A very strange visit

Mother X (I cannot use her name without her permission according to her website) visited Rochester this past Monday for a Darshan which took place at the Hindu temple.  Within this silent ceremony each person kneels before her, she touches your head which is bowed, and then when she picks your head up she looks into your eyes.  When she looks away, that is the signal to get up and go.  There is a certain beauty and grace in ritual.  I have seen communion performed with reverence.  I have watched meditation led with a respect for those in the audience.  These things are known to give off a positive energy that is both encouraging and uplifting.  The unfortunate thing is that sometimes that potential of energy can be completely ruined by supporting cast members. 

 Whether you believe that gaining light or enlightenment from 4 seconds of staring into someone’s eyes is possible is irrelevant to this conversation.  For the record, I followed through with the ritual and took my place on stage when ordered.  That I will get to later.  What struck us was the aggressive crowd control tactics of the organizers.  Now, I should point out that most of the organizers were very nice, but I think a few acting on behalf of the Mother, were a bit over the top.  By the end of the 2 and a half hour ordeal, I had dubbed them the kneel police.  (I’m sorry, you are not kneeling correctly, you need to be lower.  I don’t care if you weigh 400 pounds, have no idea if you still have ankles and have not seen your feet in 10 years, you need to get lower.)  A friend of ours is in a wheel chair.  He is paralyzed from the waist down as the result of a motorcycle accident.  The guy is nice, has a great attitude, is friendly and has an upbeat demeanor.  So when he asked politely before the event started how he could get on stage, I was surprised by the response.  “No”  What?  No?  To someone in a wheel chair?  Okay, it gets better.  The answerer of the question says, “Can you walk?”  Now my response would have been something like this:  “Actually, yes, yes I can.  In fact, I’m an exotic dancer but I feel this chair helps me pick up chicks better.”  Our friend is a better man than that.  He smiled and said, “no, I can’t.”  “Well then, I’m sorry, you can’t go, that’s just the way it is.”  Ah, but not to worry, we were going to get a room blessing at the end so you’ll be included.  Well, fan-frickin’-tastic. 

 This “handler” took over my thinking from that moment forward, I started watching him.  They announced no cameras as he was setting up a video camera and snapping pictures with not one, but two digital cameras.  I asked my wife if we had signed a waiver to be included in promotional photos and fought the urge to do that fun thing where you hold your head in your hands, but are extending a middle finger…I know, some people bring out the inner child.  Then he’s walking around adjusting the air conditioner.  All during the darshan when we are supposed to be silent and still.  Of course, by that point, I was so distracted and frustrated that the meditating I was supposed to be doing had gone out the window.  I started timing each interaction.  There was an average of 25 seconds per person from the time one person got up from in front of mother to the time the next one did.  She “interacted” with each (hands on their head, then looking into their eyes) for an average of 15 seconds.  It was clock work.  That also put a rather strange feeling over the proceedings.  I had attended another event a few years ago where each audience member approached the featured guest who hugged each person and whispered in their ear.  Some were with her for a few seconds, others for almost a minute.  Everyone seemed to feel a great energy in the room and felt touched by the presence.  Not so at this event this past week.  When it was my turn, I knelt in the queue taking care to be low enough so as not to incur the wrath of the kneel police (why does the song Dream Police run through my head when I write that, was that really a song?).  As we approached the stage I was thinking about the people sitting in their chairs on either side.  While we were the very last row to go, these were people who had gone first and experienced whatever I was going to experience and had to sit in these uncomfortable chairs for the rest of the darshan.  So they were either enjoying the energy from their time with the mother, or were sitting there going “that’s it?” for the next two hours. 

Still moving toward the stage, I noticed my wife had some very clean socks on.  That wasn’t unusual, but it just shows you my mind was not focusing on whatever it was supposed to be focused on.  I was thinking more about one of the rules I saw on the rule sheet placed on everyone’s chair.  “If you cough, sneeze or cry, leave for the lobby–come back later when you’re ready.”  Thanks, I forgot what it was like to be 5…  Finally I reached the stage, Mother X was sitting in her chair (note rule #16 “Don’t put anything on Mother’s chair!”) on the left side and one of the kneel police (queue song) on the right.  I was next in line to go and looked down on the stage.  There was a rug under the chair and draped over the front of the stage.  Holding this rug in place was Duct tape.  Yes, Duct tape.  On the tape were the letter S T O P.  Really.  That was just registering in my head when it was suddenly my turn.  I moved in front of her, bowed my head and felt her hands on either side.  She lifted my head and I looked into her eyes.  Here were the thoughts that went through my brain during those 4 seconds.  “Wow, her right eye is really brown, I’d better look at the left on too.  Yep, that one is really brown as well.”  Then she dropped her gaze and I was done. 

When everyone was done, she stood in silence, we all stood.  Then she walked down the aisle (incidentally, directly by my friend in his wheelchair who didn’t rate so much as a second glance) and disappeared out the back.  The lobby had a donation box, books, pictures, incense, and other fun things I’m sure that we could purchase.  Our group stood for a while looking at each other.  I think everyone was waiting for someone to say something.  “Okay, anyone up for a beer?”  That broke up the semi-trance as we all one by one expressed our disappointment and frustration with the event. 

So, what did we learn?  It is still good to try new things, and be open to the beliefs of others.  Every one is looking for some sort of inner peace I guess, but it sure is easier to find it when you don’t have some tall goof tapping you on the shoulder “excuse me, you need to have your knees at an 85 degree angle and point your toes in for this stage of the kneel.  thank you.”  Keep in mind Rule 11 on the sheet:  “Please follow instructions, though we may be strict or rough at times.  Thank you.”  Oh, and one more, rule 8:  “Only one Darshan per day!”  No problem, how about only one per lifetime.  Thank you very much.

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