Sunday, January 29, 2012

Hinduism: Meaningless Rituals?

Most religions (and maybe all religions) have some degree of ritualistic behavior. But many people of faith love to point to people of other religions and mock the rituals that they follow. Human nature I guess...

If you ever go to a Hindu temple, one of the rituals you might notice is people circling the inner sanctum of the temple. This is one that I myself have always wondered about. Most religious rituals have (or had) some meaning or significance. Some rituals have lost that relevance and some others have been mindlessly practiced for so long that people have forgotten their meaning. So one time I asked our priest about this one...

So said the learned priest: When you visit the temple, you come with a lot of baggage. Your day to day life, your stresses, your hopes and desires, your anger and frustrations. In this state of mind it is very difficult to really feel the presence of God or to make a connection to your own spiritual self. Circling the inner sanctum of the temple, or doing pradakshina, is a method to unwind yourself from it all before trying to reach out, or in.

Typically you do three pradakshinas before praying. During the first one you should attempt to unwind and disconnect your mind from your worldly possessions. During the second you should attempt to unwind and disconnect from all your relations and relationships. Finally, during the third you should attempt to unwind and disconnect from your own ego and sense of self. When you have successfully disconnected from all this can you really connect with God.

Does this mean that if you cannot manage to disconnect some day then prayer is futile? I asked. Not so, said the priest, your prayer is still heard, you just may not be able to hear the response due to the noise.

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