Sometimes, you learn life’s lessons from the most unexpected quarters. It all began with a discussion on the difference between religion and spirituality with a very young colleague. The very next day, I put up this quote by Baba on Facebook, “”Love your religion, so that you may practise it with greater faith. And when each one practises his religion with faith, there can be no hatred in the world, for all religions are built on universal love.” I followed it up with a small note on the same topic in response to my childhood buddy Ritu Goyal’s Joy of Giving series Week 18 card, ‘Visit a place of worship other than your own’. I had ended the short note thus: “God lives in the temple, church, mosque, gurudwara of my heart. I only have to look deep within to recognise my own divinity.”
Last evening, the continuum of thoughts on the subject rose to a totally different level. An acquaintance of the husband had come to drop someone at the building. We invited him upstairs for a cup of tea. Said gentleman is from the Hindi heartland and someone whom I know but have not interacted with much. He took the first sip of tea and said, “Madam, ghar ki yaad aa gayi.” He was living away from his family and working really hard. But he had a pleasant disposition and always had a smile on his face. When we insisted that he have some snacks as well, he said something that surprised me, “Madam, aapne dharam nahin dekha…” (Madam, you have made no distinction because of my religion!) The gentleman is a Muslim and why would that matter to me, I gently pointed out.
And thus began one of the most intense discussions on life and the part we play in it. Drawing from stories of the Ramayana, couplets of Kabirdas, Tulsidas and his own guru, the conversation only reiterated what I’d known, understood and practised all along – it does not matter where you come from, what you are, what caste or creed you belong to… what matters is the heart… and if it is full of love for others… the other differences simply dissolve into nothingness.
I loved this couplet he quoted:
“Man ke andar, unka mandir; jiske andar, baithe Shankar; kyon puju main pathar kankad; main khud hi pujari aur khud hi Shankar!”
(In the temple of my mind resides God, so why should I go in search of Him… when I am the follower and I am God!”
So beautifully illustrates the fact that God is in each one of us and still we go in search of Him without recognising our own divinity. He continued in the same vein, “Jiske paas dhan daulat hain, woh bhagyawan nahin hai… jinke paas bhagwan rehte hain, wahi bhagyawan hain.” (Those who have fame and wealth are not the blessed or lucky ones. Those who have God with them are.) See the connection! Bhagawan = Bhagyavan!
There was so much more… on why karma (good action in this case) is important for you to practise the right dharam (religion) as ultimately what every religion teaches you is the same. Love one another and see God in everything you do.
The half-hour conversation hit home in many ways. And made me wish that there were more people in this world like him – open-minded, full of love and without any prejudices. The world would then be such a better place to live in!
While saying goodbye, he told us another thing: “The body is mostly made up of water. Infuse love into it and it becomes sweet! God is indeed sweet!”
I agree… and agree wholeheartedly!