A friend has been suggesting all summer that we go to the beach together, so seeing the bank holiday weekend as probably our last chance, and hearing rumours that the sun might just put in an appearance, we decided to brave the traffic and head off. After spending the customary hour or so parked on the M25 admiring the surrounding countryside, we eventually made it to the coast and settled down for a day of bracing breezes and icy dips in the brownish waters.
Anyway, it was a pleasant enough day, we had an excellent view of the clouds rolling in from the west, but when it was time to leave I had a few car problems. Perhaps balking at the prospect of another gruelling motorway marathon, my usually reliable motor coughed and wheezed and refused to start. I popped open the bonnet and gazed uncomprehendingly at the engine for some minutes, finally deciding not to make things worse by attempting any repairs myself. Roadside assistance was duly summoned and a friendly chap soon appeared and in no time analysed and fixed the problem.
I was at once reminded of an analogy for seeing God that I had often heard my spiritual teacher use. As a priest, Terry, I am sometimes challenged by atheists, “Can you show me God?” Well, the honest answer is no, but for me God is everywhere and in everything and every person. It is just a question of learning how to see him, of changing our perception of the world. My teacher compared this spiritual training to that of a technician. As a result of his technical training he can look at a machine and quickly see its fault, whereas the untrained eye only sees a jumbled mass of meaningless components. In other words two people looking at the same thing can see it very differently.
In the main Hindu scripture, Bhagavad-gita, the Lord says, “I am quickly revealed to that person who always calls upon my name and tries to remember me.” This divine revelation is a vision worth striving to achieve, for when we see our loving father everywhere we become free from all anxiety, we see everyone as our kinsmen, and our life becomes a spiritual adventure as the Lord reveals himself to us in so many ways.
Reminded of this by the example of the mechanic, I felt a sense of peace. However, that was soon seriously challenged again when I rejoined the long lines of cars on the motorway. I think I need a bit more practise before I can see the Lord in the M25, Terry, but I’m working on it.
Recently I took my children to a large leisure park. After paying almost eighty pounds to get in, we, or rather they, partook of the pleasures of the “adrenalin rush”. I resisted most attempts to get me on to the rides. I like my stomach right where it is. When you reach your fifties, you tend to be wary of boarding something with a name like “Nemesis Inferno” or “Detonator”. Watching carloads of white-faced riders being hauled two hundred feet into the air, only to be abruptly dropped face-first toward the ground at eighty miles per hour, I had no regrets.
The park is a very high tech affair requiring all sorts of labour and a lot of power to keep it going. It’s not cheap and once you are in its not that easy to get your money’s worth. The fearsome Nemesis ride, for example, required over an hour’s queuing for just ninety seconds of screaming. And it was the same with most of the rides.
To me, Terry, the whole place in many ways mirrored the material world. You have to go through much endeavour to get some pleasure. These days most families need both partners to be in full time employment just to get by. It can be quite a struggle. The house, the cars, the holidays and the ever increasing array of technological wonders the market is forever thrusting on us – it soon adds up. And of course behind it all are huge industries requiring so many resources.
It might give us some happiness, but maybe there are easier ways to achieve that. The Vedas suggest that human life is not meant for hard work just for fleeting enjoyment. There are unlimited amounts of pleasure to be easily found within ourselves if we only look.
An analogy is given of a washerman’s ass, still seen in India. The washerman piles an enormous heap of clothes on the animal’s back and then flays it with a stick. The poor beast, clad in blinkers, struggles along and is rewarded with a basket of grass by its master. What it can’t see is that there is abundant grass on both sides of the road as it carries its great load.
Perhaps we are not so unlike that ass sometimes, constructing our pleasure parks and the like, but often remaining blinkered to the abundant happiness within. We can sit down anywhere, peacefully meditate on the Lord and feel the greatest joy. It costs nothing, there are no queues, it won’t scare the wits out of us, and our breakfast will stay right where we put it. For me that beats the Inferno any day, Terry.
Today Hindus everywhere will be celebrating their most holy day, the birthday of Krishna, the Supreme Lord. It is said in the Vedas that God appears to destroy evil and establish goodness or real religion. Sometimes he appears in this world, just as Krishna did 5000 years ago, and sometimes he appears within us, to destroy the evil in our hearts and minds. The symptoms of the Lord’s appearance are described in the Hindu scriptures, the Vedas. For example when Krishna appeared it was said that, “everything became auspicious, there was an atmosphere of peace and prosperity everywhere, and the minds of all men were filled with joy.”
We hear much about the fight to establish God’s kingdom of late, but where are the signs of peace, auspiciousness and joy? Are those claiming to carry God’s message actually godly in their own behaviour? Before we can create a divine realm on earth surely we need to have created it first in our own hearts. Vedic wisdom says that if all our religious practises have not made us gentle then they have simply been a waste of time.
Personally, Terry, I like my holy men and saints to show a certain amount of saintliness. You know, humility, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance, kindness and love – that sort of thing. The kind of qualities that most of us struggle with – we should at least be able to look to our religious role models and leaders to see them exhibited in a genuine way.
Sadly in many parts of the world these days such qualities are in scant supply, even in those places that claim to represent the divine will. Sometimes it seems that the fiercely religious are simply fierce. But I think most of us know true godliness when we see it. Those making the loudest claims to spirituality are always suspect, of course. As Jesus said, blessed are the meek and the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Today then, on this sacred day of the Lord’s appearance, Hindus will be praying that he will appear in our hearts. We badly need an outbreak of true and gentle spirituality to spread around the world, I would say, bringing in its wake some concord and calm. At midnight tonight, which was the actual time of Krishna’s appearance, many thousands of Hindus will symbolically form a human chain and chant the Lord’s name in a prayer for peace. That is surely the best way to end our turmoil, within and without, by invoking the Lord’s presence through his holy name. Let’s hope, Terry, that it catches on soon.