By Kean McLaurin
In preparation for this trip, I tried to get a better understanding of the place I was going to be in for three weeks. I did this by reading a book on Shiva, watching YouTube videos trying to explain the intricacies of Hinduism, and getting more general knowledge of the religion as a whole. None of my books or videos could prepare me for the temple on the confluence.
When I first took off my shoes and walked under the ancient bell I felt a sense of liveliness – I observed kids playing and a family cooking a meal, a surprising sight to me in this holy spot. This confused me, the laughter of the children and the sounds of a family cooking a meal were not what I expected to hear in such a sacred place. Before I had time to register what I was taking in a baba came and greeted us and welcomed us into the temple.
The idea of a man who gave all to his faith was always compelling to me but meeting one in person was an experience no book or video could have prepared me for. The elderly man reached out his hand greeting me in the place he called home. At this moment I had a realization that this place was more than a spot for people to come and pray, but a place where families and friends gathered, a place where an outsider like me could come for the first time and instantly feel part of the greater picture that was being presented to me. I found this much different than what I was used to when going to church services with my family.
The pressure of what to wear, how to act, and where to put my hands was not something I felt when getting blessed by the priest at the temple. After being greeted by Baba I felt differently about the sounds and sights I noticed when I first walked into the temple, the sound of children running and playing didn’t contradict the noise of men deep in prayer but complimented it coming together to form one beautiful and profound idea that has stuck with ever since my first experience in the confluence.
To me, this is an example of how you can find comfort and happiness in a place and within people that are so foreign to you.