The more we believe that Life happens because of us, the more we will find inner peace elusive!
Over the weekend my sister-in-law and her family had arranged for Vaani and me to travel with them to visit the famous Brihadeeswarar ‘Big’ Temple in Thanjavur. Built 1006 years ago, the Temple is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. My brother-in-law had engaged a tour guide Raja, a small man in his late 50s. Raja not only regaled us with the history of the Temple, he also peppered his commentary with wacky humor. But what’s remarkable is that he found a spiritual context to every aspect of the Temple’s story. In summary, he told us that the most important, the biggest, temple was really the human body that housed the soul – the jeevatma! “For this jeevatma to be united with the paramatma, the Creator, the Source, the Higher Energy that powers our lives, we humans must dissolve our ego, our anger and stop being attached with the material aspects of this illusory experience called this lifetime, or maya,” he said, adding, “That’s all there is to realize the God within. You don’t need to visit any temple, you don’t need to seek God outside of you. You just find your God in you.”
Hearing Raja say this was a humbling experience. Here was a man with buck teeth, short, dark, wearing worn out sandals, and speaking a smattering of languages including Tamizh, English, French, Marathi, Hindi, Kannada and Telugu. He wore a single rudraksha bead around his neck and had smeared his forehead with sacred ash, vibhooti. He is the quintessential tour guide you will find hanging around tourist spots in India. He’s also the sort who you would not normally want to engage because you fear being taken for a ride. So, Raja was the last person who I expected to be spiritual. But don’t you, so very often, find beauty in the most unexpected places in Life? Not being the religious sort, my interest in visiting the Big Temple was purely to soak in the marvelous architecture and the history associated with it. Even so, with Raja sharing nuggets of spiritual wisdom, I found our tour of the Temple very enlightening and awakening.
Personally, I can relate to the idea of dissolving one’s ego and anger and practicing detachment. Through our own experience of our ongoing bankruptcy I do know how much I have evolved along the way. There was a time, up until 15 years ago, when I thought intelligent living was all about applying your intelligence – your logic, your education, your reasoning – to your Life. Now I know, that it is about being intelligent enough not to want to control Life. You can’t control Life. Period. Life happens through you, for you, but never because of you and often inspite of you! When you take Life as it comes, living in the moment, you realize that anger and frustration are impediments to your inner peace. Through continuously training your mind, you can learn to rein in your anger. This way, when you are at peace with yourself, you discover Life’s true, transient, nature. You realize that everything arrives in time and everything departs when its time is up. This awareness that nothing is permanent only helps you dissolve your ego even more.
The bigness of the Brihadeeswarar Temple – its scale, its grandeur, its engineering, its celebration of the indomitable human spirit of creativity, from thought to finish – reminded me, yet again, of how small all of us really are in this big, vast Universe. Yet we like to brag about our most insignificant achievements and consider ourselves as being very important in the scheme of our things. I guess you require a Big Temple, and the wisdom of a simpleton, to help you realize that there is a lot more to Life than just you!