December 6, 2020


(c) J. Singh, 2017

“Daddy, how can I meet God?”

Twelve year old Harman Singh sat at the dinner table, fork in hand, and posed the question to his father. He looked at his father expectantly, waiting for a simple and clear answer. His father took a deep breath.

“Well, Harman,” he began, “it’s not an easy thing to do. So many millions of people want to meet God and they still haven’t been able to.”

“Why not?” Harman asked casually, digging his fork into his pasta and taking a big mouthful, “Are they doing it wrong?”

“Uhm,” his father rubbed his forehead, trying to think of a way to explain that Harman would understand. “Yes, they are sort of doing it wrong.”

“Then why don’t they do it the right way? Why are they wasting their time?”

“Well, some of them are doing it the right way, and they still haven’t been able to meet God.”

“Why not? Doesn’t God want them to meet Him?”

“Maybe not. Or at least, not yet. See, it doesn’t happen when we decide. We don’t have any power over this. It really is God’s decision. So if someone wants to meet God, they best he can do is to do the right work to meet God, and then leave the rest to Him.”

Harman sat quietly for a few moments as he processed what his father had just told him. Then, satisfied at the explanation, he nodded his head once and returned to his dinner, much to the relief of his father.

It had been a conversation that Harman’s father expected would be soon forgotten. But Harman did not forget. For weeks afterward, he asked everyone he knew the same question. Most people just shrugged and answered that they didn’t know. Some told him that he would have to become more religious (he didn’t quite understand what that  meant). A few, however, had very specific advice for him.

“You have to do bhagti,” his old grandfather said, patting him on the head.

“How do you do that!?” Harman asked, intensely curious.

“With a lot of self-discipline,” was the vague answer.

And so Harman began rising in the early morning hours to read prayers and sit in silent meditation. It was difficult at first, he would often yawn sleepily throughout the process. And waking up in the early morning hours turned out to be an enormous challenge. But these had been the instructions from the wisest people had spoken with. So he dutifully followed the steps he was given. Eventually, his body became accustomed to rising well before dawn. Now he was alert and awake during his meditation and prayers, and he could make subtle distinctions in his mind and thoughts. Eventually, he began to experience clarity of thought, the ability to focus deeper, and increased concentration and problem-solving ability. All of these effects were a great benefit to him, but it did not lead him to meet God.

On the advice of spiritual adepts, he continued his morning routine. Time passed. Months turned into years. Harman began attending college. Like most of his friends, he enrolled in the Computer Engineering program. Classes were difficult, and there was a lot of homework and studying. He applied himself fully to his studies, but he didn’t forget his early morning prayer and meditation. He kept at it, hoping to fulfill his desire to meet God. Even after so many years, he still wanted it.

Every once in a while, he would read about a saint or other spiritual master who was visiting his city. Usually they delivered some sort of lecture, presentation or workshop. He would sign up for these, listen carefully, and then diligently perform whatever exercises they prescribed. He always asked them the same question “How can I meet God?” The answers varied, and all were vague and general. None of them seemed to be actionable. He did what he could, though, based on the advice he gathered. Some said, “increase your meditation time.” He did that. Others said, “let go and let God, let the Universe guide you, don’t try to force anything, just be.” He did that, too. Still others advised him that he needed to engage in altruistic charity work. He did that also. He observed fasts, chanted until his throat was sore, fed the homeless, gave charity, recited prayers until he knew them by heart, and spent countless hours in meditation. And still, he did not meet God.

When the time came, he graduated from college and began his career in a major technology firm that had it’s headquarters in his city. He enjoyed the change in his life, and being a full-time employee for a world-famous technology company felt wonderful. He woke up every morning excited to go to work. His hardly noticed his twenty minute commute, and was quite content with the direction his life was taking.

But he had still not met God yet.

He spent a lot of time volunteering, tending to the sick, the old, frail, and homeless. He obtained emotional fulfillment from seeing the smiles on the faces of the people he had helped. He was overwhelmed by their gratitude and blessings, and felt humbled by their warmth and love.

