A Little Roadside Temple – and the Lamp of Devotion

We have arrived in India and are on our way to Haridwar to enter the merciful waters of Mother Ganga. We will stay in the guesthouse of the Dev Sanskriti University for two days and deliver a workshop as part of their second festival on yoga, culture and spirituality. Then we will continue our pilgrimage to Badrinath.

We are speeding through the night. Our car stops before a little roadside temple. The driver needs a pause! It’s 3 a.m. and still very dark. But the Lord’s temple is open.

A man riding a bicycle also stops here; he is on his way to work in some distant town. For half an hour he is absorbed in prayer. No one is there to look. Cars drive by, a pregnant stray dog passes, the ants are still asleep. The man keeps praying.

His demeanor is serious. He is concentrated and deep inside of his sacred space – where the world cannot enter. The stray dog looks at him. And so do I.

Now he takes a little ghee wick and in a gesture of worship waves it around the deities. He starts singing, softly in the beginning, but slowly he gets louder. A two-way-exchange seems to develop.

I feel blessed that our driver almost fell asleep – so that he needed a rest, and opted to stop at this place: A little unknown roadside temple in the darkness, lit by a lamp of devotion.

In this way I can witness this scene of love. The whole essence of bhakti can be found in this exchange: a loving relationship, which goes two ways: From the Lord to his devotee and from the devotee to the Lord. This relationship is the foundation of the taste of bhakti – even in the beginning stages.

It is said: Rare is a human birth, which offers us the opportunity to liberation from the cycle of birth and death. However still rarer is the genuine desire for love of God. I have come to India to strengthen this desire.

When the man finished, I ask him which form of God he worshiped, “Lakshmi  Narayana?”

His eyes are full of light: “Ney, Radha Krishna.”

At this moment the electricity briefly comes back and the light bulb in that temple shows the forms of my Lord and His Beloved.

“Yes,” I say to myself. “You can see the Lord only through the eyes of His devotee.”

Sacinandana Swami

Under the Banyan Tree is a regular column featuring the writing of Sacinandana Swami.

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