Carrie. We need to find that connect and when we do, we should grasp it with gratefulness and relax in the solace it offers.

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  7. I do not have the same urge to rush to a temple or a place of devotion. But many times I experience the calmness and the peace in those places. Many places of worship are truly gorgeous.

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    1. You are right, Otto. I would say that the places choose us as much as we choose them, and that I feel is the grace of the Almighty too, don’t you?

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  8. I am very late on this one, BM. I had been an atheist till I finished college. I would accompany my friends to the Baba temple every Thursday but never went inside. They say Baba has his own ways of pulling his devotees towards him. Now, I say Om Sai Ram without my knowledge. I have never been a temple person. I never visit temples on festivals or other occasions. I love to go there when there is less or no crowd and sit in peace.
    I miss seeing you here. Let me know if you are back..

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    1. Being an atheist has nothing to do with experiencing positive vibes. Many, who claim to be atheists find peace and comfort in places and surroundings other than temples. I am glad that you have found your own space to relax and find solace. I hate crowded temples too. It is too distracting, but envy those faithfuls who find peace even there!

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  9. It is very comforting to find strength and solace in religious practices. And it is a fact that places where lots of people pray simultaneously become a sort of a highway where the divine energy flows freely. I am lost these days unable to find the connection at any particular place of worship but I find great strength in my own spiritual practices in the confines of my own home

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    1. I am a novice in this, Amrita. I ahve gone through the entire gamut of emotions and feelings about these things over the decades. I have my own niche in my home, but the feeling is different in both places — in a temple and my home. So I enjoy both these days. Only I avoid commercialised temples and crowded temples. The only exception is Shirdi.

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  10. Good to see you back Zephyr 🙂 It was habit that was inculcated right from childhood to visit temple and slowly it came willingly as well. i am not a frequent visitor to temple but sometimes when i am too disturbed, I find solace reading scriptures. Though hard to say if I feel that strong connection any where but I do find some calming effect remembering Him at times.

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    1. Though prayers and temples formed part of my childhood too, I rebelled big time as I grew up and grew cynical too. But over the years I found my groove and right not, am enjoying this phase. Who knows about the future? It is best to take things as they come.

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  11. Glad to see you back, Zephyr!

    Historically, temples served many purposes – as a place for a community to congregate, a safe haven in times of uncertainty, etc. Primarily a temple served as a symbolic acknowledgment of a power higher than us, be it the St. Paul’s Cathedral in Rome or the temple of Apollo in Delphi in Greece or the “Big Temple” in Thanjavur or the temple on the street corner. Somewhere along the way we have lost sight of this recognition of divinity and have come to selfishly consider this higher power as nothing more than an entity to call upon in our times of need. There will always be those who negotiate with God, and there will be those who wish to surrender. And the way things are, we all get to go to the same temple, as different as our purposes might be 🙂

    Yes, our temples are crowded. Yes, people will push us around when we visit temples. And yes, I don’t like being pushed around. But, I’ve noticed that (in my limited experience of going to temples, churches, etc.) the power of a place of worship can be such that it will blur some of these inconveniences into the background if we, even momentarily, remind ourselves of its primary purpose – which is to be a symbol of a power higher than us. (Please note that I’m not necessarily calling this power “God,” although some may choose to do so).

    I agree with a comment made above – with regards to how universities and labs can be similarly though provoking and awe inspiring. I’m not sure if science and religion/spirituality are polar and twains that can never meet as they are made out to be. At some level, all progress (scientific or otherwise) starts with a leap of faith and optimism and the desire to move forward. And for some, a temple is a great place to renew that optimism and faith.

    ps: Folks who’ve lived or live abroad will agree that there is a huge difference between going to a temple in (say) Houston and (say) Mathura. The latter is crowded,
    dirty etc. But I think most will agree with me when I say that it (mathura) inexplicably offers a more energizing experience. There is something mystifying about this phenomenon, which I saw in full force at the Kumbh Mela in Prayag earlier this year.

