*takes a deep breath*
Twice I have heard this,
Some very smarty pant people have told me,
“Make a wish when you enter the temple”
There are so many fundamental flaws in this idea. And it is so immensely lowly!
Let’s begin with this story,
(Indian culture has so many amazing stories 🙂 )
Excerpt from The Life of Swami Vivekananda by His Eastern and Western Disciples, Advaita Ashrama, Calcutta, 1974, (pp 94-96). (this is a summarized version, but you can read the full one here)
One day the idea struck me that God listened to Sri Ramakrishna’s prayers. So why should I not ask him to pray for me for the removal of my pecuniary wants. I hurried to Dakshineswar and insisted on his making an appeal on behalf of my starving family. He said, “My boy, I can’t make such demands. But why don’t you go and ask the Mother yourself?”
About nine o’clock, the Master commanded me to go to the temple. As I went I was filled with a divine intoxication. Me feet were unsteady. My heart was leaping in anticipation of the joy of beholding the living Goddess and hearing Her worlds. I was full of the idea. Reaching the temple, as I cast my eyes upon the image, I actually found that the Divine Mother was living and conscious, full of divine love and beauty. I was caught in a surging wave of devotion and love. In an ecstasy of joy I prostrated myself again before the Mother and prayed, “Mother, give me discrimination! Give me renunciation; give me knowledge and devotion; grant that I may have an uninterrupted vision of Thee!” A serene peace reigned in my soul. The world was forgotten. Only the Divine Mother shone within my heart.
As soon as I returned, Sri Ramakrishna asked me if I had prayed to the Mother for the removal of my worldly wants. I was startled at this question and said, “No sir, I forgot all about it. But is there any remedy now?” “Go again,” said he, “and tell Her about your wants.” I again set out for the temple, but at the sight of the Mother forgot my mission, bowed to Her repeatedly and prayed only for knowledge and devotion. I went for the third time, but on entering the temple a terrible shame overpowered me. I thought, “What a trifle have I come to pray to the Mother for! It is like asking a gracious king for a few vegetables! What a fool I am!” In shame and remorse I bowed to Her respectfully and said, “Mother, I want nothing but knowledge and devotion!”
So I would suggest as per this story, that if someone wants to make a wish in front of God when they enter a powerful temple then they can, use it as a test! If they enter the temple and aren’t completely overpowered enough to forget the wish then…. too bad!! It just wasn’t a fruitful visit. 😀
As I said, this idea that it is important to hold on to a trifle wish when you come in front of God suggests a lot of ignorance on many aspects,
Firstly, it suggests that God is not outside the temple. Which is so weird an idea.
Secondly, it is a basic understanding that all cause of our suffering lies in our own mind. And so if we are going about creating suffering for ourselves then we must be really silly creatures. And since that is the case, how can we consider ourselves so smart that when we meet God, we must tell him/her what he/she must do! So much arrogance.
Thirdly, when they are in presence of God who they consider all knowing, all powerful creator of everything, or at least they think that they are in a very powerful space and have access to God, even then if they are stuck with the small, personal life matters and cannot drop them even in that one massive moment – then spirituality is very far away. So the only way around is that, because they have a compulsive mind that NEEDS TO make a wish so they feel they GOT something from God, they can wish for spiritual progress or grace or inner clarity.
And I think it is with this intention that in a lot of religions there are set stanzas to speak or sing when you are in a temple. These stanzas usually ask for spiritual grace. But mostly they are just praising God. Like I had written earlier the Guru Pooja and a lot of bhajans are all just heaping praises and praises on the Guru or God. These help the devotees, so they don’t make a complete fool of themselves (hehe). At least they can be a little bit sensible in powerful spaces 😀
Mis-interpretation of Certain Bhajans
There are some bhajans and slokas which seem to be talking about getting material well being from God. Usually, in most cases if not all, I would say that when we look at the deeper, intelligent meaning of it. And then it will never be about material well-being.
For example, there is Chandrashekhara Ashtakam by Markandeya muni… it seems when he was a young boy, he was struck with the fear of death and Shiva saved him. And he penned this bhajan which has two main lines after every stanza,
“Chandrashekhara Chandrashekhara Chandrashekhara pahimam
Chandrashekhara Chandrashekhara Chandrashekhara rakshamam”
In this he says Shiva is the protector or Shiva will protect me.
Here are two example scenarios of how this bhajan can be sung,
Some one who is scared all the time. Keeps singing this bhajan to save himself. And gets a bit of mental relief in a belief that Shiva will protect.
Someone who realises that everything is after all in hands of Shiva. He is just a mere mortal and so with fearlessness in his heart, he sings this.
