In the London suburb of Southall, religiosity seemed to pervade everything. The Hindu temple was small and housed on the ground floor of a four-storied building. At the entrance, I took off my shoes and put them in a shoe rack. I entered the prayer room and sat down on the floor. Here, women and men were not separated, so everybody could sit wherever they liked. The walls of the temple were covered with typical Indian paintings. There was a very beautiful one representing Krishna in the act of driving Arjuna’s chariot during the battle of Kurukshetra. Many statues and portraits of Hindu deities stood in a semicircle, one close to another. I soon recognized the statue of Ganesh, the Hindu god of good luck with the body of a human being and the head of an elephant. This god was familiar to me because the statue of Ganesh was always set for the ceremony when I worked at the Empire Hotel getting the rooms ready for the weddings between the Indians. Once, I asked one of the wedding guests to tell me something about Ganesh. He said that Ganesh is one of the most important gods in the Hindu pantheon. His name means ‘Lord of all beings.’ He is the firstborn child of Siva and Parvati. He is short, big bellied, and has four arms. The elephant head has only one tusk. Close to Ganesh there is a little mouse, which symbolizes moderation in eating. It means to leave a small amount of food for the mouse.
Ganesh is considered the god who removes hindrances and brings good luck. He is invoked at the beginning of every job, enterprise, marriage, travel, and so on.
In that temple, the ceremony was performed by chanting. Now and then, they chanted before one of the statues of the gods. A table with fruit and typical sweets was laid at the exit. Before going out, I asked the man behind the table whether there was a guru in that temple.
“What kind of guru?”
“A guru with exceptional powers like Sai Baba,” I answered.
“If you want to see Sai Baba, come here at nine o’clock in the evening next Wednesday.”
“Okay, I’ll come.”
I said goodbye to that man, with the intention of returning for the meeting with the guru.
A week later, I stepped aboard the usual number 105 bus and went to the Hindu temple for the appointment with Sai Baba.
In the middle of the room, a big portrait of Sai Baba stood, surrounded by a flower garland. The Hindus chanted in front of the portrait for a few hours. Was Sai Baba with us in the room? Was his spirit, besides his portrait, among us? Honestly, I don’t know. I can say that not only verbal communication exists, but also non-verbal communication exists, which doesn’t need a physical presence. A few people, with regard to the saints of Catholicism, affirmed that they saw the same figure, at the same moment, but in different places thousands of kilometers away.
When I went back to the Empire Hotel, I talked about this topic with Alexander, a friend of mine from Ukraine, who worked there as a kitchen porter. He was a dear friend, but unfortunately, I lost contact even with him. He was tall with cropped hair and always smiling. Often, I could see him reading a book or a magazine in the canteen. He was proud of having been a seaman in the Soviet Navy. We often talked about spiritual topics. He was well-educated and had read many books about hermits.
“Do you think,” he said, “that the hermits who withdraw from the mundane world to live in the high mountains are really alone?”
“I don’t know.”
“They are not alone indeed. They communicate with other hermits, even if they are a thousand miles away from each other.”
“Maybe the contact with another living being does not need the use of senses. It may happen through the soul, the spirit, the mind…”
This is an excerpt from Travels of the Mind
Ettore Grillo, author of these books:
– A Hidden Sicilian History
– The Vibrations of Words
– Travels of the Mind