    Great topic. Loved reading this! Hope that you will write more regularly soon.

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    1. You are so right. We all go to the same place with different purposes and intent. And yes, we have lost sight of the higher purpose of a place of worship. Even today in the deep south, for instance, there are ancient temples that serve the original purposes that you have listed out. In recent times, during the tsunami, for instance, these temples have saved villagers and given them shelter.

      Your point about science and religion being alike is very valid. Faith is the common denominator in both.

      As for crowded temples, sometimes experiencing the presence of a Higher Power indeed makes it all worthwhile the trouble of jostling crowds and filth around us. But I still prefer a small shrine with the quiet it offers me. I agree with your observation of the difference between a temple in Houston and one in Mathura. It is the same feeling I got sitting on the banks of the Thames as compared to Ganga.

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  12. Looks like a daily activity that keeps you motivated. Nice to hear that.

    I dont know if I can call myself religious or not but I’am well informed and read about all customs et all. Yes there are certain temples especially in my hometown that I feel positive when entering otherwise I hate the current trend of all turning into a big business establishment – start with one idol, then add more making a multiplex and then they add lot of poojas, donations for adding extensions etc, the usual drill. This had happened to 2 of the temples that I used to go and now dont.

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    1. Religion and education are two of the sublime things that have been blatantly commercialised. I can understand your revulsion in entering such premises. But in smaller places, a special shrine near our home sometimes can give us that comfort and peace that we crave for. It is best to stay away from places that bring out anger and irritation — they defeat the very purpose of prayer, don’t they?

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  13. Nice to see you back with this interesting post& equally interesting comments.I have faith in God & also in karma.Therefore i only believe in doing my duty.I do not ask anything from God except good sense because if i have erred then i will be punished.I would not like to upset His regime by asking favors.I have never felt any sort of vibes in any temple–maybe i am too dense.Rituals put me off.

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    1. Ah, but this post doesn’t talk of rituals nor do I advocate it in any way. I am sorry if I have given that impression. I used to talk of finding God doing my karma too and never stepped into a temple for decades unless forced to. But I do find peace there these days. Maybe I am not rushed and in a hurry to complete my chores and it gives me the time to be at peace? We are all masters of our destiny and reap what we sow, aren’t we?

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  14. I hardly visit temples unless I am forced to at special occasions. I am an agnostic and like to look at the sky filled with stars and marvel at its beauty. That is a temple for me.
    I somehow do not believe in these man-made structures where people push each other during Shivratri to drown the deity in milk.

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    1. The best thing about faith is that it is not binding. Such rules and bindings are there only in strictly structured religions with a hard set of rules. I have been like you for the most part of my life, but having discovered God at the banks of Ganga, I continue to find Him in places of worship, when I am alone and not in a crowd of jostling public.

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  15. I am glad you have found your daily fix, that gives you solace. 🙂

    For me, it is a mix of the first four points. Whenever I see a temple, in some cases, I feel a sense of spirituality, a connection with the Maker. This is especially so in case of small shrines which people visit out of sheer faith. I do find that temples radiate positive energy – there is something special about them, even if they are commercial hubs. The same holds true for any place of worship, belonging to any faith.

    I am a lover of the arts, so I do stop to admire the architecture of most temples, or any place of worship, for that matter.

    I am not a big fan of the highly commercial activities that take place at some temples, or the intense fanaticism shown by their devotees, and feel a mix of the third and fourth points in such cases.

    BTW, it is good to see you back to blogging again. 🙂

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    1. You and I share the same sentiments, TGND. It is best to let the flow take us to a higher plane, without consciously trying to better ourselves spiritually. That comes automatically.

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  16. Hey Z, you’re back. you have been missed around here. I have faith in God but I’m not a huge fan of the temple. They could be big, small, empty, crowded, I somehow can’t make myself go into them. It almost seems selfish to walk into the temple with the express purpose of asking for something. And asking is generally what I do in my conversations with God. I feel a little like an impostor when i do that. My conversations with God happen at home and at the most inappropriate times too – generally when I am scrubbing toilets with a vengeance or when I am driving or right before I fall asleep. it is a conversation, like with a friend and mostly I’m telling him off for not doing a good job. Not sure if that construes prayer and that probably explains why I find it difficult to communicate with him at the temple.

