Home for Worship: House Welcomes All Religions, Focuses on Sai Baba

October 25, 2008

Author: Glenn Evans

Source: The Longview News Journal


There is something here, in this house in Longview where 16 men and women sing and chant, "ooohm."

There is the tinkling of live hand cymbals, recorded Indian sitar. The glow of a small flame emanates from an altar atop a knee-high table, a golden swath spilling to the floor where it becomes a runway along blinding white sheets covering a hardwood floor.

There is a man in a portrait above the table, his smiling eyes looking on the worshippers, who kneel or sit cross-legged on the sheets. Men sit separated from the women, the latter dressed in bold mauve, sky blue, burgundy and other silky wraps, many adorned with floral patterns. The guys are wearing smocks, or maybe the day's work shirt and jacket.

A few of the worshipers sit in chairs and a love seat at the back of the room, which by its furnishings is a family room complete with television console and a good music center.

There are family photos on other walls, testifying that this is a home of traditional family values, a house of love.

No one responds when the phone rings; it happens twice during the prayer and worship meeting of Longview's Sai Baba Center.

There is something here, in this room, something most people who attend worship services in other houses of worship know nothing about.

They sing in Indian, sometimes in English: "In the silent communion, I watch and wait for thee; Come, oh Sai. Come, thou, dwell in me."

The music alternates from a slow, deliberate pace to upbeat tempo as the songs pass. The lyrics speak of surrender to divine influence, to love incarnate.

All but one of these worshippers are Indian, the minority member is Nepalese. All of them follow the Hindu faith.

"But this is not Hindu at all," said Unnikrishnan Varier, host for the service and its leader.

He explains this is a study circle, in which members contemplate the lessons brought to man by Sai Baba, an avatar or bringer of light, leader of tens of thousands at an ashram or worship center in Southern India. His followers think Sai Baba, pronounced sigh, bah-bah, is the divine essence of God. He has come and gone throughout history, born this time in 1926.