Traffic in front of the church was horrendous and I was shocked at the number of cars that I could see. The line of cars still waiting to park seemed never ending. We found a parking spot on the grass and began to approach the church. Again, I was astounded by the number of people I saw. It was plain to see that everyone was not going to be able to fit in the church. Sure enough, we ended up outside. I could barely see over the heads of the people in front of me and could barely hear what the priest was saying even though he was wearing a microphone. I was surrounded by people in every which direction and some people were pushing and shoving to try and get just a little bit further up. Despite all of this, I felt right at home.
I was transported back to India. The scene outside a temple is no different. Dozens upon dozens of people waiting outside, not being able to see anything, let alone hear the priest, and people pushing and shoving their way through is a common occurance. The chaos and buzz is something that is very familiar to me within my own religion. Despite the distractions, there is just something about being within a large group of people who all believe the same thing as you. I may not pray to Jesus and my fellow peers and the folks of Immokalee may not pray to Krishna, but we were all there with the intention of seeking God, because we believe. That, to me, is powerful.
The priest explained that there would be various people coming around and giving ashes to everyone. This again was familiar. In the temple, multiple aartis are carried around by multiple people in order to reach everyone in an efficient manner. The chaos during this part of the night, also struck very near to my own religious experiences.
It may seem weird to most that I get ashes every year since coming to Duquesne. Hindus burn incense in their homes in front of their temples. Incense is also burned in temples. As we offer the incense and sweet aroma to God, we believe that we get back blessings in the form of ashes. These ashes are often placed as a dot on the forehead. To me, getting ashes signfies the blessing of God and I'm not one for turning away a blessing, no matter who it comes from. Allowing myself to have an open mind and taking advantage of opportunities such as this mission experience has expanded my horizons. By surrounding myself with others who believe, I have been able to find more strength than ever in my own beliefs.