    However, one thing I am glad of, i am learning to, slowly and with poor grace, bow down to his choices for me

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    1. Who said that one has to only glorify God in order to pray? There are so many kinds of bhakti and yours is the best form, when you can talk to God as a friend and not only ask for, but also pull Him up for not doing his work well 🙂 If you read my post carefully you will find that I was not unlike you guys in that I never prayed or went to a temple. It has been a recent phenomenon and that too on my terms. The women of my society must be miffed with me for not joining them in the group prayers and celebrations. I somehow can’t find solace or peace in a prayer group. When we have faith that nothing that happens to us is bad, acceptance comes. I have often realised in hindsight how terrible something could have been and how much better off I am.

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  17. Welcome back! I have missed you and your posts.

    I can’t find the peace that I am seeking in a temple. In large queues where people just keep pushing and groping, crowding around the deities, screaming, yelling and chatting; I long for that peace and connection. I haven’t had much connection with temples since childhood. Mostly I visited them for architecture. The only place where I felt an instant calm was at Golden Temple, years ago. Haven’t really felt that connect since.

    Sitting by the beach and watching the waves gives me immense calm. Somehow, overcrowded temples just don’t!

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    1. That’s exactly what I have said too. I avoid crowded and large temples because standing in a queue, shoving and pulling takes away half your energy, which is at its lowest ebb by the time you reach the sanctum. Maybe you could stroll to one of those small shrines near your house at times when the crowds are thin or non-existent and find a connect? It is well worth the try. But then, when I was your age, I argued that karma was worship 😀 So go ahead and do what gives you peace and joy, even cuddling the little one 🙂

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      1. On my mom’s death anniversary recently, I wanted to go the temple so Gurdev and I went. But, even though the crowd was thin, there was so much noise. I just could not sit for long. Like you said, currently I seek karma in other things :). Maybe later in life I will explore my spiritual side.

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        1. Who said doing one’s karma is not spirituality and going to temple is? We often confuse spirituality with ‘ritual’ity! Follow your heart and find the peace.

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  18. I am a strong believer but I don’t follow it blindly. As a kid whenever I had questions, my family/relatives answered it and I found sense in it. I come from a brahmin family and my grandfather was a priest. May be, that’s one reason I am more religious/spiritual. Even today we pray twice a day in our home and as you said, it gives me peace. I always seek peace of mind from my prayers, they have a humbling and soothing effect on you. Though being in US, I don’t get the chance to go to temples that often. I feel there is a lot of positivity in temples.

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    1. Prayers are what make a place of worship a den of positivity. Even the small shrine in our homes have a special vibration compared to the rest of the house, if you have noticed. Sometimes too much of rituals can put one off religion and God. This had happened with me when I was growing up. My parents were highly ritualistic and the associated customs put me off them completely. It was only when I could form my own thoughts and actions corresponding to them that I began turning towards God and the places of worship.

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  19. While in presently defined terms I’d be labelled an atheist, I actually am very religious. To me, the definition of religion has always been confined to the boundaries of my own experiences that have brought me peace, and hence difficult to define to anyone else. How would a mute guy explain the sweetness of sugar? How would you explain the brightness of a rainbow to someone without sight? I find myself at that loss of words when defining my religion.

    Of the list of experiences when facing a temple you have listed, I find myself experiencing, to some depth or the other, all except the first one – devotion & prayer. I’m not a guy to mouth a few sentences of goodwill and preaching – I’d rather pray mentally to the all-encompassing entity that I am subservient to. My devotion also, is not based on faith or belief, but on experience and understanding of what they have preached and taught.

