July 30, 2009
A Hindu Temple in the USA
A friend and I visited a 'Mandir' (Hindu Temple) located near Princeton a few days ago and that lead to some very interesting discussions about religion: its place in a given culture, and its perception outside of its natural home. Given that my friend had never ventured into a Hindu Temple ever before, I was curious to know her reactions, and she agreed to let me post those, and here they are:
1. The inside (of the temple) setting was very informal, and contrary to what she had imagined. The few people in there were chatting and some were sitting in groups on the carpeted floor as that was the only available seating.
2. The statues had identical faces and expressions, yet each had a unique embellishment to set it apart like a musical instrument or a weapon. All the idols were light skinned, had European features, and some even had light eyes. They all looked serene, almost benign.
3. "It did seem strange to see people praying before those figures. In a Catholic church the people pray (often very intently) before statues of saints or Christ, but these statues represent real people that once lived and are remembered for some particular reasons. The statues in the temple were not representing anything real, which is why I asked you if they represent an idea. My very first thought when I saw them was these are the "false idols" we were always taught about as children in religion classes, and the people who worship them were the "pagans" we were supposed to feel sorry for, because they didn't know "God." I always thought it was silly to feel sorry for them. I was quite sure they were very satisfied with their gods who had as much meaning for them as mine did for me. I guess I never was the ideal Catholic student. I asked too many questions. Did you ever read Bless Me, Ultima? That Catholic church was the one I knew, and Ultima's religion was the one that made more sense to me."
Makes me wonder about my first reactions to the different places of worship I have entered for the very first time ...