Epitome of Equality

First of all This is not to demean any religion..
I am a Hindu by birth, but yes I respect all religions .I offer my daily prayers , fast on holy days , but there was something that was disturbing me .
God as per me was a Friend, someone who was by my side always , someone who was a dear friend , but this is not what everyone else thought , for others he was the Judge who gives his verdict always and punishes anyone and everyone .

Walk into any temple and you would see , if you have money , you will be treated in a way as if you are the ONLY disciple of the God . I have had too many experiences where I was treated as a second class citizen in the temple . Why? Well I could not afford giving thousands as donation. This is not how it should be , God looks at each one of us with the same divinity .As I mentioned God for me is a friend, so tell me, do we chose friends based on their bank balances? Do we give our verdict on them ? then how can God do it?
I know many of us would say that Friends do judge us , blah blah.. But You know true friends are those who accept each others differences , they do not try to change each other , they do not judge each other - they just ACCEPT each other . Same is for GOD :)

There are beliefs in Hinduism ( many of them are controversial ) like only men can do puja of Hanuman ji, why such partiality . There are also many other practices in other religion as well , which pinch me , but I refrain from writing about those as my knowledge in those religion is limited.

I happen to visit a Gurudwara , very close to my Institute , and I must say I am not only impressed but mesmerized . Let me describe my first visit a bit meticulously .

It was guru nanak jayanti , at around 12 pm , I and my friends decided to visit the Gurudwara.
As I entered I saw a man helping all the devotees keep their shoes , very generously , looking at his attire , I was confused , as generally in Hindu temples , which I have visited, the one doing this job is paid by the trust, and he just does this mundane job in exchange of salary .
But things were different here , completely different ! .I walked in after washing my hands and legs, and as I entered , the main hall where people offer prayers .As I walked in I saw a lady siting on the Dias and reading the The holy Granth . I was more than sure that she must have been a priest or someone on similar lines ,(My knowledge was based on my experiences in temples - Where only the authorized person "Pandits" are allowed to perform puja . )

As I walked put of the hall, towards the place arranged for the "langar" . My friends enlightened me about the assumptions I had made . :)
The person who was helping with the shoes was not doing his task ( as in not as a job) , but was doing "SEWA" , helping the mankind . I was surprised - little did I knew there was more to come.The Lady reading the Granth was no priest she was just like us - in Gurudwara anyone could read the holy book - so unlike the temples .. How beautiful isn't it ?

As I walked towards the sitting arrangement, I realized that men and women were equal there. Everyone had their head covered , unlike temples which I had visited where only women were suppose to cover their heads...
During the next 15-20 minutes I was served with the most delicious food by the most humble people .The people serving food were also doing sewa :) In fact the food was cooked by people doing sewa . There were also people washing the soiled utensils all for sewa . :)

It's amazing ! people irrespective of their religion, their social standard, their attire, their bank balances were together - and all they were doing was SEWA ! they were ONE as if a Divine force had glued them together.

The entire environment was amazing, people helping each other, serving food to each other, cleaning others soiled utensils, managing the shoes of others .
There was no special treatment for the rich, everyone ate together under one roof, served together, no partiality.None at all!

After that one visit to Gurudwara, I must say I am addicted to it , I try to visit it every Sunday and do sewa.I look at it now as an epitome of Equality, where all are treated as one.
The best thing was there was no condition like " only Sikhs allowed " - it was open to all.Anyone who wanted to seek blessings of Baba, and do sewa to mankind was welcomed there .

We as a society should learn from this, and help each other , instead of hating each other , instead of judging others on the basis of partial knowledge - we should love everyone , we should look at each other with uniformity . We should help the mankind and that would only give us solace .

Sewa is one of the most difficult yet Simple things to do. But once done it would leave us with a feeling divine enough to wipe away all the negativity , a feeling powerful enough to bring a lasting smile on the face .
:)

Arnav

I stand a Witness to the changing life, I stand a witness to the changing minds , I stand a witness to the changing relations, here am I a witness, powerful yet helpless entangled by the social dogmas , here am I a witness to the world of pain here am I a witness to the selfish world , I had my beliefs I had my principles, a witness to love I was , a witness to happiness I was , but life has changed and so have beliefs and here am I now a witness to change time's changing and would never stop and I remain a statue , a statue of change..

32 comments:

Netika Lumb said...

