I was barefoot like the rest of them.
The day must have been around 95 degrees and as stuffy as can be, but the cool marble seemed to keep me from being drenched in sweat. After a long walk, I had finally made it to the inner core of the Taj Mahal, around the main tomb structure where pilgrims from all over the country had gravitated. The faithful coiled in long lines and snaked their way around the complex, waiting patiently to reflect at the megamausoleum and communing with the god of their choice. How could a billion people be wrong?
When I travel, I actually always enjoy talking to Indians (or whoever) about their religion. Here is a little thing I do… I’m not sure it’s totally ethical since I say the same thing over and over, but I enjoy seeing people’s reaction as a probe a panoply of personalities. Inevitably, when I’m in a taxi or man-powered trike-mobile, there is some sort of deity that is jiggling about on the dashboard or handlebars. It can be anyone from Shiva to Brahma to Vishnu to Krishna to Ganesha and beyond.
So, I always ask, “Who is the god to whom you pay reverence?”
They respond quickly and directly, usually naming one from of the top ten from the pantheon of possibilities.
I respond back, in all seriousness, “Oh! He is a very powerful god!”
To this, they always turn to me and nod gravely.
My guide there was from no from one of the traditional Hindu sects — he was a Jain. The Jain don’t recognize the divine origins of the Vedas (made popular in the US from Oppenheimer’s re-quote after testing the Bomb), nor do they believe in any one supreme deity. They instead revere Tirthankaras who have raised themselves to divine perfection. So anyway, if you ever try out the little trick above, don’t bother with a Jain because they will just give you a funny look and a wobble of inconsequential solitude.
So if any of you get the chance to go, I recommend it. The people are all nice as can be and very eager to engage in conversation about just about everything. Or, of you’ve already been, then you know what I mean!
By the way, this comes from my new Lucis Tutorial.