A couple weeks ago I would have told you that I am exhausted. Exhausted physically. Exhausted mentally. Even exhausted emotionally. Traveling is awesome and it can be exhausting and overwhelming too.
And I got overwhelmed. I was sick, I was alone and I found my tipping point.
Or was I alone?…
I called a friend and before I could say a word, the tears began to flow… the next thing I knew I was at my friend’s grandmother’s home being nursed back to health. Her English was sparse but complete enough for us to communicate on the bare essentials. She feed me my favorite south Indian foods, monitored my liquids, let me sit with her, let me sleep in her room so that I would not be alone, held my hand …
She just let me rest, recover and come back to me.
While I was with her in the country, I rested, read and watched the animals, even they slept a little siesta in the middle of the day.
I don’t think I even realized how much she had done for me until the last day I was with her. I went in to her room to say thank you and goodbye and once again before I could even speak, the tears began to flow. She reached out her hand to mine and looked at me with knowing eyes… I reminded her that when I came to her I was so sick and so homesick … and that she brought me back to health. She told me that it was good for her Mother’s heart to be able to care for me. I hugged her with more tears.
What kindness, what selfless love! Look at this beautiful woman’s eyes and smile, it’s written all over her!
Even with all that I don’t understand and find downright puzzling about Hindu Temples and Ashrams, I have still found them to be surprisingly inclusive and welcoming … welcoming to the tourist, the spiritual seeker and those of every faith. Since I have been in India, I’ve been welcomed, blessed and fed by residents and caretakers of Ashrams and even prayed for by name by a Brahmin Priest. None of this was done to gain favor or to convert me, but instead because we meet strangers and friends on the journey of life, why not welcome them …?
For your presence is a blessing and your presence is an offering; not in the way that one should never give or support but in the way that a relationship is nurtured in presence; presence to others and presence to God.
I have met devout Christians who live in ashrams here in Tiruvannamalai as unquestioned Christian members of the community. I am intrigued by a space like an Ashram (which might be more akin to a retreat center or meditation space, it is not a Temple or a church.) Ashrams allow a space to be differently together seeking God.
I wonder if more followers of different faiths could seek God differently together, maybe we wouldn’t fight about our different faiths and understandings through violence, judgment and hate … maybe we could instead be more of a blessing to each other.
A wall inside the Quo Vadis Interfaith Dialogue Center.
The Arunachaleshwar Temple in the middle of Tiruvannamalai. Looks something like an Old Testament description of a temple…
The rather popular, with the Westerners and Indians alike, Sri Ramanasramam Ashram.
… in 28 hours flat, from New York to Tiruvannamalai! Trains, Planes and Automobiles to do it, but I made it with help of many gracious hosts along the way. It was about midnight local time when I left the Chennai airport and connected with Nicolaj and Sargunnan to make the journey to the Quo Vadis Interfaith Dialogue Center where I am staying this month. (Sargunnan is in the picture with me.) They greeted me with warm smiles and a very large flower garland. Hawaii’s got nothing on these garlands, it almost reached my knee.