A Spiritual Salon

By
The ancient Sanskrit danced across the page of a yellowed prayer book. Marks of a foreign language sprinkled throughout. Om Jaya Jagadeesha harey Swaami Jaya Jagadeesha harey Bhakta janon key sankata, daas jano key sankata. Heads bowed, paying homage to the many Gods, each devotee asking for tomorrow’s problems to be solved. With my own head bent in an observed respect, I could sneak but a few glances at my praying father—his ebony locks framing a worn face. Somewhere in the ranks behind me sat my fair mother; her complexion illuminated amongst the sea of cocoa (her head bent in a different type of prayer). While the pandit’s mantra reverberated in my father’s ears a different God echoed in my mothers.

My own filled with an unnerving silence.

I allowed my feet to carry me to the kneeling leader who was systematically tying the symbolic strings of Hinduism around each wrist, the vibrant red a reminder of the rich culture. Though years of repetition taught me the method of prayer, the traditions were lost in translation. Right or left? The pandit’s grave glance told me that my right hand should have been replaced with my left. Red burned my face but I fell silently back into the crowd, disapproval sweeping me into the dissonance of spirituality. The intoxicating aroma of incense flowed through the air in small wisps, diffusing throughout the room. Each wisp ferried my thoughts to a different world of belief.

My mind transpired to the hard wooden pews of Martin Luther’s creation. Covering the windows, stain glass depicted Christ’s last hours, a model of Christian behavior. While others openly professed their religion, doubt clouded my understanding. Could Lord Shiva and Jesus’ disciples be members of the same great spiritual salon—did they agree to disagree?
I was reminded of last Christmas, marked by the annual trip to church by my father. He sat uncomfortably in a suit, filling the customs but standing out none the less. It was my mother’s turn to pray deeply as my father fell into the background, and the same eerie silence rang in the rafters. It was all motions but no emotions, songs but no meaning, reading but no understanding. No more a contented peace than the deceptive eye of a storm. Initially struck with the fear of a Sisyphean cycle, of no way out, the discord of my beliefs condensed into a uniform idea. A realization: the only view of the outside is, in a liberating way, my own skewed vision.





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