Saturday, April 11, 2009

Thirumandiram - Worship of Devotees

12 April 2009

Part of praxis of inter-faith devotion is "how do we engage with people who are devoted, who possess the devotion & discipline that is observable and affective."

In the course of inter-faith encounters, sometimes we do come across people who by their very presence and conduct of their lives, reveal an immense immersion in the spiritual discipline that, the encounter feels like a blessing. The initiative taken to understand the other, sometimes turns into an opportunity to dig deeper into descriptions and prescriptions on how to relate with devotees.

In Thirumandiram in Chapter Seven, under the heading Maheswara Puja (Worship of Devotees) Moolar begins with the following text.

"The offering you give
To the Lord in the temple steepled high
Reaches not His devotees
Who the walking temples noble are;
When you offer things
To the walking temples noble
That sure reaches the Lord
In the temple steepled high."
(Thirumandiram 1857)

A few verses later Moolar asserts:

"Though you a thousand abodes to holy Brahmins give
Though you a thousand temples for the gods build;
None, none is of merit compare
To a day's feed to a holy devotee given;
This be of certain."
(Thirumandiram 1860)

The question that arises then is what is it that makes them so great. What is it that they do that makes them so great. Moolar offers us a clue in the form of a declaration. I wonder if declarations makes us value treasures less.

"In the hearts of the resolute He firm abides;
In the hearts of those who adore, He is in accord comports
Those who held the Primal Lord as their heart's Jewel
And so reckoned Him
How can they part from Him, ever?"
(Thirumandiram 1877)

Encounters between people who practice different faiths happen at different levels, with different objectives and outcomes. As a person who spends more time on process oriented work, it got me thinking, "What if we are somehow able to show half as much respect as described above to the people with whom we engage in inter-faith encounters?" Another challenge thrown up is - How is it possible to keep God away so long?


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