of God and small things

Coffee blossoms at Nandi Thota

Coffee blossoms at Nandi Thota

Last week a colleague told me how Bhagwan Sai Baba revealed himself to him. The colleague had been doubting if the Baba could really be Bhagwan, whereas his wife has always been devoted to the Baba. One day they'd just come home after travel, and his wife called out in excitement from their bedroom on top where she has Baba's picture on an altar. My colleague ran up; the picture was covered in ash. "Baba must have done it while we were returning," he said to me, faith clouding his eyes as he spoke. I listened with matching intensity, because I am chastened after reading regarding how Ramakrishna Paramahamsa chided a man who was taunting another who was bathing a tiny deity: "Is that a god in your hand?" I cannot recall the words, but to repeat roughly, Paramahamsa said: "What is it to you? Allow the man to exercise his faith according to his choosing."

Today I went to another colleague's marriage in Hassan district, in a tiny village which has a much-visited temple. The Adichunchanagiri math manages the temple. Other colleagues who had traveled to the marriage told me of the mahimé of the place. The Adichunchanagiri math cannot remove the earnings of this temple, they told me, and if they try, serpents will block the carriers. Also, you can have your future told and your pressing questions answered in the temple: the deity will bend and write for you using the front tip of its jeweled crown. I didn't ask, but a fee is surely payable for the consultation.

The place is a kshetra. "A kshetra is a place where a miracle has happened," my wife told me twice as we drove out from the marriage hall into the plains of Hassan district, taking pleasure from seeing acres and acres of coconut palms, and the sudden surprise of a runaway growth of thistle upon which there was not a leaf, but numerous bright purple flowers.

Which reminded of yesterday, when I saw white blossoms that have sprung up on coffee plants in Malnad, teased out somewhat early by an errant early shower. The flower-strings are long ornaments on the limbs of the plants—man's toil justly rewarded. Swamy Chinmayananda says a miracle is an effect without a cause, so the blossoms wouldn't qualify as a miracle, though when I saw them they seemed a lot like one. They are all over the plantation, up and down the slopes, and they will fall, all together, after their seven-day lifetime.

Also this week, an uncle has written to me from the United States, referring to research he has done with fellow scientists regarding neutron stars. Their research suggests the formation of a superfluid in a star's core when it dies. I don't understand the importance of it, but the matter seems to be greatly significant, and is receiving tremendous attention over the Internet. These are happenings far, far away—are they not a miracle? I don't know, but the great distances in which the events are happening surely constitute a miracle.

I have no need for ash on a picture, or the writings of a deity. I pray every day, though, as often as any believing man. I have a question that nags me. Did the prophets think big when they revealed to us our gods? Not being so sure, I have begun to take notice of God outside of temples, in the open, in vast places such as in the starry sky, and in the infinity that can be seen only with eyes closed.