Our family was invited to participate in a Geeta Yagnya, in a neighbor’s home. This is a Hindu devotional ceremony that uses the classic text, the Bhagavad Gita. It was new territory for me.
We entered our friend’s home, taking our shoes off first, and gathered together with 8 other adults and the same number of children on the floor around an indoor fire. There was an altar with a picture of deities, and a little platform that had been constructed for the fire bowl, which was just about as wide as a traditional chess board, and probably 10 inches deep. There was a leader, GuruMaas, who travels the world having dedicated herself to her beliefs. She led and told us what to do when. We recited prayers and tossed some sacred seeds and ghee (clarified butter) into the fire. It lasted about an hour, and then we ate together.
I am not a very religious person. Over my lifetime I have participated in Sunday services for about 5 different forms of Christianity, including evangelical and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. I actually was a Mormon for a couple of years as a young man – there are Mormons in my family and my mother and I converted. I also attended synagogue for two years when I was very young, unchaperoned by my parents – my father was a non-practicing Jew. I went to synagogue on my own as a child and later converted to Judaism as an adult. But, I am not a practicing Jew. I have participated in several Native American ceremonies including the Vision Quest and numerous pipe ceremonies.
All in all, I enjoy ritual as a way of making the spirit or soul visible. In that regard, I find them not just useful, but profound. I am a mystic at heart. I don’t subscribe to a particular religion. So, this event in some ways was a natural extension of my interest and I enjoyed it very much. Since my daughter arrived from India almost 8 years ago, I have been enjoying a deep dive into Hinduism – she is very religious and studies Hindu mythology with verve.
I think there is great value in learning about others by participating in their special events. This was very special – the host family did a great deal to prepare. It felt very intimate, a little less than twenty people gathered on the floor in a home. The fire was magical, with flames darting up, heating us all as we all chanted and made our offerings over and over.
There are so many ways to ponder the awesome, the ineffable. As someone who loves science and mathematics, it is clear to me that the totality of reality is so much more than any mind can comprehend. And as someone who travels from one tradition to another, dipping in an out of traditions, I feel like I live between worlds. I think it is my legacy as I was born from a Christian mother who was a spiritual seeker and an agnostic, Jewish father. The space between worlds is my home. I like bridging worlds. It brings me great satisfaction.
Is there a way you might step into a close friend’s world this week? …a way that you would enjoy and would challenge your traditions?
“I love food, all types of food. I love Korean food, Japanese, Italian, French. In Australia, we don’t have a distinctive Australian food, so we have food from everywhere all around the world. We’re very multicultural, so we grew up with lots of different types of food.”