Hi Arnav,
I know what you are trying to say, but I differ a little here. God doesn't differentiate between people on the basis of their bank balances. As a matter of fact, he can't coz he is the power that governs these balances.
This used to happen ages back, the Raja, Maharajas used to pay for their pujas; and what liberal donations they were. Since then, we have begun to differentiate X form of Puja(lets say, a Maha Abhishek) with a Y form of Puja(an Abhishek). No, this doesn't make a differnece. I mean, if I opt for the most expensive puja after having done Karma which the divine shall not approve of(forget him, something even most humans shall not approve of), I should not expect him to oblige to my wishes either. As for what god and bad Karma is, that is very relative. (hence, the terrorism;perhaps)


Sewa is a form of Karma. It is a promise to God, that I shall do what it takes to make this world; the only gift given by god, a beautiful, better pace to live in.

Arnav said...

Hi Netika.
I was trying to say the same thing ... God doesn't differentiate , it is the structure , the priests who do it. God as I said is a honest Friends , always there by your side to guide you ..

Lovely way of defining sewa - "a promise to God, that I shall do what it takes to make this world; the only gift given by god, a beautiful, better pace to live in."

Towards reclamation said...

@ netika ..
I think Arnav has said the same thing in the post as you in your comment....

either ways .. point accepted ..
there is a very famous temple near hyderabad .. chilkur balaji and the temple has a legend associated with it .. in short there was a very old man who was visiting all temples of lord balaji on foot .. and one day he got a vision in which lord told him that he need not travel more .. he will find him if he dug up the ground near him .. lo and behold he unearthed a statue there . the statue has a scar which was made on it while the old man was digging for it .. since then a temple has been built around it and the family of that man still take care of it and it's maintenance ...

the unique thing is ... no donations or money in any form are accepted here .. you cannot offer it to god. The ideology being the hand of the giver is above the hand of the one who receives and how can God be below your hand ..

the point i am trying to make is .. we do have examples of true devotion around us ... they are uncommon but they teach us a lot about what service to God really means ...

Arnav said...

@ Netika again :)
you have also brought another dimension - karma and puja .
Its really ironical that people doing the most ghastly acts do majestic puja's , attend kumba ka mela , take a dip in ganga ... well I think if the karma is bad everything else has no meaning at all ..

Arnav said...

@ Sid
well I just have to visit the temple next time I am in hyderabad ..

The receiver need not be always below the hand of the giver .
Picture it this way . The giver can just keep the offering in his hand , the receiver can pick it up from the hand - at this point the receiver's hand is above that of the giver .

But yes your point taken. True there are examples of true devotion around us , but at times we simply chose to be blind .
A person who does not offer prayers to god , but takes care of the people around , of the needy , of those who need help. I think such a person is actually the greatest devotee ..

Netika Lumb said...

oops.. Due apologies Arnav.

Arnav said...

:)
its ok.. as I was reading today.. the best thing about perception is that different people have different perception :)

Jaggu said...

Blog updated!!!

Prasoon Joshi said...

@ Net-i-ka:
If I'd be concerned about 'karma' alone, I would rather spend the time doing any form of puja in something better (even spending time with my children, seeing them smile while playing with their dad would be a great way to give back to God).
I guess all of us are trying to say the same thing (the fact that we took pains to say something instead of going out in the streets or pubs killing and thrashing people who dont conform to our ideas or beliefs is testimony enough that we are 'liberals' and have a 'sane' idea about God). My point is that religion is a very private affair, there are better things which can be used to bring together a 'sociological group structure' like environmental awareness, respect towards women and children, etc. The times when we needed religion as a binding glue for the society was only in the dark ages when people were too naive to know about better ways to arranging a social gathering to spread harmony amidst the community.

Towards reclamation said...

@ prasoon ..
hey .. am surprised to see you here ... either ways welcome here

Prasoon Joshi said...

@Sid:
Thanks. Looking forward to read some serious stuff ;)
As long as people like you write my blood will not beg for weed ;) Jump, jump, jump !

Netika Lumb said...

@ Prasoon,
I didn't quite get you when you said that you would instead do something 'better'. As in ?
With due respect, playing with your children is also a form of Karma, considering you shall be doing your duty as a father.However what I doubt is, if you shall be doing only that. So you can do this beside(or in addition) to doing something else, but as far as doing only this goes, now thats a personal call.
Also, religion, especially in India is I guess the most sacrosanct. We might find better ways to bind people, but to many this is a way to connect more with god than people.

