I have just completed reading the book “Krishna Key” written by the author Ashwin Sanghi. I had desisted from purchasing or reading this book for a long time considering it just another copycat in a long list of history-mythology revisionist books that started with the trend of Amish’s Meluha trilogy. How wrong I had been!
I purchased the second hand book from the famed Bookworm shop near Church Road in Bangalore. It was an accidental visit as I had some time to kill before I met with a very good friend, an old and favorite student of mine. Glory be to the power of books, they have a tendency to surprise even one as cynic as myself.
Krishna Key, the book is basically a story about a quest to find the Syamantaka stone, a kind of Philosopher’s Stone which has transmutational powers to change the elements. The book which at times alluded to a search for Krishna’s DNA, then Krishna the immortal living person and finally the fabled Syamantaka which has claimed countless lives but had been mythed to be lost in the annals of history. However ultimately the book points to the power of worship which can grant fabulous powers to otherwise ordinary things. And that is where, at the very climactic last pages of the book, that I truly fell in love with the book.
I have long believed in the power of worship. As a religious believer turned agnostic turned atheist turned theist I may be excused for believing in the concept of God. However I do not believe in the mythological constructs of Hindu pantheon as a Hindu named person would be expected to believe, I, as a self proclaimed Advaiti believed in a greater power that resides in all of us which we tend to address by different names even Gaea. I have visited a number of temples and what really mesmerized me was the obvious energy that I perceived in these places of worship. As a matter of fact I have visited and prayed not just at Hindu temples but also Muslim mosques, Budhist monasteries, Christian churches and Jewish Synagogues. It is in this context that my experience with a particular temple would be worthy of mention.
Several years ago at the insistence of a very dear cousin sister of mine I visited the ISCKON temple in Bangalore. The massive structure, with its elaborate architecture, resplendent murals in fact left me disappointed. It just felt like a massive concrete structure, no different than any of the gigantic concrete structures that we all live and work in. No different than any of the IT buildings or apartments. A few years later this sister of mine dragged me against me will again to this temple and I observed a change. In the prayer hall, sitting with countless devotees I observed a tangible change in the energy. There was a perceivable difference in the energy of the place. That got me thinking. How did this concrete monstrosity of a building acquire the energy that I found associated with ancient halls of worship? I realized the answer.
In the intervening years, countless people much less cynical than me had come into these very chambers and had their prayers chanted out in heart felt sincerity. To them it did not matter the perception of energy that I mentioned, for them this was a place where they could release their inner torment. These people, whom the atheists and agnostics would chastise as the brain washed idolators, these superstitious idiots they prayed here in all honesty. They cared not for rational thought, they cared not on questions whether God was a human construct, what they cared was that this to them was an abode of their “God” and had thus prayed here with all sincerity. And the difference was marked.
I have felt similar energies at the massive Budhist shrine at Kushal Nagar. I felt awed in the presence of those three gold gilded statues, I felt a Godly presence. I experience the same in the temple at Udupi, my ancestral temples at Tripunithura and Nilambur, and at other favorite temples of mine like Vadakkumnathan and Badrinath. That power, that energy, that godliness is the effect of prayers.
Man did create God. Man did create religion. So what is God? God is the faith inherent in people. It is the faith in a greater good. And that faith has powers. A temple has only as much power as the people who choose to believe in it and worship in it. Any shrine only has as much power as the people of faith who pray there. As a structure that is playing host to such emotional prayers I believe it acquires an aura that can help the less perceptive of people. The places of worship that are ubiquitous in the organized religions of our world are in fact centers of community healing, where the powers of prayers of some help others in need of help.
Atheists can claim that there is no real need for such places. All you really need to believe is in yourself and in nature. True. I very much concur. However the difference between praying on your own and praying at a temple is the same difference as studying at a University and studying at your home. The modes of education may be the same, the textbooks may be the same, however the communal atmosphere of collective learning or collective praying cannot be matched. It is easier to learn your subjects in a University classroom than it is on your own.
Now you may ask, come on that is bullshit. There is no such thing as communal experience as opposed to individual experience. To that I may be pardoned to point to another example. What is the difference between a watching a sporting match on your TV and watching it in a stadium? What is the difference to listening to a Youtube music video at your home and attending a live concert? Any person who has experienced both can attest to the difference. When human beings come together in any act of collective participation there is a tangible energy, a sum that is larger than the sum of its individual coefficients!
And it is that power of prayers that I wanted to write about today.
The book Krishna Key ends with the statement that Syamantaka Stone attributed its power of transmutation to the belief of the people who believed that it could. So it was never the stone, the material artifact itself that mattered but the faith of the people that caused it to be! I am so glad that I read this book. A superlative thriller that constantly kept the reader on their toes but one with an underlying philosophical concept that I so very much find myself agreeing to , nay, reflecting to.
Thank you, Ashwin Sanghi, for writing this book, that portrayed my own concepts about prayers in much better words than I ever could have done myself.