I always believed in God. I always prayed. Although, when I was younger, I didn’t really know much about Hinduism which is the religion I was born into. But I always knew God exists. In school, I was too young to know the difference between different religions so I ended up staying put in class when other students left to different classrooms for their respective religious classes. I ended up studying Christianity from Grade 1 to 3. I was also in a Catholic school, so I was quite accustomed to praying according to the Catholic tradition, going to church, etc. My family is also very open minded about different religions. We would all go to church together sometimes, we have an altar at home, and many different murtis. We also have posters with Islamic verses on them. Obviously, as a result, my mind became very receptive to different religious traditions and cultures.
Starting from Grade 9, we began to study Hinduism. We started to learn about the gods and goddesses, the philosophy, Bhagavad Gita, etc. Hinduism became my favorite subject and I found absolute love in reading about the philosophy. Everything just made perfect sense. Karma is so real to me. Like things would really happen to make me believe that karma really is a valid law of nature. I just loved how there were so many paths to God, and God was actually giving us the liberty to choose which path we wanted to follow to make our way to Him. I had even tried meditating once for a few minutes and I absolutely loved it. I loved how it made me feel so peaceful. When I had opened my eyes, I felt like I was born again, as I gazed around me. At that time, I became convinced that meditation is good, and it helps clear the mind.
One day, in maybe Grade 10 or 11, I went to the temple with my friends. There was a man sitting there in one of the rooms, praying. He was repeating “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare” again and again, quite audibly, and he seemed absorbed in his prayer, oblivious to the world. He was, needless to say, attracting everyone’s attention, for the room we were in was one where singers would sing bhajans and the people would just sit quietly for some time in quiet prayer. I was quite surprised with the man who was repeating the mantra. Maybe I was disturbed by the unfamiliarity of the whole scene, but I could not get the mantra out of my mind. My friend said, “They say you shouldn’t pray out aloud like that. It disturbs others.” Yeah, it was quite distracting, alright! But I couldn’t forget the mantra. My only disappointment was that I couldn’t even remember the mantra correctly! I didn’t know how many times to say Hare, Krishna, and Rama, and in what order. Nevertheless, the thought left my mind and barely bothered me thereafter.
Then in 2008 I believe, I went to attend a Ganpati visarjan. My relatives had hired a boat for the visarjan. My aunt had recently married and so we had a new member in the family. During the visarjan, he lead the prayers and we followed. Normally, for Ganesh poojas, we sing Jai Ganesh, Om Jai Jagadish Hare and Jai Laxmi Mata. To my surprise, my uncle was singing new and different prayers. He also sang the Hare Krishna mantra. I remembered then, that this was the same mantra I heard the man in the temple saying and while my uncle was saying it, I finally learned it.
Soon after, I began to hear unusual things about Hinduism. I found out that many people think it is a demonic religion, it is from the Devil, the gods do not even exist, it is paganism, there is only one true God (the Abrahamic God), Hinduism is a false religion, Hindus will go to hell, the Hindu gods do not heal, only the Abrahamic God can heal, etc. So all of this made me question a lot of my beliefs. I started losing my faith, while at the same time, I struggled to find something of my faith to hold on to. How could I give it up? I had lived my whole life believing that God was one and He had many names, and that all paths lead to the same God. How could I just trash my beliefs like that? So I spent a lot of time thereafter, trying to study more and more about my religion. I began to ask people who might give me some answers. I started to pray some more. Then one day, I thought I’d try meditating. I meditated on the word “Aum” and I began to see things. I saw myself, very very huge, seated next to a smaller version of myself. Then I looked upwards, and saw the bluest skies. As my eyes traveled downwards, I saw pyramids made of mud. Then I saw a figure below, seated in the Lotus position. It was a statue. Without a doubt I knew who it was. It was Shiva. I came out of my meditation, feeling thrilled. I am still not sure about whether it was a vision or if I had construed all that in my mind, by myself. Either way, I loved Shiva. I loved his Nataraja form ever since I studied about it in school. I was absolutely in love with Shiva. I think he is just amazing and his Nataraja form just reached out to me. I told my father about the whole thing and he told me to begin worship of Shiva. So every Monday after that, in the mornings, I poured milk on our Shiva deity. I did that for a few weeks and then stopped. Another time, during meditation, I saw an image of Saraswati. But perhaps this was because I was actually looking at a deity of Saraswati prior to my meditation, lol.
