Every evening we do a little walk in our Ashram where we have a wonderful way from the house to the gate. With Apra on the arm we go and sometimes stop at the gate to look outside. Apra loves watching the cars, bicycles and motorbikes drive by, the people come home from work or the pilgrims doing their rounds on the Parikrama Marg, the pilgrimage way around our town. Pilgrims and many local people do this walk daily, with bare feet and often reciting mantras. Some of them do even more: they lie down on the floor, get up, walk three steps and lie down again. In this way they do the complete Parikrama of about ten kilometers.
A few days ago we were standing there and watching traffic as usual when we saw one of those pilgrims lie down on the way, then get up, make a little dance and lie down again, obviously fully happy in his devotion. Ramona turned to me with the words ‘You get a bit crazy when doing this, don’t you?’ After a moment I answered ‘No, you have to be a bit crazy to do this!’
Before a storm of Hindu believers now rushes to the defense of this practice and before any of my friends shout ‘But you did it yourself!’, let me tell you that yes, I have done the Parikrama in this way and yes, my wife knows about this.
I know myself what my state of mind was in that time, just before entering the cave. From today’s point of view, if I met the man who I was in that time, I might easily call him crazy.
It is simply incredible what religious belief and a belief in God can do to your mind. There is just so much devotion and the conviction that this kind of action is good not only for you but for the world, that you don’t think rationally about it. In which way does it benefit your God if you spend two or three days on a road, lying down and getting up, hardly getting forward? They call it devotion but I would say it is a manipulation of the mind. When devotion gets to this level, it makes you blind. You don’t feel pain and you don’t think, it gets more and more crazy.
While I believe that this is a bit crazy, there are much crazier things that religion makes people do. It is the same feeling, the same manipulation by religion when a person believes it is something good to spend his last penny until a certain day on which he thinks the world is going to end. Or drink a deathly poison together with others of the same state of mind. It is also the same religious manipulation that makes someone strap a bomb around his waist and blow himself up in a busy subway, killing himself and dozens of other people. Or highjack a plane and crash it into a tower, causing grief to thousands of people who lost loved ones.
It is craziness. It is religion. Some of the effects are less harmful, some are more. You can tolerate it if someone does not cause damage or harm to others and no obvious harm to himself. Call him a little bit crazy. But in the end, it is religion that manipulated this mind into this devotional act.