By Megha Bajaj
Has God changed over the centuries, or is it us? is he a dream and we the reality, or is life itself nothing but a very real dream? does he talk… do we listen? does he love… do we feel cared for and protected? does he exist?… do we believe? find some answers to your questions and many questions to your answers here
Who is God?
The butterfly never asks the flower where it came from, but unfurls its wings and rests upon it. The moon doesn’t question the dark sky, but gently lays its head in its comforting folds. The rains don’t seek the permission of the earth to arrive, but dance delightedly upon it with their silver feet. Everything just happens. As it should. Except in the arena of human experience. The mind, far from accepting or submitting to what is, is filled with questions – who, why, where, when, what? Growing up, I too asked – Who made the world work so well? The one responsible, I was told, is God. The very first time I met Him was while sitting on my grandmother’s knee listening keenly to stories of Hindu gods. I learnt that they created the world, sustained it, looked after man, and if someone angered them, they destroyed their own creation too. I was stunned. Amazed. Spellbound. There was an immense fear of this being who had eyes all around, judging me. I remember watching from the corner of my eye for some whip to descend from the heavens and strike me whenever I was naughty. However, with years, God changed. Doubts reared their heads and I began to wonder… if there was indeed someone so powerful why allow floods, murders, child abuse? Insecurity, jealousy and anxiety were the dominant emotions in my life at this point. I was insecure about anyone who did not share my value system. Jealous of those better than me. And anxious about every experience and person that life would bring me around its next turn.
A book changed the image I held of God. Conversations with God, written by Neale Donald Walsch enticed me because the title made him appear to be God’s friend. Someone he could speak to. Someone who replied after careful listening. Lonely, desperately seeking a companion, I sought to replace God the judge with God the friend. But is conditioning ever easy to do away with? I remained confused. ‘Not knowing’, however say the gurus, is the very first step to ‘knowing’. Most seekers relate to this maddening search in the dark to understand God – will the answers come, and even if they do, will any satisfy their quest? Prashant Olalekar, a Jesuit spiritual guide, says, “As a child God was a strict and demanding father. Certain realisations changed His relationship with me!” Rama Mehra, a Mumbai-based entrepreneur, shares, “What a stressful relationship I had with God! I would cry all night when I believed I had done something wrong, shivering, trembling – anxiously awaiting His reaction. Luckily, a realisation freed me from my hell.”
Realisation, indeed, is a significant word for all those who seek to know God and destroy the image of Her that society and religion create to keep human frailties in check. Haven’t you heard mothers tell their children, unthinkingly, “Drink your milk or God will punish you!” Or a school teacher say, “Remember God is watching you”. Little wonder so many of us grow up trembling with the image of a ferocious, vicious, revengeful God. Forced virtue is futile in the realm of spiritual evolution. For growth is always founded on trust, never fear. Many seekers, fortunately, break out. They are able to build a loving relationship with God. Get close to Him. Be intimate with Her. The trigger could be anything – a book, a guru, an experience.
I tried to find God in books, but words didn’t satisfy me. They did, however, give me material with which to re-create my idea of God. Like a child with a scrapbook, I would sit with my eyes closed and imagine how my God would be! Writing for spiritual magazines put me in touch with seekers who would often share their ideas of God; enthralled, I would borrow all the ones that appealed to me. My God, I decided, would be loving, loving and ever more loving. He wouldn’t judge. Oh yes, and he would always be there whenever I needed him. Poets wrote so intensely about this being, that reading it, I would get goose bumps all over and wonder – if the very thought of God brings such response, what would the actual meeting be like? I ached to find out. For a long time not a single glimpse came but the period gave me the time to at least theoretically understand God.
Within your temple, O God, we meditate on your unfailing love! (Psalm 48:9)
Love, I learnt, was the highest emotion that we humans know. Indeed, it transforms anything that it touches. The most severe of faces look tender when lost in thoughts of loved ones. Love is crucial for us, and yet we associate its opposite, fear, with both God and life. Why? Perhaps because both to some extent signify the unknown. And not knowing is scary, isn’t it? To me, yes. I wanted to go higher but without leaving the comfort of the lower. Could the caterpillar ever become the butterfly if it kept resisting change? Or the seed a plant? I recognised, for the first time, that God would be that unchanging source of security – while all else would be transient. And it should. I enjoy flowers because I know they will fade away, I value my mother because I know I have a limited time with her. Life itself is exciting because it too comes with an expiry date. If everything went on and on forever, we would probably not enjoy anything!
