[dropcap]L[/dropcap]ast Monday evening, fresh from watching the cold dusk set in over the Soviet-bloc views from Library floor three, I found myself sat, cross-legged on the floor of the Chaplaincy, under a big sign that said ‘Warwick Hindu Soc in partnership with Warwick Buddhist Soc’… trying desperately to be invisible.
As a fourth year, there are not many buildings in central campus left uncharted by me in my various wanderings to “find the lecture room”. Except the chaplaincy. Not even the lure of free paninis and toasties had seen me enter their doors in the full three years I have bumbled round Warwick campus.And now, here I was, clearly in the middle of some enormous existential crisis that I myself didn’t fully understand, psychologically preparing myself to take part in a Hindu prayer session, when all I thought I’d come for was a slight more IRL version of Andy from Headspace.
Upon arrival to ‘Introduction to Meditation’, I had been informed that the Hindu Society’s ‘aarti’ would be taking place, as it did every Monday before the meditation session begins.
Peppered among the contented greetings of regulars and the chattering of “oh my god I know – I used to come all the time but I’ve just been so busy recently!” were evident newbies: a couple of awkward hippies, some nervous-looking postgrad students, two guys inexplicably wearing their Freshers 2K14 t-shirts (never did get to ask them why), and me. As the room filled up, most of us who realised we were sat alone and didn’t know anyone – or anything about what might ensue – migrated closer and closer towards the edges of the room, until I found myself almost literally sat under the entrance curtain.
As I battled with the art of sitting this unbelievably close to the exit but not being trodden on, the girl next to me thankfully struck up conversation. “Are you new to this too?,” she asked, clearly needlessly. She went on to tell me that the last thing she had been to recently was an ‘understanding Islam’ event run by the Islamic Society, and that this was part of her way, she said, of getting to understand all the different faiths on campus. To that end, she was hoping to try out an event from every faith society.
Suddenly finding Warwick’s Andy from Headspace didn’t seem to important to me.
This girl’s awesome odyssey to learn a little more about what makes Warwick’s diverse religious community tick had struck me as truly wonderful.
With no real religious affiliation of my own, it was rare that I ever encountered the faith societies on campus.
While I thought I had signed up just to sit and tell my mind off for wandering for an hour in front of a man in an orange dress, I had actually been invited to partake in a prayer to God, and an offering of light that Warwick’s Hindu community do every Monday.
It struck me that evening what an enormous privilege being invited to observe someone at worship really is. The Hindu Society didn’t have to invite the meditation-goers to worship with them, they didn’t have to invite us to awkwardly watch them as they went about doing what they do every Monday evening. But they did. And in a multi-faith community like Warwick, that extension of an invite can make all the difference.
I am really grateful to Hindu Soc and Buddhist Soc for hosting such a fantastic event, and for inviting me, the nervous postgrads, the awkward hippies, and even the guys in Freshers 2K14 t-shirts, to worship with them, and to have a little taster of an understanding for how they interact with their God.
We are privileged to live in such a multi-faith, diverse, and accepting community at Warwick, but it is rare that many of us see each other’s experiences.
If you do one thing before term ends, I would urge you to seek a little enlightenment, and take your own understanding of religion outside its comfort zone.
Much like the girls speaking to me from my hidey-hole behind the curtain, we should all aim to learn more about each other’s relationship with God and the world around us. And we are luck that there are societies on campus happy enough to let us in to see.
Photo: Warwick Hindu Society