Monday, July 11, 2011

My Body is a Temple


Ever met a Hare Krishna and wondered what in the world was on his or her forehead?? And why

Tilak is a marking that Vaishnavas apply to the forehead with sacred clay. As a kid I wore tilak but rebelled against it as a teenager. I didn't want to be labelled as "one of those Hare Krishnas." Besides, I didn't really know how to put it on and I always ended up with mud all over my face. 

Then a couple years ago I had a very odd inspiration. The tradition for the holy month of Kartik (October-November) is to make a special vow, or vrata, and surrender that effort to the Lord. So I decided to do the unthinkable:

Wear tilak every single day. 

To school, to gatherings, and even - who woulda thunk? - to the temple. I figured that a) I would get over my tilak phobia, and b) I would become a killer tilak artist by the end of the month. 

So for the first day of Kartik, yes, my tilak was all over my hair and forehead in messy streaks, even after spending ten minutes trying to perfect it. When I went to school, I thought I would get weird looks. But I didn't. What I got were questions. And the question always came: "Why?"

As the month progressed, I began to enjoy answering these questions because they would always stir up a conversation about God. And when the last day of Kartik rolled around, sure enough, my tilak phobia had vanished. 

And, if I say so myself, I was a killer tilak artist. 

Over the years as I've traveled around the world with tilak upon my forehead, I've been asked that question countless times: "Why?"

Inspired, today I wrote this concrete poem as one of my answers.   


Related Posts:
The Chosen and The Choosers: The Youth. The Future of the Movement. Descendants of the Demigods... 
An Unexpected Guru: Around the curve of the bench, I saw a young man absorbed in a small black book with gold on the edges of the paper...

6 comments:

Nityananda Chandra Das said...

Wonderful. I just posted this for our temple's weekly newsletter. http://www.krishna.com/blog/2011/07/7/vaishnava-tilak%E2%80%93marking-your-body-temple-god

can I include your link?

Bhakti lata said...

Sure, Nityananda Chandra!

Rukmini said...

Love this design! But maybe you should copyright it before you see it tattooed on people's arms and backs...heheh.

Robin said...

I don't think I've ever commented on your blog before, but I've been a regular visitor for quite a while. Your work -- writing, poetry, photography and videography -- is magnificently transcendent and resonant, rich with texture and color and melody. It is a joy to cross paths with you from time to time. Thank you for sharing! :-)

Anonymous said...

Brilliant!!! Love your blog!!! Lots of Love - Gopi Hopkines, UK

In Love With Krishna said...

Bhakti, thankyou so much for this post. You inspire me so much with this article. Being a Sri Vaishnava, our tilak is kinda different, but oh! this unique feeling you get when you wear it IS quite universal!
Loving this article so much!


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