    To that extent, as long as the right vibes of goodwill and hope and faith reside in the hearts and minds of those who were there in the past and those who are there now, I find myself at peace whichever place I go to. While I admire the architectural grandeur of Akshardham as compared to the Golden Temple, my heart was at much more peace within the crowds at Amritsar than those places in Ahmedabad or New Delhi, simply because I felt more welcome by the smiling guards holding those ancient weapons at Amritsar than by a cumbersome entry process where I had to surrender everything except my wallet at Akshardham.

    I feel that it is the people who make a temple structure either into a divine praying house or into a heartless piece of grand architecture. If you, as the guard representing the temple, make a person feel welcome, no matter what hovel you are the ambassador of, the visitor will find peace within. If you do your job in a clinical manner, without joy, as a task to be done and gotten rid of, not matter how grand the structure is, the tourist will not find any joy in visiting your complex.

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    1. Loved this comment, Harshal. What is the need of defining your religion or even explaining your beliefs and faith to someone, when it is affording you immense peace? Each to his own and the beauty of being free of any institutionalised religion is that you can feel exhilarated by a variety of experiences. I can understand how you have to experience something to feel its power. The example of Akshardham and Golden Temple is lovely. The former is a tourist marvel aimed at foreigners with its hi-tech displays and manicured gardens which one is not allowed to step into, incidentally, while the latter carries centuries of faith and spirituality and hence makes one feel at peace.

      You have echoes what I have said about the faith of the thousands being the catalyst in such places of worship. Faith, after all, is very positive and we could all do with some of it, right?

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  20. To be honest I have not been able to come to a definitive conclusion about the existence of God. I am not a regular temple going person, but there are few places of worship where in you find solace. The quietness of these places has a soothing effect on your mind.

    There is this place called Krishna Dhama in Mysore. I loved visiting this place for the calm and quiet atmosphere it provided.

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    1. Frankly, if you find solace in a place of worship, is it necessary to go into the polemic of the existence of God? I would say, ‘Let go and enjoy the peace and calm.’ God, Higher Power, your own Inner Peace…..will take care of the rest.

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  21. I think all places of worship have incredible positive energy and vibrations. A place of worship always fills me with spiritual energy. But then, I must say if the place is too crowded I sometimes tend to get irritated !

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    1. You are like me and many others who abhor crowds in places of worship. One way to avoid this is to refrain from visiting them during a festival or some auspicious day. The vibes are certainly stronger but our own feelings of irritation can drown that out, isn’t it?

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  22. While that ‘daily fix’ is so very important and indispensable, I have had varied experiences with places of worship some which I have chronicled and some remain to be done. However, as you have rightly and implicitly pointed out every one of us has a special networking with the Supreme. While there have been certain places (temples/churches/Prayer Halls) where I have not been able to be at peace and communicate with the silence within and without there have been others, less ostentatious where I find immeasurable peace and a failed visit leaves me uncomfortable and ill at ease. I often wonder whether these feelings border on the superstitious. I am yet to have a definitive view on that.

    And then there have been experiences which have left me terrorised and at times without an answer. One day I would write about this conglomerate of disjointed feelings. Thanks for giving me the inspiration and welcome back. Was missing your blogs.

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    1. Like you, I like the way-out and quiet places too to find inner peace. But I wouldn’t dismiss the feeling of a failed visit as being superstition. Don’t we feel that way when we are unable to visit a loved one for some reason? What is superstitious about feeling that way with God or whatever power that is pulling you towards it? Any place that brings on memories of terror need to be necessarily avoided. Experiences without an answer sound intriguing rather than scary. Looking forward to your thoughts on this 🙂

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  23. Welcome back, Zephyr. We all missed you.
    I have yet to reach that stage. I guess the blatant commercialization puts me off. The thought that most have congregated for some selfish reason or the other is very unsettling. But to know that there’s a higher being looking over us gives me inner peace.

