I am not sure if I will be able to tell this tale properly, but I will try. It’s a different kind of a tale, a spiritual one.
We Hindus have some 330 million goddesses and gods and so it’s a vast pool to chose from. Since childhood I have seen my mother praying to different gods at different times, precisely depending upon who she used to think will answer her prayers faster! Some days she was fasting for Satyanarayan Swami, other days for Goddess Lakshmi. When she wanted a son, she prayed day and night to Lord krishna, and of course prayed to Goddess Durga during Navratras.
So as you see the pattern, we have an abundance of choice here and we can pick what suits us or rather who suits us. Or that’s so I thought growing up. Not that I am being insensitive to my mother’s feelings, she is the hero of my life and I know better than anybody why she did what she did. Some choices were not hers and that’s why these gods were all she could chose from.
After a long time of picking and choosing from those 330 million, my mother finally found the deity with whom she has stuck for past 2 decades. He is not a god per se and doesn’t feature among those 330 million infact. He is Saibaba of Shirdi( a place closer to Mumbai) , his wikipedia description describes him as an Indian spiritual master who is regarded by his devotees as a saint and an incarnation of Lord Shiva. His sect of devotees are small as compared to other dominant gods, but they are known to be loyal, kind and generous.
Thus I was introduced to him through my mother two decades back and I would admit to feeling a sense of devotion to him for a couple of reasons, first being that he was a real being on earth unlike those other gods who are always found in books, second there is reasonable history on him to read about who and how he was which is believable and third, when I pray to him, I feel he listens, I have felt his impact on my life and on my values.
He is the only one who has both Hindu and Muslim devotees because nobody will ever be sure who he was, his teachings and practices combined both Hinduism and Islam. I liked him particularly because of his non-discriminatory values and the morals he preached, that being human is important regardless of your stature, culture, caste , religion or whatever. He led a simple life and didn’t place any demand on his devotees.
Some months back I was getting restless, wasn’t really praying and was kind of feeling lost. Some friends told me about Nichiren Buddhism and how not only their prayers were answered quickly but also that they felt at peace. So I thought of practicing it myself and started praying every afternoon. There is a book from which you are supposed to read verses which are in a different language and it is considered ideal to pray at the same time everyday. Initially I felt good but soon it started to feel unreal. I wasn’t able to dedicate myself fully to it, I didn’t feel any belonging. Of course, everything doesn’t suit everyone, I am sure the followers of Nichiren Buddhism are in it from all their heart but my heart was wandering, it was somewhere else.
Soon I found myself being pulled to Saibaba while practicing Nichiren Buddhism, not that he wasn’t a part of my life but I felt praying to him again, from my heart, just like good old days. There were days in the past when I used to sit in front of his idol and share my emotions and talk to him as if he was real. I was feeling the same pull again, the magic that receded in the business of my life seemed to appear again, it didn’t take long for me to realize that this whole exercise just ignited the fire again, I didn’t need anybody else, my distraction brought me closer in my faith for him.
Not that I gave up on him but I feel reconnected to him again on a different level, the confidence that he is there got a different kind of a pull, that spiritual connection is rekindled again on a higher vibration this time. I am also getting back some sense in my life, some purpose that I am trying to build up on. I feel more at peace, and my value system strengthened.
Life works in mysterious ways, I have never felt comfortable in saying that I believe in gods, or specifically those 330 million gods, but I do believe in a higher power, a greater human who was closer to a human than to god. I do not believe in religions, do not believe in going to temples everyday and praying in a disciplined manner but I do believe in being spiritual, having conversation or an inner dialogue with that higher power irrespective of time and place, that the significance of faith is much higher than the fulfillment of my own desires.