Cloudy all day today, with only a drizzle while I was in the Keshava Vishnu Temple in Somnathpur.
At the Chamundi Hill Temple I stand outside watching the queues wondering whether to take Darshan. A man approaches me with a helpful disposition. I take him to be an attendant or a helpful person, guiding me to the special darshan queue and the shoe racks to stowaway my shoes. Although I already know where the queues are (they are in plain sight) I thank him.
Once I get my special ticket he stuffs a handful of flowers and a cheap looking statuette into my hands. He tells me its for the offering and ushers me into the temple. "Make sure you don't pay them anything" he says.
Darshan in the temple is pretty much the same as the darshans I've had in the other temples that are well trafficked by pilgrims. The queues shove you along to the inner sanctum where people push themselves to the officiating priest in front of the deity who performs some rites. Try as I might I cannot fathom or decipher the ritual involved. Then I get pushed to the exit and everything is over in a few minutes, with plenty of places where donations are required.
Except this time Mr Helpful attendant is at the shoe racks waiting for me. "You pay me 100 rupees" he says. For the handful of flowers and the cheap statuette which neither the temple priest nor I wanted. And a handful of directions which were not needed at all.
There is no official looking person or policeman around to assist. I am resigned to the knowledge that I've been had and manage to bargain the extortion money down to 50 rupees.
The incident plays itself over and over in my mind. Its a thing of mine to be caught up with events like this. I can spend days in a daze just with recurring thoughts that cloud up my mind. 50 rupees is barely 2 Singapore dollars, but it was the idea that it was taken from me from under my very nose and without my full consent. And the fact that I've been extremely careful with dealing with strangers since setting foot in India, yes even when I am being friendly and open with them. To have slipped up like this.. it leaves me turning the incident over and over feeling progressively more angry at myself not knowing what went wrong.
Paramahamsa Nithyananda calls this "inner chattering". His discourse on You Tube on the subject was one of the first I've heard, that gave me what he calls a "click" of comprehension that saw me listening to more and more of his videos and finally leading me to joining the introductory courses from the Singapore branch.
To destroy the ego and to control the mind from chattering incessantly, ultimately to experience firsthand the truth behind this maya, and to be freed.. I find myself looking forward more and more to the courses ahead of me in his main ashram in June and July. Ashram living is still something I have yet to experience. Perhaps it will benefit me more than temple darshans. Most certainly the idea of visiting more of these "fast food darshan" type mass temples isn't for me. I still appreciate the older, quieter temples and ruins, however, and the energy of the crowds of devotees in the newer ones.