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    1. I can understand how you feel in commercialised places, Purba, which is why I avoid them. Give me a quiet place of worship, and I am happy. Not some place where someone is trying to convert me or sell me God. I really loved the energy in the mosque the only time I was in one during prayers. It was a small one but the positive vibes were palpable. Leave aside the motive of those who visit the places of worship, but look at the faith. The motive might be selfish, but thhttps://cybernag.in/wp-admin/edit-comments.php?paged=2#comments-forme faith is certainly positive.

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  24. Very nice, Zephyr. I am happy for everyone who finds peace in places of worship. Otherwise, I am a part of the small section that you mentioned.

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    1. We all make up the world, Giribala. I came from that small group too. From being pushed into this in my childhood to coming willingly into it during my later years, I have had a colourful journey, which has helped me evolve spiritually (and ritually! 😀 ) and I am happy about that.

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  25. Good to see you back with a great post, Zephyr!

    I too like smaller, ‘no people’ temples normally. But very old temples, again with not much crowd, makes me feel at peace. I went to Udupi Krishna temple last year. Went to the temple at 5 in the morning. It was drizzling, so there were just very few people. We were allowed to watch Krishna without any alankaara, for more than 5 mts. I will never forget the feeling I had at that time. I visit this temple always, when I go to Udupi, but this time the feeling was entirely different.

    No, I don’t make it a point to go to temples, but mostly go with my sis in law who likes us to accompany her. Most of the places are crowded, so, too much distraction.

    I can understand how you are feeling when you start getting used to visiting a temple so nearby because we feel that it is your own god slowly.

    About the river Ganga…I have not yet seen it. But when I went to Dhanushkodi, I nearly felt as if something is there to take care of us and our lives. The beach was empty…I could see only water, sky and sand. I was a little bit scared also! But felt like sitting there for some more time!

    I too used to do fast pradakshina at the Muppaaththamman temple behind our school on the exam days…in the lunch time too!

    Enjoyed reading this post of yours, Zephyr!

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    1. I can so relate to how you must have felt in the Krishna temple, Sandhya. I have gone there and fortunately it was not crowded at all. I kept looking at the idol and had to be forcibly pulled away by the L&M as it was getting late 🙂 Today, it has become a sort of cult to visit temples and do the rituals prescribed even without much conviction or faith. I avoid temple tourism at all costs. Any waterbody is awe inspiring. Even the small temple tanks have that effect on me at times. But sitting by the Ganga is like, having a direct connect with Shiva, from whose locks she is believed to flow. I am rather awkwardly describing this, but that is how it felt and feels every time I sit by her banks. I am sure you felt some such connect in Dhanushkodi too. And when we have raw nature without the intrusion of any man made structure to mar it, it must surely feel sublime. I feel the sense of awe when I am by the sea/ocean too.

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  26. I definitely belong to the second category mentioned at the start of the post. I do enjoy the quiet a church or temple can offer. However, I fail to find so in one which has too many footfalls. E.g. Dakshineshwar Temple, Madurai, is only an architectural splendour while the Birla Temple, Kolkata somehow seems quieter and more peaceful.

    This is not to say that I do not have a spiritual side. I do. And it is not bounded by anything man made including religion. I have experienced that quiet exhilaration several times, e.g. Durpin Dara (Kalimpong) or Hungerford Bridge at 3:00 am (London). I experienced the same while walking through the hallowed halls of Presidency College or Imperial College. I agree with the power of thoughts and the positive energy it can generate.

    On an opposite note, speaking of energy I’m reminded of my mum’s comment the other day of how she felt when she entered the Colosseum for the first time. She described it as stifling, oppressive, heavy and very negative. My brother on the hand, only saw the grandeur of the structure and thus experienced awe. he of course, had no idea about the history of the structure then.

    The point being, is the said positive/negative energy a result of our knowledge/perception of the history of a place? So, is it all faith? or Prayer? I’m still fitting on the fence and hence not entirely spiritual.

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    1. So good to see you back here, Sumit!

