The lunchtime conversation centered around the new age Guru like Jaggi and Sri Sri. I explained why the society needs them and the masters are naturally wiser than the four discussing them. Not satisfied with hurting the ego of a few, my ego turned to the silent man. I know he was a traditional person and prefers a traditional Guru. I just told him that his faith on his traditional master is on thin ice. I didn't explain it then but would do so here.
When I about four years old, our family moved to a house in a street half-way up the hill in the Rockfort area in Trichy. Our house was right next to a temple of Vanni Adi Karuppu - roughly the dark guy under the Shami or Khejri Tree. (It is interesting to note the naming a person wasn't too different across communities in the ancient days.) Calling it a temple would be an overstatement. It was a small 8'X6' room in which a piece of the tree and a huge sword were kept. It probably belonged to a warrior or a local hero, who lived a few centuries ago. There was another temple considered to be that of an elder Karuppu down the hill. I heard the elder's sword was bigger.
The Karuppu, the elder and the younger were the protective deities of the locals in that area. The Gods wielded limited powers in the twentieth century, nothing beyond ensuring the basic livelihood of the priest's family.
As we moved in, my Grandma readily accepted Vanni Adi Karuppu as one of her Gods. She already had inducted a few deities in the family. It wasn't difficult for her to accept one more.
There was a room in our home right behind the temple. It was believed that the God would walk around at night and we shouldn't be sleeping on his path. I never managed to stay awake beyond 9 PM or could wake up before 7 AM. Though I was innocent enough to believe it, never got to see Karuppu.
Coming back to Grandma, she was very orthodox. Though her eyesight wasn't great, she didn't take anyone's help to do her chores. She would wash and dry her clothes. We aren't allowed to go near her till she completed her morning prayers.
But her neighbor Karuppu didn't conform to her Brahmin Orthodoxy. He was offered meat and cigar, just once a year. Had there been no prohibition, he might have been offered liquor too as with other such local deities.
But how could such an orthodox person accept a deity who doesn't conform to her values? Since we are given the freedom to choose our deity, we are bound to go wrong on this. Remember, our Gods were just as human as we are. (So are our masters.) If the common values determine who one's deity is, then such a faith is weak. What happens if the believer comes to know that the deity's values were different? The faith ends and the person has to look out for another hero, with common values. It can be devastating to a few. But that's for another day.
Then what can ensure a strong faith? The answer lies in the relationship. If the chosen God be related like a father, mother, friend or child, then there will be acceptance. After all, we accept our worldly relations as they are and expect them to serve just the purpose of that relationship.
For my Grandma, she accepted her God unconditionally as her neighbor. What if the neighbor eats meat or smokes a cigar. He's a protecting neighbor and the matter ends there.