He began living a life of detachment. When the big job promotion was offered to him, he declined it and stayed in his current role. He stopped dating, and instead made efforts to bring his mind under control so that he would be moved by lust or love. He gave up most of his luxuries, choosing instead to live a austere life. Anything that distracted his mind from his meditation and prayer, was discarded. He slept on the floor, preferring it to the softness of his bed. He became single-minded in his purpose to meet God. He spent every free moment combing through all of the religious literature that he could get his hands on.

And still, after all this, he didn’t even know how to meet God.

More years passed. Eventually, Harman got married. His parents, sensing that he would not take that step on his own, especially with the trajectory that his life was following, decided to intervene and arrange his marriage for him. They performed all the legwork of finding a suitable bride and vetting her family. They introduced her to him, and after determining that there was no objection from either the potential bride or groom, proceeded with the wedding preparations. Harman and  Seema were married when he was twenty eight years old.

Family life suited Harman well. Within a few short years, he had two children, both boys. They kept him and Seema busy, and Harman had little time for anything else. But he did keep up his early morning practice of meditation and prayer. Seema was inspired by his dedication and soon she, too, was rising early to meditate and pray.

By the time that his sons were old enough to attend high school, Harman was starting to get tired. He had done everything that he had been told, performed all the actions, followed all the directions. But he seemed to be as lost as ever. And yet his desire to meet God had not waned after all these years. Rather, it had become even more urgent. His yearning had become a constant aching desire that would not leave him. He kept searching for the answer to his lifelong question. He kept seeking out people who might have an answer, or even a clue to the answer. But he always came back empty-handed. He had engaged in thousands of useless rituals, performed hundreds of useless ceremonies, and chanted countless mantra’s, but still, he was no closer to meeting God than before. One day, sitting alone in bed, in the early morning hours while the rest of the family was asleep, he realized how much of his life he had wasted engaged in such futile pursuits. He shook his head remorsefully. He closed his eyes as his tears fell.

“Where are You, O God?” he whispered in his anguish, “Why do You seem so far away? Why can’t I reach You?”

The words of his grandfather came back as an echo of his memory. “You have to do bhagti.”

Throwing back the covers, he got out of bed, took a quick, cold shower, and then sat down to meditate. He knew what the prescription was - meditation, prayers. But today, everything felt different. The yearning of his aching heart was calling out to the Creator. He thirst was not slaked. He was feverish with desire. He must meet God.

He found a new energy coursing through his body. It felt electric. It was as if his prayers were answered, as if he was on the right path for the first time in his life. When he got up from his meditation, he felt strangely at peace. As if his craving had been somewhat satiated. He was euphoric. Something had changed, but he didn’t quite know what.

Decades later, Harman Singh lay in his death-bed at ninety-four years of age. Harman’s entire family was in the room with him. Frail and weak, his head turning from side to side as he muttered incomprehensibly. The family doctor was at his side, observing carefully. The degenerative disease had claimed his faculties, and he had been delirious for days, unable to communicate with anyone, often hallucinating, and sometimes getting physically aggressive. The end was near, and these were likely his final moments.

The doctor listened carefully. Harman seemed to have stopped talking and moving. He was still breathing, but his sudden silence alarmed everyone in the room.

“Doctor, what happened?” asked his oldest son. The doctor shook his head slightly, he didn’t know.

Harman looked around at his family with recognition in his eyes. There was a collective sigh of relief around the room. He smiled briefly, and then his eyes went blank, as if he was staring into the distance.

“Oh,” he whispered almost inaudibly, “Oh.”

“Harman,” the doctor took his hand, “Can you hear me?”

“It’s, it’s, it’s,” Harman stammered, “it’s beautiful! Oh God, Oh God, Oh God!”

And then he fell into a stunned silence, and just sat upright in bed like that, with that vacant stare. His vitals were normal, and he didn’t exhibit any other symptoms. A few hours later, he quietly leaned back and silently dropped back into bed, noiselessly passing away as his soul left his body. At the time, only his sons were in the room. They urgently called the doctor in, who pronounced the time of death, and assured them that he had passed peacefully.

“Daddy, how can I meet God?”

“God is closer than your own hands and feet, my son. All you have to do is open your eyes, and recognize Him.”