Sometime in 1981, while I was a teenager in college and living in Bombay, I happened to visit a friend and in chatting with her mother, she shared with me something that I will never forget. She said if ever I faced adversity and sought God, all I had to do was hold my hands with my fingers interlocked and pray. She told me that if I pray with a pure heart, God will listen, and God will be right there for me and that I will be able to feel His presence. She then told me to consider this chant: “Hey Gopala, Hey Gopala, Saare Jag ka Tu Rakhwala” which simply means “O Lord, thou are the keeper and caretaker of this entire Universe”. As a teenager at the time, that advice did not quite register fully at that moment – although, like data on a hard drive, it was etched somewhere in my brain.
Fast forward to March 12, 2005 and I am now 42 years old. I had flown to Mumbai (yes, my city of dreams was no longer called Bombay) for a visit. On the very first day after my arrival, I went to visit my paternal uncle and aunt to pay my respect and share my condolences on the recent loss of their son (my cousin). While I expected to see my uncle understandably mired in deep sorrow having just lost a 48-year old son, my uncle, being a saint, was simply stoic. I recalled then how my virtuous uncle would always say we are all born with an exact number of breaths and when our time comes to join the Lord, that exact time is also destined and preordained.
While I was chatting with him, I suddenly saw something that shook me up. I saw a bright sun shining through my uncle’s brow, and for a moment I was blinded. That was the first time I met and felt God – I realized God was immersed in my saintly uncle’s soul. What I witnessed became a catalyst for what was yet to come, and I came to realize that God is inside every living being, including in animals. And just like that, I stopped eating meat that day and I became vegetarian on March 13, 2005, and I continue to be one until today.
After I returned to my home in Dallas, TX from Mumbai and upon reflecting on my experience, I came to realize that God is everywhere we want to believe He is. Ultimately my acceptance of His omnipresence has changed my life forever – it has certainly made me kinder and gentler. Whenever I used to get upset or angry at anyone, I felt I was being dis-respectful to God and 15 years later, that perspective has become a habit now – how can I lose my temper with anyone, because at the end of the day, God is within them. And who am I to hurt God?
While I am not perfect in any way, this perspective has grounded me since March 2005. Whether it is Jesus Christ, Allah, Lord Krishna, Guru Nanak, or Buddha, it is our belief in God that provides us with a true moral compass. During these difficult times, when the entire world is suffering, my faith in Him has helped me stay optimistic about our future.
God is in all our hearts, inside every animal and every living plant – wherever you find life, you will find God. So next time you need Him, just hold your hands with your fingers interlocked, close your eyes, and focus – you will feel Him inside you.
Wish everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Feliz Navidad.
Wahe Guru! (in summary, it means “I am grateful to Him”)