In india, god is alive and omnipresent. he is not different from you and me. in fact, he is our inner self
Don’t forget about God,” Rajesh, a photographer in Delhi, said to me out of the blue while I was taking leave. I was surprised to hear a young, successful man talk about God in such a natural and matter-of-fact way, and I wondered what he meant by God. At that time – some 25 years ago – I was new to India, and did not know that God was alive in this country.
Later, after I had met Devaraha Baba and Anandamayi Ma, I discovered how alive God is, and that He (the use of ‘He’ does not imply that God is male) generally plays a big role in the daily life of Hindus, who form the majority of Indians. In contrast, God seems rather dead in the West. Of course, many people still go to church there on Sundays, but in daily life, God is almost non-existent – except if one is in trouble.
I got the impression that India has a God different from the West. The concept of God refers here not to a great being separated from humans. The concept rather refers to the whole, to the oneness, to the base of everything, to our very own being, to that, which really is or should I say ‘not is’, because it cannot be touched or looked at, and ultimately not even thought of.
It refers as it were to a scientific God, to an analysis of truth, and therefore, it is acceptable for everyone with an open mind. However, that does not mean that a Hindu doesn’t think of a personal god, when he or she calls out “Hey, Bhagavan!” He may turn to Rama, Krishna, Shiva, Ganesha, Devi, depending on who his ishta devata is. But basically he knows that all those gods are aspects of the One. Therefore, he has no objection if someone reveres Jesus, or calls out to Allah, and he has no intention of converting anyone to Hinduism.
Ever since Rajesh advised me “not to forget about God”, I wanted to find out for myself what is meant by God, without referring to books. Several months later, I took time out for it. I sat on a roof terrace in Dehradun at night under the stars, the Himalayas behind me, and asked pointed questions. My thoughts often took me astray to other subjects, but when I noticed it, I brought them back to the question. I simply waited, sometimes for a long time, till answers came. Of course, I had already read a lot about Indian wisdom, yet the answers were my own. And I was not surprised that they were in tune with Indian wisdom:
I was grateful to Indian wisdom, and devoured books of the sages of ancient and modern India. During my initial years in India, I often had more books on my table than during my student days at Hamburg University. I read not only about philosophy, but also about the life stories of those great sages, and their lives touched me. I could feel their compassion, and also their freedom. Slowly, my attitude to life changed. It became clearer what it meant to live a meaningful life, and it became clear that I wanted to live a meaningful life: If there was only one essence responsible for all appearances of this world (and it seemed sensible to me), then I wanted to make this essence the focus of my life. And I prayed deeply: Please help me. Let me see the truth.
On the path of wisdom
Daily darshans of Anandamayi Ma, who resided at that time in Dehradun, helped me to keep in contact with the Divine, and made me aware that this contact is always present. The entries into my diary turned into a conversation with God.
One day, I was invited for tea by a family who were friends of my landlord. My landlord was a Christian, and his friend was a Protestant priest. I soon discovered the reason for the invitation. They had observed me going for darshan of Anandamayi Ma every evening, and wanted to bring me back to the ‘right path’.
What benefit do you get from going to this woman? What can she offer you? Jesus is your saviour. He died for you on the cross. Don’t you know that you were born into the best of all religions? Hinduism is no equal for Christianity. God has revealed himself in Christianity. Hinduism is only a nature religion. They worship all kinds of things,” he went on.
It was a strange situation: an Indian missionary trying to make me a faithful Christian over tea. I replied that only in India had I found my way back to God – to a god who made sense to me – and I asked him whether he was not happy about it. I do believe that Jesus was an extraordinary, enlightened being, and I consider his sayings precious. But I cannot accept the Church’s interpretation of Jesus, and the way it uses him. And I also cannot accept the Church’s view that God is eternally separated from us humans, and that man is a sinner. I also don’t believe in eternal damnation. It makes more sense to me that everyone is permeated by God, and finally will consciously merge with him. And being German and naturally more argumentative than Indians, I also told him that I felt it was very wrong to try to convert Hindus to Christianity, as Indian wisdom comes much closer to truth, and the Hindu concept of God is far more solid, and won’t collapse if one intelligently and intensely enquires into it. While taking leave, I gave him a booklet of Anandamayi Ma’s sayings.
While I was studying Indian wisdom, I discovered that Jesus basically says the same thing Indian sages do. A Canadian had gifted me a small pocket Bible. He had a whole box of them to distribute, and was a missionary who tried to get people interested in talks about the Bible. “Even sadhus come to our talks in Rishikesh,” he proudly told me. “Do you offer anything to eat?” I asked. “Only tea and biscuits,” he answered. “This is good enough,” I thought to myself.