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Wednesday, May 5, 2010: Shiva and Parvati at the Ganges

        V.G. told a story about Shiva and Parvati (Indian deities) watching bathers as they performed cleansing rituals in the Ganges. It was often said that sins were washed away by bathing in the river’s holy waters. Parvati wondered why some people returned to bathe over and over again. Why make such effort to wash away sins, if the people only intended to go out and accumulate more sins?

        "It is not an issue of sin, but of faith," replied Shiva. "Come, I will show you," and the two descended to the banks of the Ganges.

        Shiva took on the appearance of a leper. Parvati took the form of an old woman, the leper’s mother. As bathers came out of the river and passed by the couple, Parvati would beg for someone to help her son.

        "If someone clean of all sin touches a leper, he will be healed. Someone with sins might touch a leper and become like him, but you have just been in the Ganges. You could touch my son and heal him. Please come, and save my son from this condition."

         But people would not help. "Old woman, I hear your pleas but am too afraid to do as you ask. Yes, I have been in the Ganges, but perhaps some small sin remains. I cannot touch your son, for fear of becoming a leper myself."

         So the day passed, with each bather hurrying past, afraid to touch the leper. At last a young man stopped to listen to her plea.

         "Yes, Mother, I can help. I have just come from the Ganges, I have had no impure thoughts in my steps from the river to this spot. I will touch your son."

         As the young man touched what he believed to be a leper, both Shiva and Parvati revealed their true forms. Because of his faith, he was now blessed, standing before the God and Goddess.

         "You see," Shiva said later to Parvati, "Many people practice the ritual. Few experience the ritual."

         This seems to address the problem I have with most rituals I watch being performed. I understand the potential if the ritual is used to focus one's attitude and attention, to bring one into a proper state of awareness, but experiencing a ritual in this form takes tremendous focus, deep inner conviction, faith. The ritual itself has no power. It is simply a vehicle to get one into the proper mindset.

         I watch most people mutter the words from rote and perform the actions from habit. Unfortunately, for them, ritual remains a gentle reminder of spiritual desires--- nothing more.



Posted on Wednesday, May 5, 2010 at 04:34AM by Registered CommenterThe Skeptical Mystic | Comments1 Comment

Reader Comments (1)

This is a wonderful story. I am attracted to ritualizing my intentions and have always believed life was one very big physical therapy session. We are physicalizing ideas, thoughts, intentions whether we chose to really focus or not.
May 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKass

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