Today school started, which is a topic I will cover in more depth after a few days of it. I don't have much of a read on it at the moment. But I met a lot of cool folks, and this guy called Gharsham. Gharsham is Head Boy and President of Intrack (I'm not sure if that's how you spell it - I never really understand what they are saying - but it is basically Rotary organization at a student level). He has a reputation for being studious and religious, but also a nice guy. Since he is involved with Rotary he was very interested in me.
I took a nap today from 4 to 6. When I woke up, I had 6 missed calls. This was very exciting. I hadn't been called once yet, and now I had 6 within 2 hours. One of them was from this dude I met at school. FIVE were from Gharsham. So I called him back. He wanted to take me to this temple on the Tapi river (which is a river that bisects my city). So I went. It was a gorgeous temple. I will try sometime to find some pictures of something like it. Predictably, I left my damn camera memory card in the computer. I was quite irritated with myself. It was a nice tan color, with about a dozen domes scattered around. There were idols all over the place and monks in orange robes. That's kind of a wretched description, but I really don't know how to give you a good sense of what it looks like.
The temple was a temple of an organization called BAPS, which is a branch of Hinduism. It stands for something. I don't know what. They believe in Brahma, Shiva and Vishnu and all the rest of it, but they have this idea that a guy who lived from 1781 to1830 was an incarnation of their most supreme deity, someone above that other triumvirate. He's kind of a Jesus Christ equivalent. His name was Swaminarayan. Gharsham described it as a socio-spiritual organization. The first thing I thought of was Opus Dei-esque cults, but it truly seems to be an honest and legitimate organization.
Gharsham showed me much of the temple and some of their prayer services. I met a couple monks. I performed the holy act of bathing a golden idol of Swaminarayan in water. Then this employee of the temple put a dot on my head with his finger (just with water, so it didn't stay), and then he tied a band around my wrist. He also gave me extensive information on the tenets of BAPS. Their monks forgo all relations with their family, with women, with material goods. They are also supposed to somehow train their mentality to think that everything tastes the same. It sounds like my Catholic priests. I told him "This is my biggest problem with religions Gharsham. What loving God would deprive you of the best things in life?" (Although I am fine with the material goods part of it). He was disappointed in my lack of enlightenment. I told him "Gharsham, I will happily listen to all of your information because it is of interest to me, but I ask that you accept if I disagree." He said ok, but he seemed very disappointed. He seems to be attempting to convert me to BAPS. At one point he asked me if I had felt the presence of God in the temple.
I mean, come on.
The best way to describe Gharsham is to call him a zealous Percy Weasley, but nicer. He's a studious prude at school. He tries to steer me down paths the way Percy tries to steer Harry. He seems very interested in taking me to this temple again. I would only do it to take pictures. I feel like he wants to induct me into this cult. He wants me to join Intrack. That one I will probably do. Dumbest of all, he tells me that I shouldn't spend time with the friend group that I joined in with today. Continuing with the Harry Potter analogy, they seem to be like the Weasley twins - hugely friendly jokesters who don't do much for school, but their hearts seem to be in the right place. Basically I took everything that he said with about a billion grains of salt. He's nice to me, for sure. But I was very annoyed with his insistence that I accept his religion and his ignorance at the possibility of a life without religion. It was impossible for him to accept that I just don't spend an iota of my energy on religion.
It was interesting nonetheless - both to learn more about the Hindu religion and to discover that are annoying zealots in India too.