Once upon a time, I stood before a Shiva idol in a village temple and prayed this: “Grant me Buddhi (intelligence) and Deha Shakti (physical health). I did not know any other prayers.
Shiva, during the days used to be a vertical granite stone. Inside the sanctum sanctorum, there used to be a sugar cane thicket. My mother had told me, during day time Shiva and Parvati played on a swing tied between two sugar cane stems. By evening the priest changed him into a smiling Shiva with Sandal paste.
It took many years for me to know that Shiva was also Kama Dahanan or Smara Ripu (Killer of Kamadeva/Desire). Kama was a god whose weapon was a bow made out of sugar cane from which he shot the arrows of jasmine flowers. A cupid.
My mother had given me that six worded prayer: Grant me Buddhi and Deha Shakti. Even today I get up with the same prayer in my lips. Then I used to pray to Shiva. Today I do not pray to Shiva. I pray to something inside me that constitute what is outside.
Then I grew up. I went to the same temple to see young girls. A few years after that, I refused to go to any temple. I stopped believing in the existence of God. But I believed in those people who told me or taught me that there was no God. For me they were temporary Gods.
When my mother went into famous temples to pray, I stood outside or loitered around to collect some curios to give some girls. But I never gave any religious curios to any girls because I was afraid of being rejected.
Years later, while crossing forty I wanted to think about God again. Not because I was alone, but because I was in the middle too many people who had absolutely forgotten the existence of something that existed beyond their comprehension.
I had escaped to religion once, when I faced with death, but not on the first time. When I faced with death for the first time, at the age of fourteen, and while looking at the death pangs of my father, I smiled at death and disparaged god. Then at the age of thirty when I realized that we had lost our first child in pregnancy, I escaped to religion. That was just an escape; without any conviction. Then the successive miscarriages became a medical situation.
With friends I travelled to many shrines, visited oracles and Tantric practitioners. I did not find God anywhere. But realized one thing: there is something that is beyond me. And the major impediment in realizing that was the ‘I’ in me. I looked for that I. That was everywhere. I happened to read from Paulo Coelho’s autobiography an episode where he went to beg for alms from strangers. I saw mendicants and I understood them.
But I don’t believe in Gurus and I don’t trust organized religions and places of worship. Seers say that it is good to have an Upasanamoorthy or ishta devata (a preferred idol of/for worship). Some sages talk about meditation and mantras. Everything is about focusing in the inward journey. If you could do without man/woman gods, if you could do without text books, if you could do without sitting still and if could do anything with absolute concentration and awareness, it is meditation. Standing right in the middle of a mall you could meditate.
When I speak of God, God Awareness, God Will, Decimation of I and so on, it is not just about waking up from a fancy dream and preaching. I am not an enlightened personality. I cannot go into Samadhi. But I have experienced the glimpses of it. I have experienced it in streets, I have experienced it in children, in migrant labourers waiting in nowhere places for a bus or truck and I have experienced it in metro travellers. I have experienced it in road rage and arrogance of wealth and power.
Questions arise from genuine enquiry as well as from sarcasm. Genuine enquiry leads to surrendering and letting it pass (upeksha) and God realization. Sarcasm exposes the enquirer’s weaknesses to surrender the ‘I’. It is like a pedestrian discussion of music before a galaxy of renowned musicians.
I remember a Zen story. A scholar comes to a Zen master. He comes with several questions. Master utters nothing. Instead he pours tea into a cup. It overflows. Still the master does not stop. The scholar tells him that it is already full and there is no point in pouring more. Master gives him a kind smile and tells: You are full with knowledge and questions. Unless you empty yourself out, you will not learn anything from me.