      Your observation about the energy being positive or negative depending upon the perception of the structure, is very interesting. Which is also one reason why we feel positive vibes in places of worship as the faith of those who visit them make them throb with positivity. By contrast, a grand or awe inspiring structure, for example, the Tower Bridge of London had only given me the heebie-jeebies due to its gory past. But I also endorse your views about the Birla Mandir being more peaceful than, say, the Madurai temple. It probably has to do with the crowds? As long as one is able to find an oasis of peace and calm, one need not analyse one’s feelings or spirituality. Don’t you agree?

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  27. Except in one or two temples my mind gets distracted by the crowd,noise and temple employees urge to hustle us towards the exit.There is no doubt a greater divinty(sannithyam)acquired in the temples that are constructed according to sastras and due to the rituals observed.I hardly go to temples but do my prayer in my home.
    It is a nice post by you and I generally agree with what you have said

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    1. Thank you for the words of agreement, KP. The Presence is generally felt in ancient and acclaimed temples, but we can even feel the same in smaller and tiny ones if we are able to find a quiet corner for meditation and prayer. I only go to temples that are in the near vicinity of my home because getting ready to go out takes away half the fervour. When it is really close all one needs to do is step across to it without too much prior preparation. I have a small shrine
      at home but the experience is different when I sit there and when I sit at the temple.

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  28. Ah! There you are! 🙂
    Was wondering why you are quiet these days. Moving back this side yet? You said you’d be here by now right?

    I personally prefer the simple quiet temples with which I feel a connection.
    I steer clear of the commercialised ones.

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    1. You belong to my group then! Even I like the small and obscure places of worship and find more solace there. Sometimes even a place is able to make me feel the power, as Shirdi. I don’t even need to enter the sanctum to feel the energy coursing through the place.

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  29. Long back i decided that once you go for a darshan, dont complain, not at all for any worldly inconvenience,.any mismanagement or even cleanliness…
    I go there with full faith in me that god resides there ..if its grand place its ok, but i feel happier in old temples..

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    1. Like you, I find old and pracheen temples most soothing, but thanks to religious tourism, these are being taken over by tour operators and tourists. So for me any nukkad temple is fine, as long as it is not crowded and I have a corner to sit and pray or chant. You are right, the moment we begin looking at things that are not right in a place of worship, the ultimate power of the place fails to reach us.

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  30. As a child I had better feelings for a place of worship but as I grew older, like you I lost it. Someday I many return, until then a place of worship may or may not give me any sense of oneness with the Almighty since I feel He cannot be confined to any man built place. But as you mentioned it is said that when more than one calls out to Him, He will descend to their midst. But I am glad that I still have the child like faith in me 🙂 no place of worship or those who manage it shoddily has managed to take it away from me..

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    1. I am so glad you still have the child-like faith in God. Actually, He descends amongst us often enough, but we are not always able to spot Him. The shoddy management and the corruption associated with the places of worship regardless of the faith they belong to, have made me turn to small and obscure ones where I am at peace. I stay away from the priests and the managers and communicate alone with my God.

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  31. When I was in Mumbai, there were three temples nearby, SiddhiVinayak, Prabhadevi and a Hanuman temple in the compound of Tata Press. Every day I would visit one of these and that was the time I started my spiritual journey. That was the time I realised what was essential and what I had been missing. So I fully understand what you mean.

    Yes God exists everywhere but more so in a place of worship because HE wills it so.

    Good to have you back.

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    1. You are right. Sometimes we need a particular place or structure to drive home the purpose of our lives. For me the turning point was perhaps my sojourn by the Ganga some years ago. She gave me the spiritual solace that I had unconsciously been hankering after. It was then too that I began visiting temples, ancient ones and also the less visited ones. About that time too, I had the experience of going to a mosque during noon prayers and found it infinitely soothing. I got my answer to the question, ‘If God exists everywhere, why seek Him in a place of worship?’ during those months of inner turmoil and eventual peace.

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  32. The faith will continue to rule no matter as many advances the man makes on the frontier of science! Also, it provides solace to the troubled minds 🙂 So nice to see you back Zephyr!!

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    1. You have encapsulated my post in so few words, Rahul! Yes, we need the solace and the peace that faith offers.

