Seeking God

Application of knowledge

Decades ago, when my dad had just completed his engineering degree — the highest level of education that anyone had ever achieved in his family back then — he used to be a chubby young man.

One afternoon, at home in Delhi after years away in hostel, he was lying side by side chatting with his mom on her bed. My grandmother was a graceful woman all through her life; she never raised her voice. Mostly dressed in white saris paired with pearls, there was an air of ethereal calm about her. Even when she disapproved of something you did, she expressed it softly, regally, so that you yearned to earn her approval in future.

While having this conversation, my father recalls the topic veering to his weight. In her typical gentle fashion, his mother said, “What is the point of all your education, son, if you cannot even master control over your body?”

Moved to action, my father lost several kilos and made sure his weight stayed in the normal range — where he continues to be five decades later.

At one of the study lectures I attended, the teacher talked about the ‘application of knowledge’, over and above the acquisition of it.

She likened it to having two separate bank accounts. “You are born with a certain amount of ‘loan’ from the universe; call it past karma or debts to be paid. Let’s say this amount is Rupees 50,000. Now, once you find a guru, begin on your path of self-discovery, and start acquiring wisdom, this is like earning money in another account. Let’s say you earn Rupees 70,000 in this account.”

To all appearances, she continued, it appears as if the knowledge / wisdom you have earned would cancel your debts. “But this is not automatic,” she went on. “If you do not make a conscious effort to take the money from one bank to the other, your debts stay right there. In other words, you have to work on your karmic weaknesses using the knowledge you have acquired. Otherwise, your knowledge merely turns into arrogance and you don’t progress on the path to enlightenment.”

How do we know what our karmic debts are? “Look at your habits. They are a sign of your karmic tendencies. The good habits are to be strengthened. The bad habits are symptoms of old karmic weaknesses (such as lack of self-love). Use your knowledge to attack those tendencies. Only then can you say the debts have been cleared.”

Nearly 50 years ago, my angelic grandmother advised my father to use his education to fix his negative tendencies. On Fathers Day 2014, I am inspired to do the same.

Immersing yourself in knowledge is a wondrous gift; but using it to shine the sharp torchlight of awareness on your own soul is a priceless blessing. Let us start counting ours.

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Finding God

Beginner’s luck

Yesterday I spent the better half of the morning at the passport office, in line to get my daughter’s passport renewed.

Having been through my own passport renewal process late last year, I was familiar with the long wait and had taken along a book — my new copy of the ‘Mother’ Mirra Alfassa’s life, which I had bought only the day previously from the Aurobindo Ashram in Delhi.

I’ve always wanted to visit the Ashram but of course there was never enough time in everyday life for such frivolities. Being jobless woke me up to the craving for a guru, and gave me the luxury of being able to drive to wherever I wanted in the middle of the day. Since I couldn’t drive to Auroville in Pondicherry (my soul’s calling), I drove to the next best thing — Pondicherry in Delhi.

Besides jotting down the timings of the various discources and lectures, which I plan to regularly attend starting with today’s class on the Gita, I also bought a few books to acquaint myself with the Aurobindo philosophy.

So anyway, after we got past the first couple of stages of passport-processing, my daughter and I had a long wait for stage three. Uncomfortable in the crowded, stuffy waiting room, we walked back downstairs to the main hall and found good seats. I dug this book out from my bag, she busied herself on her iPhone.

After about two hours, we went back upstairs, and were surprised to see our number flashing next to the stage four counter. “That’s funny,” I said to my daughter, “don’t we need to go through the verification stage? They’ve sent us straight to ‘granting’.”

At the final counter, the lady officer initially mulled over my custody papers, but her colleague from two cubicles away called out insistently to her, “Let’s go! Come fast!” In her hurry, she shrugged and signed off our application without much more ado. As we proceeded to the exit, the reason for her rush became evident as the security guard announced: “All officials will now leave for lunch. Applicants are requested to wait 40 minutes.”

The poor applicant just after us was left holding her papers woefully in her hand.

I shot a look of surprise at my daughter: “My God! How lucky we were! Not only did we miss one stage entirely, we also just got out in the nick of time. We saved more than an hour of waiting.”

In the next breath, I added instinctively: “It’s the Mother’s protection! Just having her book in my bag and reading it halfway gave us this kind of beginner’s benefit!” My daughter rolled her eyes and smiled indulgently.

As we walked down the stairs and out the exit, I continued marvelling in an awed voice, and resolved to continue on my new path in faith. I confess I have dabbled in many, gone up a little or a long distance on various spiritual journeys. This may be just another one of my experiments, or this may be something more lasting. Whatever it is, it will leave me changed and for the better.

I believe in miracles. The big ones are usually evident only in retrospect, and the little ones are a guaranteed indication of being on the right track. All recent experiences — the good and bad — have led me to exactly this point. Who knows where this path will lead?