I grew up in a middle-class Bengali Brahmin family in India. My parents are devout followers of Ramakrishna and Swami Vivekananda. We attended all the major festivals associated with the Bengali culture. My parents never pushed religion on me. Their emphasis was more on studies and succeeding professionally. However, growing up we always believed there was a God who will judge us for bad things in this life or next life. We could pray to him/her and doing certain things such as meditation or going to the temple would make us spiritual and peaceful. We also learned values from our parents, common to any family in Indian culture. Values such as (i) Always be ready to make sacrifices for the well being of the family. (ii) Be respectful to elders. (iii) Be good to others and always do the right thing because God will judge us for our bad actions. (iv) Do things that will make our family proud.
As I got older, day to day experience made me more cynical about some of these beliefs and moral ideals. I realized being good to other people was not wise because people often took advantage of you. I decided to be nice to people who would perhaps someday repay the favor to me. I also found out very few people think about Karma when taking any action or making decisions. Most people make decisions based on what is good for them.
I never doubted the existence of God, but I felt connecting to him was something I was incapable of doing. I have experienced two kinds of religious people in my life. (i) Those who were deeply into their rituals. I felt I did not have the discipline or time to do the rituals. (ii) Those who were deeply intellectual reading many books and talking eloquently about the philosophy of their faith. It always went above my head and made me feel that God was distant and unattainable. Besides, I felt there was no role for God in my life. I had achieved a lot of things without praying for it. My goal in life was to make my family proud by succeeding professionally. My parents always approved of whatever I did, but I often spend too much time comparing myself to other people. I always knew there was someone out there who had a better car or higher paycheck than I did. Pursuing this success made me very unhappy and insecure in my life.
In the summer of 1999, I was invited by a co-worker to a social at a coffeehouse where people were discussing “Do all religions lead to God”. I went to the social more out of curiosity to know more about Christians/western culture. I had no desire in my life to pursue anything religious. In the event, a religious leader gave a speech where he claimed Jesus Christ is the only way to God. I was deeply offended by his speech. But on the other hand, I met a lot of people who were nice and friendly. My impression was that they had something special which I didn’t have. Also, all the religious/spiritual talk did make me wonder, do I need God in my life? Although I was offended by the leader’s message, something in my heart prompted me to call him and have lunch with him. I had a two-hour lunch conversation with him. I opened up to him about my feeling of unhappiness, insecurity, and my cynical view of life. He encouraged me to read the life of Jesus in the Bible to find answers to issues in my life. I decided to read the Bible as I felt I needed to repay my obligation towards him as he listened to me for over two hours.
I read all the four accounts on the life of Jesus in one day. Reading about Jesus’ life reminded me first of all of the great leaders from India I admired. Jesus’ teaching attacking the Pharisees (I consider them the ‘Brahmins’of Jewish faith) about their zest towards religious ritual but having no love in their heart for God and people, reminded me of great Hindu reformers such as Swami Vivekananda and Raja Rammohan Roy. His compassion towards a Samaritan woman and his command to turn the other cheek to the enemy reminded me of Gandhi. Ultimately, what made Jesus unique to me and made me believe God had a role in my life was when I read the Book of Romans in the Bible. This book explained that all men are sinners and fall short of the Glory of God. That concept provided an explanation of my cynicism and my materialistic greed. The rest of the book elaborates on how Jesus Christ died on the cross for our sins therefore we can have a relationship with God. Reading this book (Romans) and then looking at the life of Christ in the context of this book, transformed my heart radically. I felt two of the most cherished morals I had learned from my family, that is sacrifice and obedience, Christ did that. He obeyed his father (God) and sacrificed his life so we may come close to his father. It made me realize that God is not some distant figure we experience via meditation or going to the temple. He is knocking at our door and wants to enter our lives. Just like our earthly father works hard and makes endless sacrifices to provide for the comfort of his children, God sacrificed his son so he could provide for us and we could get into the right relationship with him.
I had questioned the idea of doing good to achieve a higher Karma earlier in my life but now I realized God had set the standard of goodness unattainably high. As a human being, I could never be good enough. Christ is the embodiment of goodness. He sacrificed for us so God considers us to be completely good like Jesus his son, and with Jesus’ power in us, we can do good without questioning the rationalization of doing good.
At this point in my life, my heart was ready to accept but my mind said it was too drastic and I should investigate further. I started reading other books and books in the Bible. I started hanging out with Christians to learn more. I investigated further the scientific evidence towards the creation and historical authenticity of the Bible narration. Jesus said in the Bible, “seek me and you will find me”. I experience that was the case. One day, I told someone that in order to believe in Jesus, I needed to see videotape evidence of Jesus in heaven. The person I had asked told me about the passage in the Book of John where Thomas did not believe in the resurrected Jesus and asked for physical proof. Jesus showed Thomas and told him “You have seen and believed me but blessed are those who have not seen but have believed in me”. That day I put my faith in Jesus Christ.
Life as a believer in Jesus Christ is a blessing. I have been blessed with a wonderful wife and a daughter. I have been blessed with great friends. I am no longer a lonely cynical insecure man. I am not a perfect person by any means. Some of the things I struggled with before I become a believer I still struggle with today. However, I know in my heart Jesus is cleansing me day by day. Now, I don’t do good things to others because they scratched my back or I hope that they will later. I do good to others because God commanded me to do so and I want to give out the love and generosity God first showed me. Fortunately, I have not experienced any persecution from my family. They have been very loving and kind towards me. I love them even more now. The sacrifice of Jesus has truly made me appreciate the love and sacrifice of my own father.
