Hindus truly find god in all things. Even their standard greeting, “Namaste,” is a recognition of the inner divinity of both the greeter and the greeted. Today, I got to see how that recognition of divinity sometimes extends to the seemingly mundane. While enduring a very bumpy bus ride from Jodhpur to Ranakpur, we stopped in a little village called Shyla. This is a place where many Indians stop and pay homage to… a motorcycle. But not just any motorcycle. This particular motorcycle is one that cannot be owned; in fact, its first two owners died shortly after acquiring it. While this isn’t particularly extraordinary, what solidified its otherworldly status was the discovery that the motorcycle was driving itself in circles each night (apparently, there are witnesses who will testify to this fact). So, the locals built a shelter for the motorcycle on the side of the road and made a puja (a puja is a special worship, like making offerings in a shrine) and there it sits, surrounded by shelter and offerings of flowers, ghee, and incense. Indians who drive by Shyla stop at this shrine to pay their respects and honor whatever spirit posesses the object.
I really don’t want to sound as though I am making light of this. The holy motorcycle is just an extreme example of what I think is one of Hinduism’s most endearing aspects. Aside from recognizing divinity in all things, the Hindu belief system is unique in that there is no central figurehead, dogma, or text; rather, it is made up of a rich and colorful collection of deities and scriptures. Though some are put off by what appears to them as worship of multiple gods, Hinduism is really more of a monotheistic pantheism—the different gods are merely different aspects, incarnations, or attributes of a single god. Though I am not a believer myself, I see the formal recognition of the many faces of god to be rather wise, for lack of a better word. I also appreciate that Hindus do not proselytize and they honor all other faiths—a very enlightened practice, in my mind. I have a great deal of respect for Hinduism and that respect only grows when I see how deeply ingrained it is in the culture and how truly spiritual many Indians are. It is less a religion and more of a way of life.