Describe a memory or encounter in which you considered your faith, religion, spirituality — or lack of — for the first time.
Photographers, artists, poets: show us FAITH.
When I was about 8 my mother & sister took me on a shopping trip to Oxford Street in London. Both of them could shop for hours at a time in clothing shops. I didn’t share their passion for clothes, shoes & handbags, & would often become faint & need to stand outside to get some air.
I remember on one occasion hearing a strange sound of drumming, bells & singing as I stood outside the doors of C & A. I was so drawn to the sound that, forgetting my mother’s warnings not to stray, I wandered in the general direction of the sound to find out what it was.
Suddenly I saw the most incredible sight I’d ever seen. Dancing along the street were a group of amazing people. The men were dressed in orange cloth & the women were wearing saris made from the most beautiful, colourful materials.
As they danced they chanted in a strange language & while some of them played the huge drums that were hanging around their necks others clanged finger bells. I stood transfixed. It was like something from one of my grandfather’s books about the world, had come to life before my very eyes.
I had also seen pictures of such people in the Horniman museum close to my home, where many treasures collected during the tea trading years of one Frederick Horniman, were housed. I followed slowly for a while until I found myself back outside the shop where I had started. My Sister was looking for me & took me back inside.
I was deeply moved by what I had seen & vowed to return one day to find these wonderful people & discover their ways. It was about 5 years later when I returned to Oxford Street alone, hoping to see them again. They were not there & I was bitterly disappointed.
I started to visit Oxford Street every weekend after that & on about my third try I found a single lone man, dressed in what I now knew to be dhotis, handing out leaflets in the street. I took one eagerly & read it hoping to find out where I could find them. There was an address of an ISKCON temple in Bury Place but I had no idea how to get there.
I returned to the smiling man & asked him where I could find the temple of which the leaflet spoke. He gave me directions & I started to walk excitedly in the direction he had pointed. It took me quite a while to get there & when I arrived I was surprised to find a rather dull looking town house. Nothing at all like the wonderful temples I had seen in books.
I entered shyly as a lady invited me in & gestured to the pile of shoes by the door, I understood immediately & slipped my shoes off leaving them with the others. She drew a tilaka (sacred mark) on my forehead with a paste, offered me some prasadam (sacred food that has been offered to God before being consumed) & so started a new chapter in my life.
After that I visited the temple once a week for a couple of months. Sometimes I was invited to study with others, reading from the Bhagavad Gita or the Srimad Bhagavatam & sometimes I was sent to the kitchen to help prepare vegetables. I learnt to make clothing for the deities & on one occasion I was taken to a room on one of the upper floors & left to clean a huge carpet with a tiny brush all on my own.
My favourite times, though, were when I was left alone with my tulsi beads, to chant in the temple room with the deities, I loved the smell of the incense & the wonderful colours of the flowers. The altar was so beautiful & I felt so at peace there. This was what I thought of as a temple. This was an inspiration for me.
I realized as time went on that there was a lot more to Hinduism than that which ISKCON could give me, & that I needed to look further afield in what I now understood was a wider quest for truth. It was a turning point in my life though & I will be eternally grateful for the care & love I was shown by the devotees during my visits.
5 thoughts on “In Good Faith: Discovering Hinduism”
Hi, Thanks for liking my post at kallucuriocorner.com. I am a hindu and I feel hinduism is a religion for today’s world – it could be complicated if you want it to be but can be simple when you need it. Wish you all the best with your blog.
Hiya, I’m really glad you read & enjoyed my post. It was, as the prompt asked, just a tale of my first encounter. The story goes on for many years & would be too long for a post. I can say here though that although, after walking away from the religion of my birth, I have never adopted another religion, I have striven to know & understand many. Hinduism was my first venture into the unknown & has continued to impact my life immensely, probably more than any other. I checked out your blog & it’s really great stuff. I will be definitely be back for more. Following 🙂