Kartz said...

@Arnav
Neat post. mate... And welcome here.

Yep, damn true. I have heard abt it too - reading the Granth Sahib at the Gurudwara.

There is this Jain temple close by my residence. I go there often. It is another example of a sanctum where anyone can perform *Aarti/Pooja* to the deity. Ipso facto, there is a shrine for Padmavati Mataji (an equivalent of Shakti/Durga/Devi of Hindu lore)...

And regarding the "only men do pooja" stuff - Lemme share a couple of things I ve noticed here.

1. In some Shakti temples down here, women perform poojas.

2. The current CM put fwd a new rule. One needn't be Brahmin to qualify as an Acharya at the temple.

Moving on... Remember what our history books said. "Service to Man is Service to God." I guess that pretty much sums up *Sewa*.

Sewa would come under Karma (Action).

And quoting Tolstoy - Kindness to His creatures reaches His mighty throne sooner than anything else in the world.

@Netika
Good/bad karma... Relative, yes... But sometimes it strikes me thus - when we speak of or heat abt a certain Universal Truth (whatever it may be), can this "relativeness" sustain... I mean - if it *is* a Universal Truth, nothing relative abt it, right..? Just a thought...

@Jaggu
Like we're bothered.

@PJ
Welcome 'ere, mate.

@Sid
Never knew about this temple you mentioned.
Gratias...

Peace.

Kartz said...

Ok... Coming back to Men and Poojas. Allow me to share this, too.

There was a death in the family, not too long ago. And this question was raised again - why women aren't involved in poojas/rites, etc.

This is what I learned...

1. There *is* a pooja specially for the women folk to perform. It is called "Sumangali Prarthna", in the honour of all the female ancestors. No job for men there...

2. Women, it seems, have a "passive" role to play in poojas... Which supposedly is making sure the Brahmanaas (Priests) are given proper food. Normally though, the lady of the house is found beside her husband (who performs the pooja). I guess that's the contribution on her part!

3. Why women do/are not allowed to "actively" perform these..? The answer I received - because they have their periods.

4. When it comes to rites... The belief is tht women cannot stand the grief of watching the deceased going up in flames and that they are to remain at home to prepare for the "shraddh cooking" et cetra.

Another interesting revelation here - During the mourning period, men are *not* allowed to move out of the household. This is when women make it count. I dunno how the practice differs elsewhere, but down here, to mark the end of the mourning period, some sort of shopping is done. New clothes are worn. For all this, it is the women who go out and make all the purchases...

- I did not mean to digress here, but I must say that bit regarding men and authorized ppl performing poojas caught my fancy.

Peace.

Arnav said...

@ Kartz
THanks :)


THe reasons you gave - Do u agree with them?

1)Yes there are few puja's performed only by women , but my point was in grand puja's / in famous temples only men "Authorized " men perform... THats Disturbing..

2) WHo actually is a brahman?? Just wearing a thread makes a man Brahman ?? Nah... Brahman is suppose to mean someone who has the knowledge of the entire universe- so giving food or serving them - who have knowledge of the entire universe is great . But I don't understand why only Brahman's are to be treated grandly .DOn't you think it would have been better that people with NO resources are given food , that would have been a true serving to mankind and God...

LEt me share an experience there was some yagna at my house and Dad was out of station , The pandit DID NOT allow ma to offer the yagna ( imagine she is the one giving him dakshina !!! )
and When I offered to do the puja I was too REJECTED as I had no THREAD although I am a brahman by birth :D ... Finally he did the yagna on our behalf :D

3) THis is one issue on which I somehow disagree , I mean People tell me that "during periods women do not do puja" has been followed by ages hence there must be some logic..
Well I do NOT see any logic , I see only PARTIALITY ...PERiods are essential , anyone with a little bit of knowledge in Biology would agree with me, that they are essential . So why so much of FUSS regarding a normal Biological process ...... can't we leave them alone instead of making the women folk over conscious actually embarrassed about a normal process...

4) Women can't stand grief ha ha :)
there are more widows in this country than widowers . Which reflects that women can stand grief and live their life , whereas men simply re-marry . Yes THe society also is involved here , as widow remarriage is a sensitive issue here.. but the fact is she lives - though a LONELY life , but she lives....

Kartz said...

Do I agree with them?

Not entirely...