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  33. Anil Nair · · Reply

    I don’t know if I am going to anger you, but I am an Atheist. I rejected god/gods at the age of seven much to the chagrin of my parents.

    To me the study of the cosmos, and the various theories around them is beautiful. I am not a scientist, but to me science is spiritual and poetic.

    The golden ratio is just poetry.

    btw, a very nice blog.

    Like

    1. But Anil Nair, I am never angered by my readers and welcome all opinions and viewpoints as being a value addition to my posts. So feel free to express your views on my space anytime. 🙂 Like you, I had rejected the concept of God too and have gone through a rollercoaster of feelings as I grew up. I never stepped into a place of worship for the better part of my adult life. But I find them infinitely calming these days, though I share the views of most about crowded places of worship. They still put me off. Do visit again.

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  34. One needs to just let go zephyr and the positive energy will come flowing inside at the place of worship . Perhaps that’s why we are taught to close our eyes when we pray ? I can fully relate and I agree about the architecture and mass positive energy . Oh yeah , I relived that electrifying effect in tirupathi on reading ur description of the same 🙂

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    1. Yes, closing our eyes is definitely the best way to experience sublime feelings, isn’t it? I remember going to the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem where the pilgrims/visitors write their prayers and wishes and push them into the crevices of the ancient walls. When I tried to push mine, I couldn’t find a place, not even the smallest cranny! That is the power of faith in such structures!

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  35. I visit Temples these days to record the beautiful architecture that the builders have created so many centuries before, with the Gopuram. If they allow me to take pictures inside, I go inside! During colleges, I used to get religious during the exam-day mornings. I prayed fervently to God to make me pass. And he/she did!!

    I don’t feel the spiritual connect/peacefulness when I visit Temples, but I am sure that with age I will start feeling it. Excellent post…

    Destination Infinity

    Like

    1. I would take this observation with a pinch of salt, especially since I don’t take endorsement of the west as the truth. We all know how it is now going back to a lot of things that it had discarded a generation or two ago. As for control over our lives, I feel it is all illusory and at best we can only feel we are in control. There are too many things and factors that are not within our power and we have to just make do with what we can. Have you noticed that even seatbelts and airbags can’t prevent a death if the time has come for that person to die?

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    2. See, I told you! We all like temples for various reasons. So you are an art lover! As for finding peace in temples, it has nothing to do with age. I have seen young people sit there enraptured, (not fanatically so) and come out looking calm. I meandered through the desert lanes and finally discovered an oasis in my middle/old age. That is all.

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  36. Carvaka · · Reply

    One other interesting think to look at here regarding “Surprised that this forms just a small section?…. we see so many people at any temple”.

    That is not a worldwide trend actually. Many countries are seeing a decrease in religiosity. Some studies show correlation between the economic development and religiosity (http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2010/09/religions-correlation-with-poverty/ , http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/story/2013/03/05/f-religion-economic-growth.html). It makes sense that the more vulnerable we are and the less control we have over their own circumstances, the more comfort faith can provide. It is curious that about every taxi in India has a god on the dashboard while every taxi in the UK has seatbelts and airbags.

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    1. I would take this observation with a pinch of salt, especially since I don’t take endorsement of the west as the truth. We all know how it is now going back to a lot of things that it had discarded a generation or two ago. As for control over our lives, I feel it is all illusory and at best we can only feel we are in control. There are too many things and factors that are not within our power and we have to just make do with what we can. Have you noticed that even seatbelts and airbags can’t prevent a death if the time has come for that person to die?

      Like

  37. Carvaka · · Reply

    Respectfully, my thoughts (since these weren’t in your list of options):
    – Annoyance at the conditioning and control device that religion is.
    – A sense of absurdity at the (to me-) irrational rituals.

    There could indeed be a feeling of positive energy, awe or even peace when you step into a remarkable spiritual place. However I feel that positive energy and peace when I walk around in a grand old University, especially at the departments whose nobel prizes I’m aware of. Aren’t we bound to feel something in places that symbolise whatever it is that we attach meaning to? I feel this special feeling anywhere that I can sense human history and achievement.

