Thursday, April 7, 2011

Nepal 2011: The Temples

There are over 320 million gods in the Hindu religion. There are several major gods and many, many different avatars of them (different manifestations of the same god). Sometimes a male god will manifest as a female god. Some may be more beneficial for you to worship than others. One might say that if you want to worship any god that you like, then join Hinduism.

The temples are everywhere. Literally. Everywhere. And these gods have been worshipped in Nepal for thousands of years. Nepal is 80% Hindu, 10% Buddhist, and only 0.1% Christian. Hindu gods has been worshiped in the Himalayas since the beginning of the Neolithic civilization, with certain artifacts found around the Pashupatinath temple proving that he was worshiped since about the Christian era. The Himalayas, the highest place on earth, have literally been the uncontested stronghold for pagan gods since Christ was born.

We visited the Pashupatinath Temple one day. It's one of the seven heritage sites of Kathmandu and Pashupatinath is the most revered god of Nepal. There, we walked around numerous, aged temple pagodas. Tourists snapped pictures as devotees stepped into temples to bow and receive their tilaka, a red dot of sandlewood paste put on their forehead to signify the third eye, or spiritual enlightenment. The monkeys, cows, and stray dogs lounged around; revered and untouched. People walked around the temples clockwise, touching each prayer wheel as they stepped, chanting and staring. Shop owners sold small idols, gruesome demon face masks to hang on your wall, and various other drawings, carvings, or talismans that supposedly either contain good luck or are meant o warn off evil spirits.

The Nepali people that I met were warm and kind hearted. They seemed to me to be survivors, a group of people who persist in living against the odds, and their strength is obvious. They are also very familiar with the spiritual realm. It's as real as the tangible world to them, because they live with it every day. There, an evil spirit, or god, is truly behind every bush. Or, it might be the bush. (Or, the monkey in the bush.)

Because of that, Nepali people are generally receptive to hearing about Jesus Christ. Especially, the Healer. When you live in a world where your ever step is concentrated on not angering fickle gods, while trying to avoid numerous evil spirits who want to invade and destroy you...it must be refreshing to learn about a God that wants to heal you, to love you, and to save you.

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