Well, I had grilled our family acharya to get all this. Had to take a lot of flak from my folks later. Huh! :P

The icing on the cake was tht evening though...

A vaidika came over to narrate wht the soul undergoes in the journey after passing... My cousin and I questioned wht he said. Mind you, we are not atheists. We are religious folk too. Just that it is at times like these our credulity comes to the fore.

And we are comforted by such words which talk about being blessed and stuff. I am not disrespecting the priest here, either. But there are instances of fraudulent priests. Charlatans who hanker only for the cash tht comes along with this "booming trade".

Had mused over it in another post - The 'Enigma' that is... "God"

Ha ha! Authority! :D

Oh yeah... Priests aer very very finicky about the thread Brahmins wear. Know what? If the son hasn't had his Upanayanam (thread ceremony) yet and his father passes away, he is *made* to undertake the ceremony just before consigning his father to flames. Imagine... It will be indelible from his memory. Till the end. Cos the thread ceremony, which is normally held amidst pomp and joy, will be held with a pall of gloom and death...

Partiality - bingo... What abt performing when they do not have their menstrual cycle. Duh! Biology or God... Whatever. We have been created thus! Jeez...

Society, indeed... Hypocrisy, thy name is mankind.

Guess we shall never know answers. We aren't entitled to 'em all, are we?

Peace.

Kartz said...

And oh yeah - Holi greetings to ye all...

Peace.

Arnav said...

:) true..
hypocrisy it is .....
We would never get the answers .. ya
But like you and I do - question the beliefs followed for decades.. Things are sure to improve :)

Kartz said...

Dude, but seriously... I must tell you - the priest we have. However *business* minded at times, he has a tonna knowledge.

I mean it.

Thankfully, my decent knowledge of Sanskrit helps.

One of the questions that I am still asking around is around the Vedas. See... Brahmins associate their families with one of three Vedas - Rig, Sama and Yajur.

From what I have observed, most Iyengar families (Vaishnavites - followers of Maha Vishnu) associate with Rig Veda. While most Iyers (Shivaites - followers of Shiva) associate with Sama and Yajur. Another interesting thing... You mite ve noticed it in college. Remember "Avani Avittam"? When guys wd change their threads..? Now... Tht Avani Avittam is different for the followers of Sama Veda. For them, it coincides with Vinayak Chaturthi.

My question though is - why is no one associated with the Atharva Veda... The reason I have been getting is - it has a lot of spells/charms, etc. Talk of arcane stuff... Whoa! Sadly, not many know abt this... *tickles me to excitement when I think of this! ;D*

Oh bother...

Peace.

Tushar Mangl said...

@ Karthik...
Were you writing a comment or an absolutely new and fresh blog??? :-P

@Arnav
Well said man. It's an openly acknowledged fact that if you are making a temple, you can be sure of enough monetary support. But if it is a Gurudwara, a Sikh will himself jump in to labor for building up the Temple.

A prime example of this is, when the Sarovar at Shri Harminder Sahib at Amritsar was being cleaned up. Even the, then Home Minister of India, L.k. Advani came in to perform sewa for the Sarovar, not to mention the lakhs gathered their.

Also, many Sikhs claim their religion to be a more fine and refined version of Hinduism.

Lastly, Welcome to the Blog :-)

Kartz said...

@Tushar
:P

And well, not just Hinduism, Islam as well...

Peace.

Towards reclamation said...

people ....!

the intent behind the post seems to have been thrown out of the window ... the point being conveyed of equality seems to be forgotten instead the comments seem to have replaced the post ... anyway .. tht said it's a discussion so I willl jump in ..

firstly karma .. ??? its too big a word and all interpretations given here mostly incorrect and very layman style .. i am not being condescending but trying to highlight that somethings appear very simple but are not .. and karma is not worth a comment or a post ... i guess we all agree with that .. so I would not go ahead and give a 2 line description of it ..

secondly kartz ...

dude understand what hinduism is ... by that i mean understand how various traditions and cultures in it have evolved ... which is the sacred text of hinduism .. the bible of it /? the quran of it ?? vedas ??? Gita ??
after you answer that find out whether all tht u mentioned is found in these texts at all ....

caste system .. dont we know what it really is .. ?? brhmans were eligible to do a pooja not because they are the higher caste .. but because they have the knowledge , they are the enlightened ones and hence they knew the chants verses hymns and procedures ... period. not because others were not meant to do it ... tht has been greatly distorted byour society over years ..

women ... well wasnt it a matriarchial society before ??? secondly ... havent you read that initially of the 250 odd saints involved with vedas , 27 w=or so were women ??? i mean the ones you call sages maha gurus etc ..

again for the rules and reasons u mentioned .. find out first is it in the texts or made by the society ...

why all that even something as simple as brahmans do not eat non veg .. is it in the texts or made by society ...

now this has become too much about hinduism .. i know but this is where the comments were going ..

to reiterate i loved this post because it showed an incident where people practice social equality . period.