    For me, it’s the sense of human energy at places like the kumbh which become palpable.. and the sense of human will power, determination and a certain inability to accept randomness that becomes miracles. For me, God really doesn’t come into this picture.

    Also, I have quite the opposite way of looking at the science and faith tussle. It’s not a problem that science “has time and again had to accept defeat in the face of inexplicable and incontrovertible evidence”. We don’t know everything. Science exists on this premise and hence there is no ‘defeat’ is not being able to explain everything. It is an exercise in curiosity and updates itself when new evidence is found. Isn’t this something to be celebrated? The ability to say I don’t know everything but I will not blindly believe anything. The ability to update your views based on evidence without feeling ‘defeat’ in it. Isn’t that good?

    Religion starts out saying that it is everything and it knows everything and does not supply any evidence. Something like the placebo effect would seem like a miracle if one didn’t know the mechanisms behind it (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Placebo). Lightening seemed like miracle when we didn’t understand it. If god is proving to be a god of the gaps (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God_of_the_gaps), then I feel like I can live with knowing there are some gaps in our knowledge without needing god to fill them. The day there is evidence, I would be happy to update my belief. However religion and faith refuse to update based on evidence.

    That was much too long for a comment. Stepping off my soapbox now. 🙂

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    1. Thanks for the long comment, Carvaka. You know, my posts are simple ones which are not elaborately researched ones. I pen down my personal feelings on a topic but my learned readers always come up with wonderful points to supplement the post and complete it better than I can ever hope to. A special thanks for that to you 🙂

      I can understand what you mean when you say that you find the same sense of power and energy in a grand university or place of learning. Isn’t knowledge divine in that sense? I have used God and Higher Power interchangeably only for this reason. I am not in favour of empty rituals either. I’d rather sit quietly and find my peace than do all the rituals prescribed by the priests.

      Religion is essentially based on faith. When I send a prayer up, I have no proof that it has reached anyone or anything, but it is my faith that keeps me hopeful of a solution. And believe me, I most often get one. I would like you to also read another post I had done on this. http://wp.me/p10wLZ-MY

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  38. Hi Zephyr,

    Yes indeed, the most peaceful place for me would also be the temples, where you just one to one with the Almighty – and no matter what your religion, if you have the faith and devotion – you can just find Him anywhere.

    We don’t have a temple close by, but I have set up one at my own home, so that my sacred place, though when I have to connect with Him – just closing my eyes and thinking of Him works for me. I guess differs from person to person.

    Thanks for sharing. 🙂

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    1. We all need a personal space and place to find that perfect communion with God. For me, all places of worship don’t work, though I can feel the power and energy if I do go there. I need a small, quiet place of worship to be able to relate to my God. As you say, any place of worship regardless of the religious faith would do. Some can find the peace even in crowds, but I can’t.

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  39. Now me I am still in that stage Zephyr – abhi signal nahin mil raha hai kahin 🙂 I feel that sense of peace and oneness with the universe in the silent reaches of nature when I am on my treks – but am yet to feel that surge of positive energy from a place of worship.

    But, yes, comes to science, I can only quote Shakespeare – “There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamt of in your philosophy”.

    Great to see you back in action.

    Like

    1. As long as you are able to find peace and solace in your treks, why worry? It is only for the lesser mortals like me that a place of worship is needed for that communion with God 🙂 So don’t fret a bit. As for the things that are beyond the pale of science and comprehension, I have so many to relate from personal experience. But then, I would be termed a hoax and publicity monger!

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  40. It’s a call, the most potent call. I get that feeling and unless I go to that one place where I find peace, call it the heart or soul.. I can not rest. And when I come back, there is a strange sense of peace. Of faith that everything will be alright.

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    1. I understand, Punam. I have shared your feelings on your blog too. Sometimes people need that special place to find the solace and peace. Lucky are those who can communicate with the Higher Power anywhere.

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