Saturday, November 17, 2012

Pilgrims on Similar but Divergent, Paths

I've written before about my experience at a Hindu temple; this post talks about the first time that I went there with my Hindu friend for a yoga class.  Yesterday, I had the chance to be at the Hindu temple with her again.

We were there because I had written an article for The Lutheran on the changing face of ecumenism.  That magazine requested pictures of my friend and me at her temple.  My friend graciously got us permission to take pictures outside the temple, and the magazine provided the professional photographer.  My friend agreed to be in the pictures--not every friend would do that for me.

And so, we met at the temple and talked about possible locations and agreed on a plan.

The photographer needed some time to get set up, so we slipped inside.  Immediately I felt that feeling of peace that I so often get in a spiritual place.  My friend got a blissful expression, and she said, "I so love being here."

We walked to the area where the glass cases that contain statues of the gods are kept.  There are about 8 cases with elaborate statues inside.  Outside are offerings and candles.  My friend bowed at each one and waved the candle smoke in her direction and smoothed her hair.  She told me about each god.

Fundamentalist friends might ask me if those are statues that represent the gods or if they are the gods.  Fundamentalist friends would probably never speak to me again because they'd be so shocked that I went to the temple in the first place.

But back to that question:  I am just not sure.  I've now been to a Hindu house blessing, and been to the Hindu temple several times with my friend, and I just can't tell.  She talks about the statues as if they are the gods themselves, and yet I don't get the idea that a statue can contain the god as she understands it.

Soon enough, we were back outside, in the temperate air, in a temple that feels outside of time and space, but is close to the western edge of Broward county, just a few miles away from the Everglades.  I wondered about those first Hindus, back in the early 90's, who had the wisdom to buy the land.  I wondered about my friend and other Hindus, who came to this country which is so similar and so different to their homeland in India.

And then we got to the tough work of taking pictures:  holding poses, smiling, trying to keep our eyes open.  We sat on the cleanest, outdoor concrete floor I've ever sat on.  My friend smiled when I said that. "Of course, it's clean," she said.  "It's washed twice a day.  It has to be clean enough to eat off of.  That's the standard."  They met their standard.

I'm grateful for my friend who is so patient with my lack of knowledge.  She's grateful for me, a Christian who doesn't condemn her for her polytheistic beliefs.  We're lucky pilgrims to have found each other, on these paths which are so similar and yet so strange.

1 comment:

rbarenblat said...

What a beautiful experience. How lucky you and your friend are to have found one another.

I experienced some of that same feeling of being in a sacred space, even if the iconography is profoundly not my own, while visiting the Sagrada Familia church in barcelona earlier this week. (Blogged about it this morning, though it's been pushed down the main page by a prayer for the children of Abraham/Ibrahim.)