Two and Out. That is a wrestling term I have learned since my son Jed started wrestling in High School. It is referring to wrestling tournaments in which a wrestler who has two losses is out of the tournament. The past couple days were both a two and out for he and I. We both went to Sacramento for wrestling, but I also went to visit some Hindu temples in Sacramento to chat with the Pandit, (priest), and inquire about their religion, beliefs, practices, and how it compares to Christianity.
We were up about 4 AM and I drove him early to school. The team left before 6 AM, but I left a few hours later, after a relaxing morning with some coffee and some time spent Googling the location of a couple Hindu temples. The first one was the Laxmi Narayan Mandir Temple on Elder Creek Rd in South Sacramento off of Highway 99.
When I arrived, the parking lot was about empty, and it looked like there was some construction work going on in the back of the temple. I walked up to a side entrance where a door was slightly ajar. I also noticed quite a few pairs of shoes and sandals outside the door. I quietly opened the door and peered in to a very large carpeted room. Toward the front of the room was a large gold statue, (Vishnu, one of their main gods), very ornate and decorated. Several people were near the front in some kind of ceremony, so I quietly shut the door and retreated.
I walked around the building in the hopes of finding an office or someone I could ask about talking to their head Pandit, but no luck. After walking around, the only activity was in the large room that I first peeked into. So I returned, took off my shoes, and walked in.
What had been going on seemed to be over and I only saw two gentlemen in Hindu garments sitting across the room on a raised platform. I walked across the room smiling and asked if there was someone here I could ask some questions of about their religion. One of the men got up and walked toward me with a rather guarded expression on his face. I stuck out my hand, smiled, and introduced myself. He walked up to me, facing me squarely, and said, “Yes?” while crossing his arms, letting me know he had no intention of shaking my hand. His expression? Probably the same you would give a stranger who just walked up to your child and offered them some candy and ride in their car: angry distrust. My hand was left hanging for a moment and I dropped it. My expression must have changed as we were looking at each other for a long moment, when suddenly he folded his hands together as if in prayer and gave a couple quick, short bows. “Yees, yees” he said. “Pleased to meet you, pleased to meet you.” In a very heavy Hindu accent.
I thought I might as well just spell it out so as not to waste any time. I replied, “I am a Christian and I would like to talk to someone here about this temple and the Hindu religion.” He explained in a very heavy Hindu accent that if I came back Sunday, I could talk to someone who spoke better English. I explained that I lived a couple hours away and would not be back any time soon. He replied that he could answer my questions and just stood there looking at me, arms folded across his chest again. Since I was not planning on a short interview, I asked him if we could sit down and I motioned to some chairs along a wall. I was trying to look as non-threating as possible, since he had left my handshake hanging in midair. I am sure my expression was not one of loving kindness, and I had some ground to make up. He agreed and we sat down, his arms still folded across his chest.
I asked him some personal questions first. Things like:
-Have you been a Hindu all your life?
-Is everyone in your family a Hindu?
-Were you born and raised in India?
After just a few questions like that, he visibly relaxed. I was genuinely interested and did not have to feign a curiosity for him and his life. I am sure he sensed that and was quite willing to share with me, but I had a very difficult time understanding most of his replies. He was born in India and had been raised in a Hindu family. He had been a Hindu all of his life and so was everyone in his family. There was more, but I could not understand him.
I motioned to the statue in the front of the room, and asked if that was one of their gods. He said it was Vishnu and explained to me that they had one god, (this surprised me), but gave an analogy to explain what he meant. He said that some people wear gold earrings, some people wear gold bracelets, some wear gold necklaces. They are all made of gold, but all are different items. This, he said, was the relationship of Vishnu and the other gods. He also explained that they come several days a week to pray to Vishnu and to other gods and that is what they had been doing. He spoke on this for two or three minutes, but unfortunately, I could not understand most of what he said. I can’t complain since his English was a whole lot better than my Hindi.
When he was done, he got up and I thought he was probably more comfortable standing, but I had been concentrating so hard on what he was saying, I had not seen several people come back into the room, preparing for more prayers. It was time for me to go. I thanked him for his time and left with the stares of several people following me out.
My 2nd attempt at locating a Hindu temple the next day took me away from the wrestling tournament. After driving around for well over an hour, I located the Vrindavan Dhaam, but it was not a temple. It was a residence. Unfortunately, the parking was non-existent and I had already missed several matches and was pressed for time to get back. I drove around looking for a place to park, but each cookie cutter house had only one spot in front for a parked car and they were all taken. I was done. Two and out. I am planning on returning for another go, but this time I will call ahead and try to chat with someone ahead of time and set up an appointment.
My son Jed won his first two matches, but then lost the next two, so he was out. I returned and pick him up and we headed home.
Why am I visiting some Hindu temples? With all I have been reading about my Christian faith and the evidence for it, I want to talk to others about their religions and see what evidence they have, what beliefs they hold, what answers they have for some of the tough questions religions have to answer and share it here.