Loving God, and believing He too loved me, helped me become more accepting to this flow of life. I relaxed. My rationale was that God, who created love, must feel so much for his beautiful creations that he would ensure I would be all right, even in a tsunami of change. This worked like a dream for a few days until once again, questions began to jab at my newfound understanding. I wondered how love is God but hate isn’t; surely if he created the good, he must have created the bad too? The answers, when they came, left me speechless with the brilliance of it all. I imagined God telling the first human he created, “I love you”. And the human looking quizzically, wondering what love was. When hatred was shown to him, he understood love. If there were no duality, we would not understand the unison. God is one, but we must experience many to then melt again into that one. Anil Bhatnagar, a motivational speaker from Delhi, says, “God, to me, is anything and everything. I cannot imagine anything that is outside God.”
This is the kind of friend You are –Without making me realise, my soul’s anguished history You slip into my house at night, and while I am sleeping You silently carry off all my suffering and sordid past In Your beautiful Hands. – Hafiz
Now that I was sure of God’s love, I sought to find when I could experience it. Was it when I visited a spiritual space? Or when I was around enlightened people? Arun Wakhlu, an Osho follower who runs his own training centre in Pune, discovered, “The Abundance Broadcasting Corporation is broadcasting love 24/7! It is we who miss the broadcast most of the time, because we do not ‘tune in’”. Riva Buddhiraja, a psychologist in Mumbai keeps telling her clients, “God is always available, you aren’t.” Shruti Thakur (name changed), a fashion designer, shares her experience, “I was driving to Lonavala from Mumbai when a truck in front of me screeched to a halt suddenly. I was going at a speed of 100 kmph and the distance between the truck and my car was about eight feet. In those few seconds of frenzy I remember just muttering, “God help me, I want to live”, and miraculously the car stopped just an inch behind the truck. The gratitude, the relief, the sheer magic I felt in those moments made me realise that I wanted to communicate to God not just at times of need, but all the time. He was always there. But was I?” This came as a serendipitous discovery because I believed God’s love fluctuated. Although there was a broad umbrella of His protective love over me, I thought He allowed me to come closer to Him only on days when I had been positive, and was a little distanced when I had given in to negativity.
Come, come, whoever you are.
Wonderer, worshipper, lover of leaving.
It doesn’t matter.
Ours is not a caravan of despair.
Come, even if you have broken your vow
a thousand times
Come, yet again, come, come.
Words from various books mysteriously came together to show me I was wrong. God’s greatest gift is free will so how could he himself judge those who misused it? And yet, he had to create a system by which His erring children could realise their mistake. Some feedback had to be given. So the law of karma was proclaimed. It would give one a quality of life in accordance with their quality of thoughts, words and action. However, God and the law remain different. While the law would work precisely till the end of human life – giving, taking, teaching, God would remain a benevolent mother, loving and respecting Her children unconditionally. A dear friend lost both her parents to the tsunami that hit Chennai in December 2004. They left for an early morning walk and never came back. When asked if she hated God, her reply was, “It’s my own karma that has brought this to me, why blame God? And if I alienate myself from Him at this point, I will truly become an orphan.”
I became restless. Desperate for someone through whom I could find my beautiful God. Like a man lost in the burning desert, thirsty for just a few drops of water, I went to every possible spiritual organisation that I heard of, to find relief. By the time I met my guru, I had almost given up on finding God. Rajan, founder of Alma Mater in Chennai, looked like a simple man, dessed in blue jeans and a yellow T-shirt. Commonplace. Like someone you may see on a daily walk or meet in a movie theatre. But when he came to say hi with intensity blazing in his eyes, and a gentle smile spreading over his face, commonplace didn’t cover it. The three-day programme on bhakti that brought me to Chennai commenced. He began to speak and suddenly the crowded hall dissolved, leaving just him and me. His eyes, looking intently into mine, seemed to tell me what I needed to know. That very day, unknowingly, I chose him to be my guru, my mother who would lead me to territories undiscovered.
For many seekers, guru is the potter who carefully takes disciples in his creating hands and transforms them into a masterpiece. Indeed, Master’s piece. Gulshan Dudani, a disciple of Dada J P Vaswani, says, “It’s easier to build a relationship with someone you can see and touch. I feel very close to my guru and through him I feel intimate with the Supreme Power.” For Jyotii Subramaniam, author of the book, One Master, One Disciple, the turning point in her spiritual search was when, sitting in a seminar in Chandigarh, she got a vision of her guru, Yogiraj Gurunath, who stayed in Pune – a powerful looking bearded man whom she had neither met nor heard of until then. He introduced her first to herself and then to God. Neerja Malik, a Sai believer, had an image that Baba was sitting next to her as the air-hostess guided her to her seat. She was on her way to Mumbai from Chennai for her cancer operation. She dozed off into a soothing sleep even before the plane took off. When she finally woke up to the pilot’s landing call, to her utter amazement, the seat next to hers was the only one in the entire aircraft that had remained empty!
