Does God catch cold!...

            I remember to have read this somewhere.  A Sunday mass had  congregated at a church. After the mass the priest handed over a coin collection box to a boy to go around the assembly to collect contributions from the devotees. The devotees contributed whatever amount they could by dropping into the box. There were three devotees from Scotland in the congregation. As the boy approached them with the coin box in his hand, one of them pretended to be collapsing from the chair and the other two swiftly picked him up and carried him away.  Pity! People had a look of compassion to the fallen guy not knowing what had caused him to collapse. But the real fact was that for those three Scotsmen, the focus was not on the Lord, but on the money!

            Just as the people from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales are made fun of in England, I have been a witness myself when I was in Vienna, to the fun poked at the people from Burgenland near Vienna by the Austrians. It used to be mostly the farmers that were the targets for their jokes. Most Christians in that region are Catholics. Since their main occupation is agriculture that region is infested with lots of flies. In the West, it is customary in Christian weddings for the bride to be dressed in pure white. The bride’s wedding dress covers her from the top of her head to her feet with the bottom seemingly sweeping the floor. For that reason, there is a little girl entrusted with the role of a bridesmaid. The bridesmaid carefully keeps the veil off the floor by holding it up with her hands. That act is made fun of by people in that region as follows:

Why do bridesmaids carry a basketful of cow dung in their hands?

-          So that the flies do not sit on the bride!

A similar joke can be heard referring to the people from Burgenland:

 Why do the Burgenland keep the little chillies on the television?

-          So that the television becomes sharp!

Like these, it is common to find people in different lands and regions being made fun of by other groups. When you think about this with a cool mind, it becomes apparent that it is the intolerance of people following a particular culture that directs them to focus on people from other cultures. It is a well known fact that in our own country, Sardarjis are the prime targets for poking fun at by the rest of the populace.  A popular joke pertaining to Gyani Zail Singh, when he was our President, was prevalent among the children of Indian parents living in USA. It goes like this: President Zail Singh was not much of an expert in English. Once, when the plane he was travelling landed in Washington, Zail Singh got up from his seat and was rushing to get down. The air hostess who was in the act of opening the door looked at him and said, “Please wait.” Zail Singh assumed that she was asking him how much he weighed, and promptly replied how many kilograms he actually weighed! It is also interesting to learn that the past president of USA, George Bush, is referred to as, ‘Sardar Bush’ by many non-resident Indians (NRIs) in USA  mainly due to the lack of smartness in him.

            In USA, a lot of light talk goes on in regard to the miserly conduct of the Jewish people. Jews are considered extremely smart. It is to be noted that the world famous Scientist, Einstein, who proposed the theory of relativity, Charlie Chaplin, the super comedian artist of the silent movies belong to this religion. They literally control the banking industry, the business, and the media of USA in addition to Hollywood in Los Angeles. The highly reputed newspaper daily, “New York Times” is also in their control. Politically also, they wield enormous power. It is the opinion of the political experts that the election for the President of Israel is decided in New York, USA, rather than in Tel Aviv, Israel! It is because of this control that Jewish people have that USA has consistently supported them in every respect. It is hard to see the kind of social unity you see among the Jewish people in any other race. Although they are extremely shrewd in their business dealings, they do not hesitate to come forward and help out their countrymen in their times of hardship. It was customary to change the name of any person who was critically sick in their religion. It is said that it was done so as to confuse the messengers of God with identities of the sick and send them back empty handed. There are lots of claims for the success rate with this trick that they play. What an easy way to bypass death! If only Sathyavan Savitri was aware of this trick, she probably did not need to beg Lord Yama for mercy! 

            The Jewish Priests are called as ‘Rabbis’. A popular joke referring to the Rabbis that the American kids have goes like this: Three individuals belonging to different religions, a rabbi being one among them, return to their respective prayer houses with charities collected from their devotees. One of them, after getting inside the prayer house, drew a long straight line on the floor with a chalk piece. Standing before his God’s idol he says,’O! God, I am going to toss up all these coins from your devotees and I will use the coins that fall on the right side of this line for Your services and the ones that fall on the left side of the line are mine to keep’ and tosses them up. Similarly the second priest goes inside his temple, draws a circle and says, ‘O! My Lord, I am going to toss up all these coins from your devotees and I will use the coins that fall inside the circle for Your services and the ones that fall outside of it are mine to keep’ and tosses them up. The third person, the Rabbi, does not follow what the other two did; instead, he says, “O! God Almighty, I know that You are Omniscient, Omnipresent and omnipotent. I am going to toss all these coins from your devotees up in the air. Please feel free to keep what you need and I will only keep the ones that fall down on the floor’, and tosses them up!

