It was clear something bothered the man. The Guru called him to his side and asked.
‘You want to tell me something?’
‘Yes…I must confess, I’m not religious.’
‘That’s not unusual.’
‘So much disease, deprivation, hate, chicanery, crime, and wars… killing innocents all around.
Not sure if anyone is in charge here. This cannot be god’s – if there’s one – creation. I don’t believe in god, worship or prayer.’
‘You’ve a point.’
‘I don’t believe in karma and rebirth…and, in swarga (heaven), narak (hell) or moksha (eternal salvation). Life is here and now. Who has seen after-life?’
‘So much you don’t believe in. You believe in anything…anything at all?’
‘Not sure if I do. With so much suffering, inequities…’
‘Alright – is there anything you want to believe in?’
‘Well, if you put it that way…in goodness of man, perhaps, whatever is left.’
‘That’s here, not other-worldly and a good enough religion to go after, my friend.’
There were three young lads that came into the temple.
After the darshan, they were on their way out. They paused near the hundi (collection box) located in the front and turned around for one final darshan of the deity. At this time one of the lads idly ran his hand over the slit of the hundi and felt a coin stuck at the slit that had not dropped into the hundi. He looked around. Seeing no one watching him, he retrieved the two rupee coin mumbling sincere apologies.
It was a god-send. With no money on them, they had not eaten almost for a day and hence were mighty hungry. In fact they had come into the temple in the hope of receiving some prasadam which unfortunately did not happen. On the two-rupee coin, they went to a nearby eating house and had a dosa each for a total of a rupee and a half. The lad returned to the temple with his mates and dropped the remaining half a rupee back into the hundi thanking the Lord for his timely help. Just then the Bhattar (priest) who happened to be nearby saw the lad with his hand on the hundi.
Suspecting some mischief the Bhattar pulled up the lad and questioned him. The lad made a clean breast of whatever had happened. An angry Bhattar gave them a punishment of making four pradakshanam’s (circumambulations) of the temple with hands folded in obeisance to make expiation for the misdeed.
Complying with Bhattar’s pronouncement, the lads proceeded to make atonement. On their third pradakshanam, the Bhattar saw a sweet child following them with folded hands. Strangely no one else seemed to be aware of the child’s presence.
Bhattar addressed the child: ‘My child, why are doing it? It was meant for those lads.’
The child smiled at the Bhattar: ‘Sir, you prescribed four pradakshanam’s for the two rupees they took out of the hundi. They had used a rupee and half for their food and gave me back half a rupee. Please tell them to stop on completing the third. It is only fair they do three and I do the fourth.
Without waiting any further the child sped away around the shrine on a pradakshanam not to be seen again.
Source: Heard it on a TV channel, details differing somewhat, months ago. The subject temple is in Guruvayoor where Krishna is the deity as a child. Image from Krishna mohanji.org