My faith was shaking. I kept doubting whether God was real, and more importantly, which God was real? The God of the Bible? Of the Qura’an? Of the Vedas? I just didn’t know. I just spent every day, praying, waiting for God to reveal Himself to me, researching different religions, and asking people who God was.
My friend had recently joined a Hare Krishna Youth Class (ISKCON). So many of my discussions about religion were with her. I asked her tonnes of questions, and she answered according to what she learned in her classes, and also from her life as a Hindu. After her faith in Krishna began to grow, she started experiencing miracles in her life. She wanted a Bhagavad Gita to read, and it so happened that she went to a Hare Krishna celebration where they were handing out gift bags. In that bag, there was a Bhagavad Gita! She was delighted. Later, she checked the bag again, after having rummaged through it once already. She found a photo of Radha Krishna in there. It wasn’t there before. Some time later, she went through the bag a third time, finding some mahaprasadam in there that wasn’t there the first two times she checked! How amazing!
She let me borrow her Bhagavad Gita As It Is (Srila Prabhupada’s version), and I read it, trying my best to take in everything that it said. One day, I had a dream about Radha and Krishna. I dreamt that I was at first with Radha, who left when Krishna came to speak to me. Krishna then told me, that in order to come to Him, one must do these 3 things:
- Always remember Him
- Sing His glories and praise Him
- Offer to Him
That same day, or the day after, I realized that this was a verse from the Bhagavad Gita! “Always think of Me and become My devotee. Worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.” (BG 18.65). I had read similar verses before but I had never really paid much attention. The most fascinating thing was that in my actual reading of the Bhagavad Gita, I was just a few pages away from this verse! Moreover, I was reading an article online about something I had a doubt about, which had this very verse at the end. That just served as a confirmation for me, that Krishna was talking to me. (This experience is in detail on my blog: https://bloggingupthedrainpipe.wordpress.com/2009/08/20/krishna-in-my-dreams/)
Ever since I started reading the Bhagavad Gita, and because of being in contact with devotees, I started praying to Krishna. I initially did not like how Shiva, Ganesh and the other gods were referred to as lesser gods and demigods, but over time, it began to make sense. I think now that it was perhaps Shiva who led me to Krishna. Later, I also found out that my family’s kuladevta is Lord Sinaji, which is Krishna in another form! Thinking back now, one by one my bad habits started to slip away prior to getting into Krishna Consciousness. I used to smoke, drink alcohol from time to time, and I would eat meat. I would not smoke and drink excessively – just once in a while. Somehow, suddenly, I began to hate alcohol after having tried it maybe 4 or 5 times. I started to hate the smell of it. It became intolerable. Then, I left smoking after someone very very close to me asked me to give it up. I let it go, because I care very much about the person who requested me to stop. Maybe since then, I had smoked very very rarely, until I eventually gave it up completely. Then I let go of my meat-eating habit, after knowing that Krishna devotees are vegetarians. I started to feel a lot of pain for the animals who suffered to satisfy my hunger and fill my belly, and so I quit. Then, I began to lose the taste for other things like garlic and onion, which is not part of the Vaishnava diet. I still do eat garlic and onion as it is hard to find meals without them, but I avoid it as much as I can. To me, it seems like Krishna was just preparing me for devotional life. Without any pain or trouble, all these bad habits slipped away. There were external oppositions of course, but personally speaking, the question of me finding it “difficult” to let go of these habits was very easy. It is just the Lord’s mercy.
Krishna has made His presence felt in my life many many times. Now Krishna is only the Lord of my life. And I pray that it remains this way forever more.
Share your personal stories of how God came into your lives in the comments section 🙂