            The funny joke above may just be an imaginary tale. But an interesting incident from my own experience might illustrate the mental set up of Jewish people a little better: Many years ago, I had visited Bolivia, a nation in South America, as an invited guest for an international conference. A rabbi from Israel was one of the attendees, as well, at that convention. On the last day of the convention which was a Sunday, a special prayer session was arranged at a local church. A few hours of free time was there for us before that event. We wanted to use that time to visit a few volcanoes in Bolivia. My assistant and I shared a taxi ride with that Rabbi from Israel and also a Professor of Religion from England. We had agreed to split the taxi fare and other expenses equally among us. It so happened that I did not have enough local currency with me at that moment. I told them that I would pay my share in US dollars. After returning from the trip, I paid my share of expenses to that Rabbi as calculated by him without questions in US dollars as promised. Then we all went inside the church.  The hosting priest cordially welcomed all the guests from foreign countries and we were all seated on reserved seats. The Prayer started. Every one stood up. Melodious prayer music could be heard everywhere. Everyone was praying with their eyes closed. Suddenly this rabbi standing next to me nudged me and handed me a paper slip. On it, he had written, “I just now realized that you still owe me another dollar!” When everyone was praying to God, the rabbi was calculating his transactions! Intuitively, a line from the Bible, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven”, flashed before my eyes. I could also recall Basavanna’s words which could relate to this incident:

“Store not the wealth, if you do, you can’t escape the worldly existence….

Dig not the earth to hide it! The earth, if it swallows, will it spit it out ever?

Don’t go hungry after viewing it with your eyes and sowing it in the earth!”


After paying that dollar, back to the rabbi who was restless for it, through my assistant, my mind was busy assessing that episode as we bid farewell to all and walked back to our room. In a business sense, what was improper in that Rabbi demanding the right amount due to him? May be the timing for his demand was not proper, he could have waited and asked for it after the prayer was over. Couldn’t he?


            I remembered Dr. Manu Kulkarni’s daughter who worked as a special officer in the Karnataka Bhavan at Delhi. Once when I had to visit Delhi rather unexpectedly, Dr. Kulkarni and his wife Mrs. Vijayalakshmi invited me to their house for pooja. The pooja was arranged in the morning. They had an intense desire to get their daughter Shweta obtain the Lingadeeksha from me. Shweta was not that fluent in Kannada. So I explained this vachana of Basavanna to her in English:

You are wider like the Universe, like the Sky, and even wider

Your feet descends deep beneath the nether lands

Your crown extends beyond the galaxy

You are, O! Lingu, Imperceptible, Invisible, Immense

Yet You shrunk enough to fit into my palm!


I demonstrated to her the way to offer pooja to the Lingu, which is but a miniature version of the Lord Almighty who in His real form is humongous occupying the entire galaxy even as He holds the global power within Him. Shweta, the seven year old innocent child heard me with rapt attention. To my question, “Why do you think we need to wipe the lingu dry with a clean cloth after the pooja offerings are over and before storing it inside the ‘karadige’, the metallic container?” the cute answer that child gave me was, “Yes, Swamiji. Otherwise God will catch cold!” Looking at the pure innocent face of that child, for a moment, I was reminded of the story of Kolooru Kodagoosu. Which devotee or which religious head will hold such affectionate feelings like the ones found in that pure heart of that young girl? You tell me.

My good hearted readers, by the time you read this column, we will be touring in the distant United States of America. A number of of children of Non-resident Indians, who were born between our previous visits there, have grown up now. Some children who I had seen when they were young have their own children who are that young now. How could I refuse a warm welcome call from my devotees who are holding ‘the 32nd annual convention of the Veerashaiva Samaja of North America’ in the world famous city of Chicago?

Sri Taralabalu Jagadguru
Dr Shivamurthy Shivacharya Mahaswamiji