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Born in India—a country of many gods and goddesses—I could not escape the fact that “God” not only reigned in death, but also fueled the daily lives of people in my country.
God was in every household I knew. God was in our DNA.
Personally, I was inquisitive as hell—or heaven (no pun intended). Who is this fella, this God? Where do I meet Him? Can I see Him?
The dictionary defines God as “being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshipped as creator and ruler of the universe.” But this definition did not bring any clarity. To me, it sounded like a hypothesis to be tested in a math problem.
My earliest existential questions began around the age of five when I pestered my grandparents about rebirth, and then, again, around age 10 when I questioned the existence of the creator himself. My child-like curiosity was met with humor and some half-baked explanation that we were all “created by God.”
Really? Again with the God? The answer to everything is God?
I began to wonder—if the answer to everything is God, what are we mortals doing on Earth?
Interestingly, my dad was not a stickler for following a specific religion, doctrine, or even God. He provided me with exposure to the main religions in India, but always told me to follow my heart, be human, and help the needy. If we are of service to others, we have found God. This stuck with me, in part because it was an explanation that stopped this urge to always be in search of God.
And then, a profound event occurred that made my insides scream for God. It was the same scream for help that turned Siddhartha, the prince of an Indian state, into the Buddha, when he witnessed suffering all around him. Because human suffering can either liberate or bind one to an endless cycle of mental and physical desolation.
September 11, 2001—I was still in bed when I heard the news from the other room of planes striking the World Trade Center.
The horror unfolded on television. And as I watched, I felt scared, nervous, and alone. The world suddenly had a different vibe to it, and it wasn’t a good one.
I could sense an imaginary line drawn in peoples’ minds that distanced them from each other. I stopped going out for a while, sticking mostly to the grocery store, work, and back home. At times, I could feel peering eyes on me because of my skin tone, my features, my hair, my looks—my ethnicity.
And the question that glared back at me was: where was God when the World Trade Center came down like a pack of cards killing thousands of people, orphaning an even greater number of children? Where was He? Why could He not stop this cruelty?
I was mad at God and refused to believe that this was His will. Period.
And then another awful event that to this day disturbs me—the gang rape of a young girl on a moving bus.
As I followed the case, I could feel my blood boil. The rapists were caught, but when one of them was interviewed by BBC, he looked straight into the camera and said, “Only if she had kept quiet and not fought back, she would be alive, and we would not have beaten her up.”
I could not believe what I was hearing. This cold, violent person, who had committed such a heinous crime, had no remorse. Where was God then? If He exists, then how could He let this happen?
Two crimes against humanity, where innocent souls were caught in a horrible turn of events outside of their fault or control. The truth is that human beings suffer—sometimes at the hand of nature, other times at their own hands. And many times at the hands of man-made vices, like war, politics, poverty, hunger, and terrorism.
It seems like societies and nations are hung up on destroying each other rather than building each other up—out of greed, power, and material gains. And it is during these difficult times that I am reminded of my father’s words: we find God when we serve others. We find God when we lift others up and give them a reason to smile, to live.
So many of us keep God on our minds, but if we walk the path of serving each other, we will find God in our hearts.
I want to believe that there is more good in this world than bad. And on 9/11, during one of the worst times in humankind, God did show up in the first responders who ran into the burning World Trade Center, the people who hugged each other close, complete strangers helping and holding each other’s hands. And, God did show up after the gang rape and murder of Jyoti Singh in Delhi police who caught every single rapist in a short amount of time, and the law makers who changed the law in India to try rapists in fast-track courts rather than waiting for long-delayed justice.
Perhaps, then, the question is not if God exists or not, but if we, as mortals, can emulate God? The God who is known to be benevolent, forgiving, kind, loving, merciful, compassionate, gracious, and just.
Do we mortals have what it takes to become God?
The answer lies within each one of us. From my own hard-earned lessons, these are the ways I’ve found that we can emulate God:
>> We are aware of the life within us.
>> We live each day in gratitude.
>> We are fully conscious and involved in everything we do—from the moment our feet hit the floor in the morning to the moment we lay down to rest at night.
>> We take responsibility and are accountable for our actions.
>> We tear down the walls that divide us and unite as global citizens of the world.
>> We recite and imbibe the intonation of Aham Prem Aham Brhamasmi: I am Love, I am the Universe.
>> We serve each other in big and small ways—becoming a foster parent, donating time and/or money to causes that touch our heart, smiling more, hugging more, not judging others on the basis of skin color, helping a senior citizen cross the street, being an activist, helping the environment, cutting plastic out of our lives.
Then, and only then, can we become fully awakened and connected to the godly nature that is already inherent in us.
We are souls born in this bonded universe of energy and matter. We are nameless and colorless. No one is born in this world knowing religion, caste, color, creed, or nationality. We are given a name at birth, assigned to a nation, a religion, or a group that becomes our lifelong identification, for which we are often willing to die.
What if we were to shed this identity? What remains will be a fully awakened and evolved soul—a mortal who understands that all of us are on this planet, which is so precariously orbiting in dark space, together. This is the moment of realization, the moment when we could become godless, but instead end up emulating God.
May we all connect to the divine within by being in service to each other at home, in our communities, in the nation, and in the world. This is the true and only nature of God.
“Service to others is the rent you pay for your room here on Earth.” ~ Muhammad Ali