AMMA'S RECIPE FOR SOOTHING THE SOUL
My dear son,
Your one week holiday was too short. I wanted to share a lot of things with you. But you were always busy at the computer. So I thought perhaps I could communicate with you better through the same medium which holds all your attention.
Whenever we celebrate festivals at home we run into arguments. You and your brother rebel whenever your Appa and I ask you to join us in the puja. You say you don't believe in rituals, that you can't relate to those gods framed and arranged neatly in the puja room.
But the prayers are significant for me. They may be ritualistic but they have the same effect on my mind as yoga and exercise have on the body, maintaining equilibrium. If exercise keeps physical balance, my faith takes care of my inner balance. I don't expect you to do what I do. You may have your ways of finding peace .... but I thought both of you should understand me better.
Let me tell a story. Saligraman, that tiny black pebble like stone reverently kept in the wooden box in the puja room, was given to me when I married Appa. The kanyadaan ritual where the father gives away his daughter in marriage, included this Saligraman. It is actually a fossil found in the Himalayan river beds, particularly in Nepal. The belief is that they are manifestations of the various avatars of Vishnu.
Why don't all pebbles / fossils found in all river-beds have the sanctity of a Saligraman? Just as all stone carvings of gods don't become sacred, is what makes certain fossils sacred too.
I have no idea what that special quality is. I just hold on to a sense of comfort of being taken care of by an invisible force. So, I never probed into the logic. I don't need to. Saligraman is usually handed down from one generation to another like an heirloom. Ours goes back several generations.
When I went to Bombay carrying this small sacred stone in my suitcase 25 years ago to live with your Dad, I didn't know much about its sanctity. Neighbours advised me, "You have to be pious and maintain a strict code of conduct. You have to follow the rituals strictly."
I told myself, God is my friend. My parents have given this sacred symbols to me so that He will always remain with me. He will remain with me whenever I go, ritual or no ritual. So the Saligraman travelled with us across continents, wherever your Dad was posted.
You once said that you eat chocolate when you are depressed. I turn to prayer. In times of pain, I try to converse with God. I feel He is my constant companion, however abstract He might be. Happiness, satisfaction, or sorrow, I share it with Him. So, dear son, when chocolate don't help, perhaps you can try a prayer.
The idea is to come out of the depression; to chase away negative thoughts. The idea is to be constantly aware of our emotions and thoughts. Like you, even I couldn't relate much to temples when I was young. But gradually, I found myself changing. As I grew older, I did feel a sense of peace when I came close to the deity. And slowly, I began to feel that I could relate to Him and communicate with Him. I could feel the energy flowing from Him. Perhaps it was auto suggestion. But so what? So long as it gave me peace.
I am not suggesting that you have to conform. I am just narrating my experience. Just be open and keep observing life and yourself without any preconceived ideas. If you are at peace with yourself, even without any external aid like prayer, good. God bless you. But if you ever need a comfort zone to turn to in times of need, please try praying.
(Courtesy: Aruna Srinivasan in The Times of India, 09-1-2003)