Everything happens at the will of God, they say. Even a blade of grass swaying to the gentle breeze in a field on a summer afternoon obeys his command, they say.
Then how is it that I, not very religious and cringe at the senseless odium it brings is welcomed, time after time to visit some of the most exotic religious places in the world?
Obviously, I am doing something that God likes.
The above was when I visited the ‘Buddha Tooth Relic' temple on my birthday a few years ago. This temple houses an actual ‘tooth’ of Buddha and I was blessed to be in there.
Stepping out of the car, captivated as I walked towards a famous religious wonder, this tall golden statue of a Hindu deity that stands right in front of an enchanting cave, I was not ready to stop until I reached the top of the stairs.
Finding peace and calm at an ancient structure still surviving among tall modern buildings, I did realize that praying doesn’t have to be so hypercritical after all. It only takes a few minutes, and there is nothing to lose. This Chinese temple honouring the Sun God and the Moon Goddess, honouring dragons and lions was a beauty in the middle of the city.
I also visited the oldest Hindu temple in Singapore on one fine morning when I was there.
Sometimes I go to particular religious places just to get good food. Like a mosque area where I found the best Turkish delights, or a mosque restaurant to relish the tastiest shawarmas, all while enjoying the view of Burj Khalifa in the background.
There was also a time when I visited this temple in the most remote part of the Himalayas. Wedged between the Nepali plateau and the Tibetan plateau, like some surreal scene in a movie I slowly sauntered into this temple to take an ice-cold bath in the minus temperature. Lol, joking. If you took a bath here, you would freeze.
Sometimes I also take other people’s recommendations (if it’s genuine). Like the time when I walked to the highest point of a rustic village in the mountains only to find myself inside a warm and cosy monastery.
I walked to the highest point in Kathmandu to visit the ‘Monkey Temple’ that sits atop. I went there to show gratitude and to thank the universe for everything.
Then there is always a church on a hilltop, welcoming a tired traveler like me to take a break and rest for a while. Riding a bike from morning to afternoon, I only entered this church to shelter from the sun and to cool off in the shade.
There was no one in the church, except for that one old man who was seated in the frontmost benches. This place was so silent, that I was super careful not to make the slightest noise as I tiptoed and sat on a back bench. The view was better here.
I took some pictures, and turned my head here and there, now what? There were two things I could have done – act like a know-it-all and laugh at all these delusional creations of religious ceremonies. Or, start a mental conversation with God and cite a long list of all the wishes and demands I have, from wanting a job promotion to wanting a bigger house or a better car. But instead, I took a look at that old man in the front again. He was dabbing his eyes with a handkerchief and seemed like he was crying.
That’s when I realized why a church or a temple is important. I did have my conversation with God (a short one). What the conversation was is a secret. But after a few minutes, I left the tranquil and silent church behind.
That old man was oblivious that a sunburnt traveller had just tiptoed into the church, sat there for a while, and left the place. I was that stealthy.
So, as I said above. If everything is God’s will then is the same true to all the pain and misery in the world, all the war and destruction in the world? Well, that depends on what god you are into. Nonetheless, it is the will of a god. Because to a devil worshipper, even the devil is the god.
So my advice is – don’t be arrogant pricks and think that being evil is cool; it never was, and never will be.