(fearlessness is not to be mistaken with being rash – fearless means just the lack of fear. Rash means lack of sense or too much arrogance. Fearlessness is a very positive situation. Socially, it is sometimes given a bad connotation because it is understood wrongly)
If you look at both these cases, in the first case religion is being used as psychological panacea (which also at times can be useful for a person but it has nothing to do with spiritual growth).
While in the second, there is a much higher understanding and the person has gone beyond the petty, material self. And this usually would happen only with some experience.
So, when I think of it, I can hardly recall any instance where a genuine seeker is actually asking anything of God or making a wish. Usually the relation of a seeker is more intimate with God. And in this intimate relation one may ask or not ask – it is all the same. The Vivekananda story above is just one of the many such stories which highlight, how we should be in a temple.
What does come to mind are the children’s books and stories – that when the good person gets into some trouble – he/she will pray to God. And God appears…. But this is a problem with the children’s version of the books – the story is made into some western fairy tale version. And the deeper Hindu (as a geographic and cultural identity) wisdom is chopped off. What is left is a moral type story. Having said that, a lot of our Hindu lore is still known by masses due to these children stories, so won’t completely discard them. I guess they play a role. But to actually gain the meaning of the stories needs a much deeper and intelligent look.
Some People’s Wishes Are Fulfilled
So there is this other aspect – that there are people whose wishes are fulfilled.
Just two things to say here,
Firstly, I am aware of some people like this even in my personal life. And what I see is that, there is just too much psychology involved in this kind of a thing. Because once the wish gets fulfilled (coincidence or maybe not) it leads to more thinking and more obsession of a kind. The thing is that their thoughts and psychological process gets stronger rather than subtler. Moreover, these things usually happen for a limited period of time maybe due to some past good karma or some other situation, but it doesn’t imply anything about spiritual progress. And I have seen these people suffer a lot anyway… so what’s the point!
I would say in all such situations one must fall back on their understanding of What Spirituality Is – this is necessary. Because otherwise everything just becomes too abstract and misleading. It doesn’t have to be that way.
There have been some stories of yogis who wished for something and got it… but they would have some strong sadhana going on. On basis of that sadhana, this wish fulfilling ‘miracles’ if we want to call them that, would be happening…. like how Vivekananda says that Maa Kali does everything for Ramakrishna Paramhamsa and yet Ramakrishna would only be totally submerged into her.. and not even have the sense to make a formal request. She would anyway know. Something like that.
There is also the matter of ‘wish fulfilling tree’ – I think this refers to the power of consciousness. When a seeker with bit more higher intensity and sadhana will wish for something, there is a much higher chance to get it (and this can be dangerous). It is because the person was always capable of this, but in the very unenlightened state of being, they thought they were not capable. But in the temple or in a pilgrimage they managed to go a bit beyond the limits and managed something that seems ‘miraculous’. But again it would happen with a much more fervent and deep intensity in the heart.
And if the wish comes true….
Hahahah this is the dangerous part… with a mind that is prone to suffering, if they make a wish, quite possible it may be a very stupid one. And if it does actually become true… it might make your life much worse.
For a Spiritual Seeker,
who may be more capable of making wishes that do come true…. and this can be dangerous. Through bhajans, through rituals to be conducted in the temple and through many other means it is tried that all visitors to a temple or high energy situation will be a in a ‘state of making an offering or feeling grateful or devotional’… and spiritual seekers need to be in a state where their minds are not making wanton wishes – as they will inevitably bring suffering. With a quieter mind and vairagya one is relatively sufffering-free, the wish-making compulsion won’t be there. This ensures they don’t attract mess.
In fact not just this silliness of making a wish, we must also be highly aware and mindful of our thoughts and internal situation especially in these higher energy situations. As random or inappropriate thoughts do have consequences. In the current social environment we seem to take these random thoughts for granted. But remember there are stories in Indian lore of the repercussions of just a stray thought or quality (will write more on this later).
Unless it happens Naturally
There are some people who are propelled by a very deep and fervent struggle within. And then they come on a pilgrimage or temple visit. In this case, with that deep struggle in the heart, anyway one doesn’t have to tell them that “make a wish”. They will anyway take that struggle inside the temple… and hopefully it may get sorted.
And so I am not saying, “don’t wish”. I am saying don’t impose silly things on yourself. You have gone inside the temple for some reason. Just be aware of your internal situation that’s all. This inner awareness counts.
[Disclaimer: The word ‘God’ has been used numerous times above, it is meant within the context of the scenario – that people who visit the temple, consider it abode of ‘God’. I personally usually never use that word. Because I am yet to understand it properly. Might blog on this later.]