I am not an atheist. I am messed up if I am agnostic. A few years ago, probably after I had darshanat the Balaji temple, Tirumala Hills, I was moving along with my family in the free prasad queue. Puliyodharai (Tamarind rice) was served as prasad that day. The man before me in the line after receiving the prasad, asked for more. The bare-chested volunteer, after a quick negotiation, accepted a 50-rupee note with alacrity, swiftly left the counter, removed the towel that was draped around his dhothi, flung it on the camera which was supposed to monitor such unfair practices, returned quickly, stuffed the “divine rice” hurriedly packed in a palm leaf and pushed it to the “buyer” and completed the “transaction”. He retrieved the towel from the camera and continued his work as usual.
Recently, I accompanied a person to another hill-temple (this time, it is Mysore. The person stuffed a 500-rupee note into the palms of a tout a.k.a. security staff. The access and the treatment was instant. Darshanapart, the person was garlanded by the priest (who was taken care separately), given the fruits, flowers, and sacred ash, vermillion. My embarrassment to have adjuncted this person is a different matter.
When VIPs visit for long hours, the commoners are in for a prolonged pause, even wait for a day or two. People with more money ‘win’! When such ‘special’ darshans are entertained, does God endorse Orwellian parity of “Some are more equal?” Who gets more of God’s grace? The one who jumped the order, or the one who followed “dharma dharshan”?
There is no need to offer bribe to worship Him. But we do! If God could be achieved through money, people would have decorated Him in their living room instead of visiting the temple. With an ardent devotion, we go to Tirumala and end up having darshan for hardly a couple of seconds. When, in the first place, people accept the need for middlemen to reach God and worship as an investment in the expectation of something in return, then why the hypocrisy of shouting against corruption? Temples are supposed to be nothing but holy places, with peaceful environment so that devotees can sit and pray peacefully.
Whoever pays more gets more nearer to God. One theory argues that it is an ultimate test of faith, and visits yield fruits only if an element of pain involved. Those in authority from temple administration to civil officials to politicians to vendors to brokers are cahoots in design. When the Ladduprasadham is sold in black market, does it retain its sanctity? The touts freely flock and flourish in and around the shrine. How can it escape from corruption when it is functioning like a large business house giving biased treatment to the rich and resourceful?
Stay confined to our homes or visit the temple down the lane and be true to ourselves. God will praise my “bhakthi” and shower His blessings rather than taking the odious path. Why not patronise our local shrines? If we don’t find God at home and heart, how can we find him elsewhere? Why should we go to a temple where darshan has to be bought or bribed? When someone says that he controls access to God, and that too for money, I feel cheated there itself. Is it fine if I indulge in a little charity, rather than bribing the middlemen? Service to humanity is service to God.
Who should find the solution? God or Human? I am confused.