One woman’s story of her search for knowledge and understanding about her ancient faith
By Puvaneswary Roberts
Thai pusam is the annual festival celebrating Lord Murugan’s victory of light over darkness. Each year it is a great day for thousands at Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur. On my recent pilgrimage there, I again witnessed the throngs of devotees who had kept me astounded for hours as a teenager and continue to do so. Their devotion is truly awesome as whole families and groups perform severe austerities.
I had grown up in Malaysia, but had not understood much about our Hindu beliefs, culture or traditions. This knowledge had been diluted in recent times throughout my multicultural community. Consisting of Indians, Tamils, Chinese, Malays and Europeans, my diverse surroundings did help make me and those around me tolerant and accepting of each other.
After losing my father, I grew up without much discipline or structure. My mother was rather shy and timid, and not very knowledgeable about our tradition. Thankfully, however, she showered us with an abundance of love. I witnessed many negative things in my community: child and wife abuse, alcoholism, poverty, racial discrimination and inequality. Because of this, I was in inner turmoil as a teenager, as I could not find understanding for all that I witnessed. It was the small Sivan temple in the Sentul district of Kuala Lumpur that helped me maintain an inner calm. It brought me contentment after each visit. I always came away feeling that everything was alright, light-hearted and happy.
People often casually speak about destiny, fate and karma without any clear explanation. As a youth, none of this satisfied me. There were not many books available to me at the time and the priests in the temples did pujas in Sanskrit without much explanation. After a half a century of my own search for answers, I found knowledge about Saivite Hinduism in the teachings of Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. With Siva’s grace I have been fortunate to have met Gurudeva. It was his simple, clear explanations that set me on track. All my questions became an adventurous journey in my life.
My life became purposeful. I became tolerant of issues and accepting of situations and people. I now feel I have a bigger picture of everything that is happening around me—both the good and the bad. I have sympathy and empathy for all of creation—for the many disasters, earthquakes, floods and political and religious wars causing pain and sorrow for millions of people. I try to help in whatever way I can, with the inner knowledge that everything will be alright. We are inseparable from God Siva.
As I reached the heights of the Thai Pusam celebrations at Batu Caves, I showered milk over Lord Murugan, and then stayed in the vicinity of the shrine for a couple of hours. Standing there, watching and observing, I felt the oneness of the spirit. People all around me were calm, happy and satisfied. Their faces were glowing. Tourists and others were enjoying the day and the lively vibration. Though we were physically, emotionally and physiologically separated, there is great oneness. I was happy for the opportunity to make this pilgrimage. My husband’s encouragement made it possible.
I am appreciative for the teachings of Gurudeva, Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami and their monastics, who help to awaken my desire to know myself. It is a stepping stone across the ocean, but their teachings keep me steady. I do have challenges, momentary slips between stepping stones, but each slip quickly restores awareness of the greatness within. I love God Siva and all of His creation. Vetri Vel Murugan!
Puvaneswary Roberts was born in Malaysia and moved to the UK in 1969 for general nursing. There she met her husband Clive. They now have a son and daughter and three grandchildren.