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Waiting for Godot, Hindu Style

By Sheela Nair

I recently visited the Sri Murugan temple in East Ham with my mother, sister and grandmother.  Now, I am not a devout Hindu and do not normally visit temples as I never enjoyed the experience as a child; I never could explain why.  So I went along to see if I felt any different as an adult.  I did not!

The noise was loud and constant and the lighting so bright, that I wondered how one was supposed to concentrate on anything in such an environment, let alone prayer!  There was a group of people gathered around the shrine.  A young girl dutifully stood with her hands together praying, chanting rather, loudly as she looked toward her parents who proudly and audibly praised her for getting the words right.  Some others stood around chatting to friends and acquaintances, catching up.

It then struck that none of these people (adults included), seem to know why they were there.  They seem to just go through the routines.  This is what their parents told them ‘good people’ did.  They did not appear to have thought what prayer was actually for, other than to aid them in getting what they wanted in life, mostly material things.  I tried to concentrate, but it was impossible to do so in that environment.  My sister looked just as confused.  I watched my mother and grandmother as they fell into familiar routine like many others going round the shrine in circles of three.

I was brought up a Hindu; I do not practice religion, but I am a spiritualist.  I believe in a higher order of consciousness and of energy above and beyond physical being.  I try to meditate regularly to bring myself closer to this. This I feel is the ultimate goal of all spiritual practices.

Whether through meditation or prayer, one is trying to resolve the conflict within oneself, of conscience over desire.  One who can control their desire with their conscience is then called a good person.  This cannot be prayed for but rather must be found within oneself.  Surely, only then can the mind be at peace and begin to realise an absolute truth!

I feel this realisation is missing the way prayer is conducted.  Amid the ceremonies and the routines in the temples and in the rush to 'teach' religion to the second generation this aspect of life does not appear to be considered important!!!

Sheela Nair is a fourth year Sculpture student at Glasgow School of Art.

[In Samuel Beckett's widely acclaimed play Waiting for Godot, Vladimir and Estragen, the main characters, who do not know why they were put on earth, assume that there must be some point to their existence and seek enlightenment.  They wait for the arrival of the mysterious Godot, who continually sends the word that he will appear.  Even though Godot never turns up, waiting for him continues to give them hope. – Dr. Santosh Pillai, Editor (1996-2000).

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