THE HOUSE OF GOD... AND A PRAYER
When I pray, whether it is in a shrine or at my home or in the busy streets, if I am able to feel the connect with God, that place is a temple for me… Call it dharga, church, gurudwara or synagogues or whatever. If I am not able to feel connected to God when I pray, then, no matter how famous is the shrine I offer my prayers from, to me, that is not a ‘House of God’.
All shrines are built by mortals like you and me… men and women who are imperfect. God never came down – will never come down – to build shrines. We build and we put Him – idols and holy books in His name – in the houses we build in His name…
Hence, to me, any place is a house of God, a temple, if I am able to feel the closeness to the Supreme Being…
I have felt such closeness everywhere – in many temples, gurudwaras and dhargas. I remember, when my wife and I had visited the famous Hazratbal shrine in Kashmir… I had spent many quiet moments, there, allowing tears to simply roll down my cheeks. I remember a similar experience in Mumbai’s Dashmesh Darbar Gurudwara. I remember chills moving through my bones when I spent quiet moments in Akshardham temple in Gandhinagar. I have felt it inside the Buddhist Pagoda in Gorai. I have felt this closeness whenever I have visited , alone or with my wife, Mount Mary church at Bandra.
I do not feel the closeness to my Creator in the frenzy of the crowd. I have never visited Mount Mary church during the Mount Mary feast in September. Lakhs of people find solace when they visit during this time. But, I don’t. I prefer to visit Velankanni or the Basilica of Bom Jesus in Goa when there is no crowd. I would love to visit Shirdi’s shrine of Sai Baba or Mumbai’s Siddhi Vinayak temple when there is no crowd. I haven’t been there. But, I am sure, tears would simply roll down my cheeks and my bones would sense the chill, if I spend some quiet moments in these shrines, all alone!
Yesterday, I felt a strong urge to visit Mount Mary church. I shared this urge with my wife and we both booked an OLA in the evening and headed towards the Bandra shrine. The OLA driver was a Sikh gentleman, who was warm and sincere in his communication. “My mother used to bring me and my sister regularly when we were small,” he said. My wife and I spent close to forty minutes sitting at one place… I did not say a single conventional prayer to Mother Mary… I don’t think anybody did. In fact, more than ninety percent of the devotees, who sat or bent down and prayed in the shrine, seemed to be non-Christians. Most of them simply bowed their heads down and spent quiet moments in their own personal prayers. I am sure, no heart must have remained unmelted, no eyes dry!
At the foot of the Mount May hill, there is the Arabian Sea. Last evening, it was a high tide… The Sun had just set… My wife and I spent some more time, there, till the sky turned dark… When we stood, there, under the canopy of the gigantic sky, facing equally gigantic ocean, I could feel the closeness to God, all over again… How vast and boundless His dwelling is… and, how small I really am! Yes, I could sense this in my bones!
Wasn’t it prayer?
I believe, it was!
Pic.: Chetna Shetty