I was driving by this famous Delhi attraction today and so decided to stop by and be a tourist for 10 minutes. The site is called Lotus Temple and it is a place for anyone with any religion to come and pay respect to God. It is not a Hindu temple where most Indians go to worship. It is free and open to people of all faiths.
The structure of Lotus Temple resembles a lotus flower, which is one of the holiest symbols of the Hindu faith. In the Indian culture, the lotus flower is the source of where life is supposed to emanate from. Lotus Temple serves as a tourist attraction but the intention is a “gathering place where any one can worship God without restriction”, so says Wikipedia. It is a marvelous site!
As I looked around me, I noticed people of all faiths going in and out of this beautiful structure and realized that a lot of locals were going in there as well.
One thing you notice in India is that there are temples or other places of worship EVERYWHERE. In New Delhi alone there seem to be temples on every corner, small, medium and large. Not only are temples everywhere but there are signs, photos, hand carved statues, auspicious flowers and other reminders of God on every corner of every street.
You walk into a local store and along with the Bollywood music, the tiny dusty fan spreading around the hot air, and lemon and chilli peppers hanging from the ceiling (See photo on right), you can’t help but notice photos or statues of God prominently displayed, even in the tiniest of shops and cell phone kiosks. The lemon and chilli peppers are supposed to bring prosperity to the shops and ward of bad luck.
People are very religious here. They wake up in the morning to pray. They pray before they eat their meal. They pray before they leave the house. Women pray for their husbands and their children. Men pray for prosperity. Kids pray for learning. Grandparents pray for happiness and good health. It’s not exclusive but you get the point.
What I think I learned today is that maybe one of the reasons Indians might be so good good at embracing the disorder and chaos in a country of 1.2 Billion people is that they feel the presence of God everyday in their lives. And it does not mean that they go to a place of worship all the time.
My theory is that the all the photos, statues, displays, temples, churches, sites, bells, stickers on the back of a truck, photos on the dashboard of a taxicab and prayers are there to constantly remind them of the impermanence of life and to be grateful for it. When I see the hustle and bustle of this booming emerging market metropolis it seems as though in the middle of the bustle, they are choosing to remind themselves to BE PRESENT.
They seem to have this mindfulness about them when they see an image of God. They bow their head or touch their heart or whisper pious words under their breath. They also have lots of tea throughout the day. They stop and chat with someone new they haven’t met before, although it is easier to do this in New Delhi given that you’re bumping into one of the 16million people in this city!!!
I am not an overly religious person by any means but I’m definitely more aware of the frailty of life as I get older and learn how to live in these uncertain, unpredictable and complex times full of chaos. And what I realized today on this short trip to New Delhi this week, is that reminders to be mindful, to be in the moment and to be present are all around us in life…we just have to pay attention and look for them.
For some, these reminders to be in the here and now, may not be in the form of a place of worship. It may be found in doing something you’ve never done before like walking off the beaten path to buy a piece of fruit (that’s me at the fruit market in New Delhi).
Reminders of being present can be found in the innocent and pure laughter of my kids. It can be in the moment of humor shared among colleagues at work. It can be playful mood that might come in a flash with your spouse or partner. It can be in the deep, slow breath you take when having the first cup of coffee in the morning. Or when you hug your parents when you say hello. Or when you embrace a friend who you haven’t seen in years.
For me, slowing down to feel each breath and every moment may not come from meditation or a place of worship, although it is very useful at times. It can come from simple reminders which are all around my environment and the best way to find those reminders is to do what I did on this short trip to India and that is to: stop, look around and take it all in.
Rule #6: Be Present | Embrace the Chaos! | Bob Miglani