Tushar Mangl said...

@ Karthik
Corrections dude.
I told you, what many Sikhs Believe.
Actually, why did Sikhism became a religion? Because of the intense oppressions by Muslim rulers.Yes, Islam has been ingrained into Sikhism as well, but large part of Sikhs, have more religious inclinations towards Hinduism.

Arnav said...

@ Sid
Well said ..
The brahmans as u said were involved in puja because of their knowledge right ! but that was decades back..
Today its mere mugging up the mantras and reciting this is not knowledge ....
@ Tushar - yes Sikhism is closer to mankind.. because it is of the most recent religions..

Towards reclamation said...

@ Arnav to add to that ... milleniums back it was said tht caste is not by birth but by action .. so anyone who learns the knowledge is worthy of conducting the prayer ... it is as simple as the corporate world .. why dont the make anyone and everyone a strategic advisor or a ceo .. ??? to appease God was considered to be a task that had to be peformed with utmost perfection ... that is why again this restriction of the one with the knowledge can perform it ...
one with the knowledge ... not one whose father has the knowledge

Netika Lumb said...

@ Kartz,
We do not buy all that has been given to us by our society, religion,ancestors. Most universal truths come from here(I mean, obviously :P)Which is one reason for the relativity. You and I have different takes on these truths(Like I mentioned, this might be a cause of terrosim).
Take for instance-Religion.Or rather teachings by our respective religions. Straight, to the point, crisp-they leave no scope for ambiguity. There might be room for discussions on 'is it needed'/or'what the logic behind is', but they remain what they are. However, they are directed towards you and me, and coz we take it differently hence the relativity and thus, the lines dilute.

@towards reclamation
Karma isn't 'worth' a post or comment. No offence,but Is that not too extreme a stand?Agreed, it is too big a word and can be viewed at Micro and Macro levels. But 'worth'?

Towards reclamation said...

@ netika '


oops i missed the word just ..
it's not worth just a comment or post ...

as in one post or one comment cannot be enough to understand or explain it ...

and well extreme .. i have often read discussions on this topic and have found people's understanding to be inadequate .. you see karma is one philosophy you dont understand by reading .. instead you understand by doing .. and we are not there yet atleast most of us ..

karma is duty .. many say .. what is duty ??? refer encarta or webster ??? karma ka phal ... what is that ??? is it simple tit for tat for your actions .. ??? no .. but many think it is ...

i think TUSHAR .. here ia a topic for your dharma blog ...

would love to discuss loads of things there .. karma topping the list followed by moksha ..

Kartz said...

@TR
Dude, I know I digressed from Arnav's theme. I did mention so.

But those couple of lines rather caught my fancy and I elucidated. What I mentioned were not products of my cerebration, but what I had heard aprés questioning people around.

Will have to join in the discussion later... :)

Au revoir, for now.

Peace.

Shruti said...

Arnav, Amazing post.
Coincidentally, I wrote something similar on my blog too.

I feel the same way as you. Being Hindu by birth, I am not very attracted to the bias customs as pointed in this post.

I don't have a stand here, but for sure, even I have experienced that money matters in temples. There still are a lot of Hindu temples which do not follow similar lines.

The post was nice. Fresh.
I liked it.

Arnav said...

@Shruti
Thanks :)
just one correction , that I still do offer my prayers the hindu way :) , still perform the rituals , but yes My way :)

I do not believe in the practices which reflect partiality or injustice ... and I refrain from following those ..

Shiv said...

"Sewa is one of the most difficult yet Simple things to do. But once done it would leave us with a feeling divine enough to wipe away all the negativity , a feeling powerful enough to bring a lasting smile on the face ."

Brilliantly put! Words fail me! Loved the post...

Arnav said...

@Shiv -
Thanks a lot ...
:)

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