Thoughts on the way: My very own Divine
Born in a middle-class, traditional Hindu family, the notion of an all powerful and ever present “God” was handed down to me in a natural, easy and obvious manner. I did not consciously have to build up on the idea of the Divine — it came almost on its own. It is true, however, that the “puja room” in the house played its role and so did the sweet voice of my grandmother singing the same few bhajans, every single day of the first nine years of my life.
The so called “puja room” in the house was in reality two shelves of a wooden cupboard that had been decorated with innumerable photos and statues of most Hindu deities. There was Rama, Sita, Lakshman, Hanuman, Krishna, Radha, Shiva, Ganesh, Karthikeyan, Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi, Kali — I mean these two shelves had enough space for the august meeting place of almost all major Hindu Gods.
As a little girl what struck me most was the devotion, care, and love with which my grandmother treated what in reality were simply some colourful photos and brass statues. But for my granny these photos and statues were the outward expression of everything that was true and perfect. They were the secret keepers of the real happiness. They were the silent supporters behind the daily happenings in life. In whatever measures she could she would try and invoke their presence. There was a long puja in the morning, which included the bathing and dressing the little statues, arranging flowers, lighting the fire, singing bhajans, and distributing the prasad. During my entire childhood I saw my grandmother spend two hours every morning around these two shelves. Therefore as a kid, I learnt that remembering the Divine (in whatever form, way or measure) was as important as anything else I would do.
In spite of this devout upbringing no one actually ever told me what or who exactly was the Divine. There was a general impression that the Divine was to be felt rather than understood or grasped. So as a little girl I simply imagined inside my head any God I wanted a favour from. They were easy to imagine because I had their photos and also so many stories had been recounted to me about their lives and feats. So in a way I always felt I knew them. But as I started to grow it became more and more difficult to imagine and I realized that they did not always grant me the things I wanted. And so it struck me that they weren’t as powerful as my grandmother had told me. Gradually, doubts and complaints began to arise inside. “Do the Gods really exist? If yes, then how come I haven’t met any? Did my grandmother make up all those stories?” But in spite of these questions something deep inside just knew that some kind of Power looked after the world and me. But on the surface I slowly started moving away from the Divine. Growing up took over.
In the midst of the busy unfolding of my life it was my Dad who brought me back to the notion of the Divine. It was during the tough, emotionally challenging teen years. Life had become increasingly confusing and painful by the time I turned 16. Boundaries had stretched, values were being questioned, new-found emotions were emerging; all that was familiar and comforting seemed to fade away. I didn’t seem to know myself at all. It was at this painful juncture that my father suggested that I make an effort and try to go deep inside myself. He felt I would find the peace and comfort I was looking for in the depths of my own heart. And he added, “My dear, in due time you will also find Life’s most important secret lies inside your heart.”
So began my quest to explore the inner half of my being. I gradually learnt to go within. It was a slow and difficult process, especially because I was not trained to look inside myself. But with time I began to get familiar with the inner landscapes of my being. I often hesitated, stumbled, got lost but even then felt always a sense of absolute comfort because the territories I was charting were my own. I could decide where I wanted to go, how fast I wanted to travel, how far. It was this delightful sense of freedom and adventure that kept me exploring this world that existed inside of me. I began to better understand myself, I realized that I could first predict and then often control my reactions, the motivations behind my actions became clearer. As time passed, a sense of well-being that comes from a finer understanding of the self, began to take over my life. But on the other hand the challenges that Life threw at me were still fierce and tough; the difficulties didn’t stop and the pain was still acute. But these storms on the surface life did not affect the deep, calm waters in the depths of my heart. And it was this inner anchor that kept me happily afloat.
And now when I look back… I am inclined to think that the secret my father spoke about was none other than the fact that the Strength and Truth we find deep inside ourselves is in the end what we call the Divine.