It is now over a year since I wrote about my first visit to a Hindu temple. Since then I have been attending regularly with my family. I now feel accepted by the Indian Hindus, and one incident more than anything else brought this home to me.
A new mandir has been constructed in our city, and will soon hold rituals to consecrate the deities and the building. This is a very important event, which we are looking forward to very much. One of the people I meet there regularly asked me if I had been given a personal invitation. I told him no, but I had seen the public invitation on the noticeboard. He called over our pundit (priest), and asked whether I could be given an invitation. Pundit ji said “of course not”, then quickly smiled and gave me an envelope with the personal invitation for me and my family
Now he is comfortable enough to joke about me being accepted, I have absolutely no doubt that my family and I have been! I am very privileged to be at the opening of the magnificent new building. This purpose-build mandir will show the presence of Hinduism to everyone in the city. I have great affection for the old building, which is I believe had previously been a club, but at times it was limiting, with some people having to listen through the doors of the prayer hall during well-attended events.
I wrote before that I was worried about visiting a Hindu temple, because I did not know what the “real Hindus” would think . Well, thanks to Deepak on the Orkut site, I finally got the courage to visit. Deepak reminded me of the story of the father, the son and the donkey. This story reminded me that if we always worry about what others think we will end up doing nothing.
Anyway, I need not have worried. I arrived at the temple at a quiet time and the only person there was a priest who was looking through some papers. I performed a namaste to the deities and then sat down and meditated for a while. The priest finished his papers and asked whether he could help me. I asked him about some of the deities that I did not recognise and he told me about them. He then offered me prashad and some holy water, which I took. A younger man came in and told me that they were preparing for a function so the priest could not talk to me for long. The priest said that he was going to perform a short puja before the function and asked whether I would like to stay. During this time several other people came an went, and all greeted me in a friendly manner.
What struck me was how I really felt at home in this place, there was an atmosphere of holiness, peace and friendliness. As I left the priest asked me if I would come again, and I told him that I would. He said that he would tell me more about Hinduism but would also learn from me. He was a very approachable, peaceful and humble man, I know from the website that he has a Phd. and he still said that he wanted to learn from me. And to think that I was worried about being thought of as an ignorant non-Hindu!