Sometime ago, my little daughter raised an innocent query, “Papa, we are told that there are 33 crore gods and goddesses whom we worship and they are supposed to take care of us.
If so many gods are there busy looking after our welfare, then why is there so much poverty, illiteracy and suffering around us?”
I had no ready answer. I mulled over it for sometime thinking whether gods too are overworked!
Our saints gave us the concept of multiplicity of gods and connected them with almost every aspect of life. I remember my maternal grandfather who used to narrate fables and mythological stories full of wisdom.
He gave us reasons why we worship our house, our hearth, the trees and even stones kept in the temples. Our rivers are goddesses to us so that we revere them, keep them clean and in turn they give us clean water.
There is a story of a saint who lived near the bank of river Saryu at Ayodhya. Renowned as he was, he was visited by a large number of devotees round the year. The saint always ensured that every visitor is well fed before returning from the Ashram. One day a large group of devotees landed late in the evening without any prior intimation. His disciples started making arrangement of food for them. Suddenly they found that ghee was in short supply.
As the market was far off, they approached the saint. Undaunted, the saint asked them to bring a container.
He went to the riverbank with the container, prayed for a while and fetched the container full of water from the river. He then asked his disciples to fry the food items in the water he fetched. The next morning, he called his disciples and asked them to buy a container of ghee from the market and pour it into the river from where he had borrowed it.
The story may be apocryphal, but the lesson is clear: “We owe back to nature what we take from her.”