The guru’s greatness can never be over-rated. Through stories, through touch and even small miraculous experiences of getting what I asked for, Rajan stoked my faith in God. Slowly and subtly, my thought process changed from, “I will believe Him when I see Him” to “I will see Him when I believe in Him.”
Faith isn’t about knowing
It’s about being
Then you know.
Says Prakash Bajaj, an engineer from IIT, “I believed in Her, much before I met her. And then suddenly one day, in deep silence, I experienced Her hands, soft and tender, loving me, healing me. If I didn’t have faith to begin with, I would probably have let go of this experience as a hallucination, and not the most real and life-changing experience.”
With complete surrender, I left for an eight-day meditation camp with my guru. My questions had dropped. And yet, answers came. I needed to be away – from the city, from the routine, from myself – to be lost in God and God alone. Ami Patel, creative director at L’Officiel magazine, and active member of the Art of Living from Mumbai, shares, “Although I believe the connection and closeness is always there, the experience is more palpable in silence and the quiet moments with myself or when I spend time with nature.” Kavita Byrd, seeker and writer, adds, “When my mind and emotions are relatively quiet, it is the formless aspect of Her Being that can then begin to permeate me.” Popular founder of Art of Living, Sri Sri Ravishankar, says, “”When thoughts are constrained and your mind has settled down peacefully in that meditative state, you have become one with the Divine. You are no more your small, little individual self, but you are one with the cosmic life, cosmic Being, one with God.”
For the first few days I tried so hard to get an experience that nothing happened. However, somewhere along the week, I forgot time, and began to flow with the moment. Shoulders relaxed. Eyes half closed. Face lifted to the skies. Every cell in a constant state of renewal. I particularly loved the nights when we would stand in a lawn under the shamiana of stars, swaying to divine music. I would twirl and twirl. Like a little girl – excited, enthralled, enthusiastic. That night too I was lost in motion when softly and surely, Rajan whispered, “Drop your body”. I fell like a sack of potatoes. A gentle, ethereal white mist enveloped me. It then took the shape of a mother and carried me away. I clung to Her bosom helplessly while She gently caressed me, embraced me, stroked my wild hair. Every inch of me seemed to be alive, loved, protected. At one point, I almost could not bear so much love and forced my eyes open. The lawn, the stars, the music all came back. And I cried as though the very banks of a river had broken within me. When I finally picked myself up and hugged Rajan, searching his eyes, he stroked my hair the way God had. He knew. I opened my quivering lips to say something but nothing came. It was like my entire being had been through an overwhelming experience and would take time to come back to normalcy.
Finally, I related with the rapture that seekers felt in meeting God. Harsaran Pandey, a seeker from Delhi, describes her introduction. She was taking a dip in the glacial lake at Hemkunt Sahab, near Badrinath. It was the very place where the tenth guru of Sikhs had meditated before he took birth on earth. As she left the shimmering waters she felt like both God and guru were with her, loving her. She was the daughter, they the parents. Nothing about life scared her after that moment, not even her husband’s sudden death in an accident.
A God’s life
Prakash says with a chuckle, “Earlier I led a dog’s life – running, biting, fighting; but now, it’s become a God’s life – still, peaceful, filled with love!” Once one develops familiarity with God, life just begins to flow. Happiness becomes the permanent, or at least, the prominent state of being. A child-like wonder begins to glow in the eyes, as one sees from God’s perspective. Jasmine Bharathan, a Mumbai-based EFT practitioner, admits that knowing God has aligned her with the power of the universe so well that thoughts turn into reality sometimes within minutes. Chandrika, author of several enlightening books, no longer knows where God ends and where she begins. She speaks with a dreamy look in her eyes, “I write, but the words aren’t mine. The mind is me, but the thoughts belong to God, the book carries my name, but the thread that holds it all together is God.”
For me, most of life has become a fairy tale. There is adventure – mom getting cancer, our house falling under dispute, my granny bursting a blood vessel in her head, and there is lots more to come. There is magic – in children’s toothless smiles, in each sunrise, in the wonderful way in which problems unknot themselves… in just every little moment of my life. There is excitement – of having met my prince charming, of knowing my fairy godmother is just a call away, of the great ball dances and walks in forests yet to come. But above all, there is security: that, as always, it will end in happily ever after. Until I come back to another “Once upon a time…”
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