Archive for 07/01/2010 - 08/01/2010

What next ?

It was all very well to be able to stop someone out of a large number of people coming out of the temple hall and get his attention! I still haven't come to the subject matter at hand which was getting him to agree to sign up for a substantial donation to the temple for building the new Lord SIVA temple.

So I had to say something about Lord SHIVA and his festival MAHA SIVARATHRI. As I mentioned bits and pieces and different things to different people it won't constitute a readable narration though each piece of information I said must have been interesting to the listener as he continued to listen.  Anyway here is a good summary of the introduction, annotated from an authentic source!

MAHA SIVARATHRI falls on the 13th (or 14th) day of the dark half of Phalgun (February-March). The name means "the night of Shiva". The ceremonies take place chiefly at night. This is a festival observed in honour of Lord Shiva. Shiva was married to Parvati on this day.

People observe a strict fast on this day. Some devotees do not even take a drop of water. They keep vigil all night. The Shiva Lingam is worshipped throughout the night by washing it every three hours with milk, curd, honey, rose water, etc., whilst the chanting of the Mantra Om Namah Shivaya continues. Offerings of bael leaves are made to the Lingam. Bael leaves are very sacred as, it is said, Lakshmi resides in them.

Hymns in praise of Lord Shiva, such as the Shiva Mahimna Stotra of Pushpadanta or Ravana's Shiva Tandava Stotra are sung with great fervour and devotion. People repeat the Panchakshara Mantra, Om Namah Shivaya. He who utters the Names of Shiva during Shivaratri, with perfect devotion and concentration, is freed from all sins. He reaches the abode of Shiva and lives there happily. He is liberated from the wheel of births and deaths. Many pilgrims flock to the places where there are Shiva temples.

(continued on next post.....)                                    
(Curious what this is about ? See previous post)

Saturday, July 10, 2010
Posted by Sreedhar Pillai

Not at Harvard nor at Ahamadabad

No, they don't teach you this at Harvard or Ahamadabad!

All that you need, to be a good sales person, is a good measure of knowledge of the product you are selling! The more you have it the better you will be as a sales guy. The deeper the Guru delves in to the matter, the bigger is the following. Whether it is the woman who sells fish in the market or the suave connoisseur you deal with in the diamonds section of a big name jewellery, it is the same knowledge of the product that will impress you.

I had no time though to  remind me of  fundamentals of marketing and sales and brush up on my product knowledge.  I had to say something to the devotee who had stopped in front of me before  he lost his patience and moved on. I had to somehow grab his attention before he lost his curiosity.

If I simply said  Here is a leaflet which tells you everything, that would have suited us both. I can have the satisfaction of having achieved something great and the stranger in front of me a feeling of having escaped a Spanish inquisition! But that is not service to God!

I had to ask a question! My customer has to come out of the shock of being way laid and start using his brain. start thinking, start pondering for an answer.  So I started asking something, in fact anything to get him to talk. Like where he is coming from, is it the first time he is visiting the temple. how log before  did he arrive from India, is he married yet, any thing to strike a conversation.

I hate intruding in people's privacy but I had to get them to open their ears and eyes before they opened their hearts a bit.

Surprisingly it all seems to be working like in a trance! Suddenly everone seemed interested in what I had to say, except of course some hard core visitors who had gone through it all before with someone else!

(continued on next post.....)                                    
(Curious what this is about ? See previous post)

What did I say to the devotees ?

Though I had been involved with this great temple (The new Balaji Temple at Tividale in the west Midlands, UK for eighteen years only as a devotee, I had some idea about how the trustees have gone about raising funds to build the temple. But this didn't help when I was standing there facing a lot of people, coming out of darshan.

Naturally, for most of them the darshan must have been a very touching and special event in their life! They must waited a long time and taken a lot of trouble by travelling long distances with families and children. The reward was evident from their faces, the peace and tranquillity they must have felt and the feeling of a divine touch they carried. Mundane things like funds or fund raising must be the last things in their minds.What can you say to these people? I didn't know.

Then what I was there for was God's own business! Soon I had to find a way to carry on with my duty before the devotees dispersed and went their way. So I plucked up some enthusiasm from the din and dizil of the ambiance and the chanting of the Vishnu sahasranama over the temple audio system and ventured to stop people coming towards to me.

I said hello, vanakkam, namaste, hello sir, excuse me madam, anything which came to my tongue just to get their attention. I suppose there was an element of natural selection in my salutation based on the perception of age and the attire of the individual and the gender of the devotee.

It seemed to be working! Though I could read the reticence and annoyance at being way laid most unexpectedly, some sense of the God's business I had to present must have somehow transpired.

I wonder if it might have been the beautiful Kathakali padam praising lord Siva (a stotram) which was going in my mind which brought the change in their minds! Just listen and see for yourself!

Monday, July 05, 2010
Posted by Sreedhar Pillai

God's very own salesman!

If you truly believe in God, it is really amazing how events in life, which might at first look very common or insignificant, can reveal glimpses of his grace!
Since many years, I have been given an opportunity to go to a great temple every Saturday. This is the new Balaji Temple at Tividale near Birmingham in the UK. Though very much in the centre of a British town, this is a new and marvellous temple built as a replica of the Thirupati Sri Balaji Temple. It is located  in a beautiful landscaped and isolated piece of land, fully of serenity and brimming with the presence of the almighty.

With HIS grace and the interest and passion of the wider Indian community all over the UK, the temple has grown over the years in to a complex with smaller temples for other deities and some communal facilities. At the request of a large number of devotees. a Lord Shiva temple is being built and its Kumbhabhishekam is being held in August 2010.
As part of the fund raising, temple trustees and volunteers often try to make the visiting devotees aware of various opportunities for donating to the temple fund. One such opportunity is contributing a golden billvam leaf which will be used in the puja on the Sivarathri day every month.
One of the trustees used to routinely talk to me on my every visit. One day he stopped me and suggested that I help him to do the promotion. Not considering  myself to be important and not having the "right profile" I excused myself from his demands on several occassions. However yesterday I gave in to his persuasions and agreed to talk to the devotees coming out of Darshan, least expecting that I can convince anyone to donate £501 pounds.
Reluctantly, with a bunch of leaflets in my hand I stood facing the outgoing line of devotees not knowing where to start. Very soon I found myself stopping people and talking to them things about Lord Shiva I didn't know that I knew! Finally I managed, to my utter surprise, persuade four families to sign up for the billvam in about twenty minutes. I think my friend was more surprised than pleased  when he told me that I have done very well.
Both of us agreed that it was the Lord who has done very well for himself!

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