Sunday, June 24, 2007

Lord of Beginnings

*Vakratunda Mahaakaaya Suryakotee Sama Prabha
Nirvighnam kuru mey Deva
Sarva kaaryeshu Sarvadaa

My spiritual path has been anything but predictable since I attained the ripe ol' age of 12. And it had everything to do with a young Catholic priest I met who took my tender child-like curiosity & bubbling anti-establishment spirit, and gave it wings. He welcomed my abhorrence for mindless rituals and challenged the view in which I saw religion. While other pubescent teenagers were busy flipping through Sweet Valley High novels, I was deep in thought pondering over the letters he used to write to me or I would be addictively entrenched in life-changing books he shared with me like "The City of Joy".

I was slowly and decidedly moving away from organized religion and immersing myself instead into a journey of self-awareness. A journey that took me to Buddhism, Tibetan Buddhism, Nichiren Daishonin, Christianity, Islam, Wicca and numerous other spiritual paths that have no labels. I was not searching for one god to worship but rather I was looking to awaken every part of my conscious and sub-conscious being. Through understanding the way others viewed their spirituality, I learned to understand my place & purpose in life better. Any path of worship that could illustrate the connection we as humans have with the energy that surrounds us was of great interest to me. On the other hand, ritualistic religions that imposed a strict code of conduct on its devotees that (to me) appeared to be worship out of obligation & fear, didn't intrigue me.

Hinduism was one such religion that didn't intrigue me. Simply because I was never close enough to anyone who truly practiced it. Whatever knowledge I had was based purely on assumption. And most of those were peppered with prejudices & biasness.

So when a friend of mine, Smelly Cat, invited me to accompany her to a Hindu temple after work one evening, I accepted. More out of wanting to give her moral support as she had married a Hindu and was attempting to understand & practice the religion. To say I felt like Inspector Gadget trapped in Amish country would have been a gross understatement.

First of all, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Amidst a sea of colorful sari-clad women & traditionally attired men was me; dressed in tight black office slacks and a spaghetti-strapped top that I had to hide under a heavy jacket I normally wear in the comfort of air-conditioned spaces. Definitely not your typical temple-going garb! Ignoring the curious stares I was getting I stayed close to Smelly Cat and told her that I was going to mirror her every move. On hindsight that wasn't particularly brilliant of me as she hardly knew what she was doing either. But at the very least, she knew more than me.

So, we paid to buy offerings of coconut & flowers. And we got it blessed by the priest who then took our offerings into an almost hidden chamber in which the statue of Lord Ganesha resided. By this time, I was oblivious to the sounds of the street and the movement of people shuffling about the temple. I closed my eyes, lulled by the gentle and soul inspiring chants, I just spoke to Lord Ganesha, offering up the most heartfelt prayer I have ever made in a long long while to any God or deity.

When it was time to leave, I was really quite sad for no apparent reason. For such a long time, I had been feeling restless and my heart was never at peace even when I was in bed at night. But for a few minutes at the temple, I felt a calmness I hadn't felt in a long while. And it surprised me totally because it was the last place I would have expected to feel that way.

Anyway, I didn't think much of it until a couple of weeks ago when my mom went for a minor surgery to remove a cyst. It was then the doctor (Dr. Ganesh) discovered that my mom's blood pressure was sky rocketing. He put her on pressure pills and it has improved the quality of her life tremendously. Previous complaints of dizzyness & feelings of malaise have all but disappeared.

I couldn't help but think of the prayer I made at the temple of Lord Ganesha; asking him to protect my mom and to give her good health. Anyway, coincidence or not, I told Smelly Cat that I wanted to go back to the temple to give thanks to Lord Ganesha. Unknowingly, the day that I mentioned this to her was a sacred day for him according to Hindu rites. When I returned home, I casually mentioned to my mom about my prayer for her to Lord Ganesha and how apt it was that she was under the care of a doctor who was new to us and he is named Ganesh.

My mom is a Buddhist and although she "converted" to Catholicism to marry my dad, her belief in the Buddhist way of life never faded. She smiled when I told her about my little one on one with Lord Ganesha and said she wasn't surprised. She then started to tell me about the time she was rooming in the home of a Hindu family when she was single & was being pursued relentlessly by my dad. She would kneel everyday at the altar of Lord Ganesha and seek his wisdom and counsel in helping her make the decision on accepting my dad's proposal.

It was totally unknown to me all these years that my mom had worshipped at his feet daily for many months. So, it's hardly surprising then, that he was watching out for her.

I have spent most of the past 3 years, learning and understanding Wicca. Part of the Wiccan practice is to find the God & Goddess who "speaks" to you. I have been told by elders of the Wiccan faith, that they will seek you out and you will know when they do. I think Lord Ganesha has with resounding clarity told me he is mine.

I wonder if it's another coincidence that my nanny when I was a baby was named after his mother, Parvati.

In any case, he has opened the door to another spiritual world that I am absolutely intrigued to know more about.

1. *Mantra To Lord Ganesha:
O Lord Ganesha of Large body, curved trunk, with the brilliance of a million suns, please make all my work free of obstacles, always.
2. Ganesha is worshipped as the lord of beginnings and as the lord of obstacles (Vighnesha), He is honoured with affection at the start of any ritual or ceremony and invoked as the "Patron of Letters" at the beginning of any writing. patron of arts and sciences, and the god of intellect and wisdom.

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