Enroute to Mumbai is another city in the state of Maharashtra where devotion soars high in the midst of the passion of urbanization. The place is Pune which had recently opened doors to a new temple located in its suburbs. I was to see this as a stopover before proceeding to Mumbai. There is this gorgeous temple of red stone and white marble. I was warmly greeted by at least twenty monks engaged in kirtan chanting at the temple's entrance. Inside a class was in session, conducted by Bhanu and Bhakti Chaitanya Swamis. Then I was called up to speak a few minutes.
Unaware of the actual topic of today, I just decided to 'wing it' and ask an even larger group of monks to answer my question. In this way we could be more interactive and keep the group alert.
My question was, "Why have you all decided to take up life in this temple/ashram?" The answers flowed like water. It was easy to hit thirty-five reasons for being a monk in this very sattvic place, in this mode of goodness atmosphere. We could have gone on but it was time to terminate. "Love, care, friendship, education, purification, peace," were some of the clinchers for these young men moving in.
From here I was driven to breakfast at a devotee's apartment (I hope I can fit some time into a trek somewhere in the day). Ascending the steps to the apartment building a young man was standing there. I saw the opportunity to leave him the flower garland given to me at the temple. As a kind gesture I began to raise the beautiful crafted flower garland towards his head. He immediately backed away as I could understand he was likely not a Hindu. He resisted like anything.
In the Marathi language my assistant started speaking to the fellow, whom I now offered a handshake instead. He then responded. It turns out that the fellow was Muslim and was not willing to partake in a foreign gesture. I appreciated that he did compromise though. "Why must there be such colossal walls between the different approaches to the Absolute?" I thought. When the Berlin Wall finally did come tumbling down it opened up a greater communication between East and West Germany. The problem with the invisible wall between faiths is that it appears more formidable than that apparent solid barricade that politically tears people apart, such as the great wall of China.
"Come together, right now!" John Lennon.
May the Source be with you!