If you have not yet believed in Jesus Christ and would like to know what he can do for your life, please seek him, you won’t regret the journey. “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened.” The book of Matthew chapter 7 verses 7 and 8, the Bible.
I was born into a Brahman family a few decades ago, one of the most orthodox castes of Hinduism in India. My parents and grandparents, who adhered to high moral standards, raised me during my childhood. As the first grandson born to my loving grandparents, I was their favorite and had the privilege of visiting several sacred Hindu places and participating in rituals with them. My grandparents followed a strictly orthodox lifestyle. They worshipped gods, fasted, recited slokas (Sanskrit poems) every day by the family altar, visited the Hindu temple, and performed temple rituals every week.
My parents were also religious and always used good reasoning to expose why rituals were performed before performing them. Because of this, I performed rituals with more zeal. When I had no clue why certain things were done, I convinced myself they were done for good reasons.
As Hindus, we believed in several gods, and our ultimate objective was to realize unification with “Para-Brahma,” the godhead. Hinduism subscribes to several ways to reach this objective, which fall under four broad categories: Rajah Yoga, Bhakti Yoga, Karma Yoga, and Guyana Yoga. Rajah Yoga covers all mental exercises, like meditation, contemplation, chanting, and Hata Yoga (the exercise Yoga). Bakthi is the devotion to either concepts or idols. Karma Yoga teaches one to focus on the duties of one’s life. And Guyana Yoga prescribes to knowledge.
None of these methods opposed each other. They simply were the many ways one could choose to reach his final objective. Depending on the way one chooses, his final destination is either Moksha, Samathi, Brahman, Mukti, self realization, pure consciousness, etc. Thus, Hinduism is both pluralistic and pantheistic. As I entered my teens, my brother and I had to participate in “Upanayanam,” a ceremony that started the second phase of life: bachelorhood. Every Brahman male had to go through this ceremony before marriage. This phase of life was to be dedicated to godly pursuits. We were taught to follow several ritualistic practices to aid us. We performed ritual chanting and special breathing exercises, recited secret mantras hundreds of times, and worshipped the sun god every day in the morning and evening as a part of a worship called “Sandya Vandanam.” We performed rituals before and after eating, wore sacred marks on our foreheads, and wore a sacred thread. My entire life-style changed considerably in order to keep up with the rituals. In spite of the monotony, the life-style was fascinating, because I felt I was on the road to self-realization. This continued for about four years.
Slowly, my life leveled out, but, still, I had not attained “Brahman” (the universal godhead/Spirit). Living in India, I observed others who had experienced Upanayanam several years before I did, such as my father, grandfather, uncles, temple priests, and other Brahmans. To my surprise, they were in no way closer than I was to the state of self-realization, which we were all supposed to attain. This discouraged me. But instead of giving up, I became more serious about my pursuit, because I believed that Brahman did exist. Perhaps the problem was with the method that I adopted or perhaps I was not steadfast enough. For some reason, about two years after my Upanayanam, the rituals, the underlying purpose behind them, and my eagerness to reach self-realization thrust me into a spiritual pilgrimage. I seriously searched for the answer in achieving Brahman.
For years, I pursued the methods I learned, without compromising common sense. But when I finally looked at myself, I found only deep emptiness! (Ending my life at that point seemed the greatest suggestion my rational mind could think of.) But a terrifying dream about death changed my thinking overnight. I didn’t want to die, I wanted to live. I felt if I had to live, I must have a purpose. And if there was a purpose for my life, I wanted to find it. I believed that when I reached the state of complete self-realization, I would live out the answer, and my living would reflect my purpose in life.
Being the sole authority of my life, I granted myself an entire lifetime to discover its purpose. This time I decided to be sincere in my efforts and use common sense in this pursuit. I was willing to be open to other options. I applied one principle to this quest: I should put more effort into it. After all, it only seemed logical that if I wanted something, I must work for it. If what I wanted was worth a lot, it would require proportional effort.
I did not isolate myself from my family and friends during this process. I helped others when I chose to and often went out of my way. I respected my parents and other elders when they didn’t interfere with my, admittedly, childish objectives. I was not a bad person in my own eyes. Even if I did bad things, the good always seemed to more than compensate for the bad. This made me feel good about myself. Several people thought that I was a wonderful person, and this mattered to me a lot. I wanted to be liked by everyone to dull the blows of the terrible inner emptiness. Though I felt noble by serving others, it did not fill my inner loneliness. Nonetheless, for the next few years, I spent several dedicated hours each day towards understanding the purpose of my life.
My family was closely knit; my uncles and grandparents played a major role in several family matters. The issue that concerned them most was my education. In order to help me focus on my high school studies in Madras, India, my uncle decided to enroll me in a transcendental meditation class. After a few weeks, I experienced several seemingly good effects: I slept for only two to three hours a day and felt fresh throughout the day; my pulse rate went down to the fifties; I seemed to have more energy, and I was able to spend more time studying. While I liked the effects, the emptiness I felt inside remained the same. I hoped that the emptiness would disappear after some time, but instead, the meditation started unraveling its side effects: vibrations in my body and restlessness.
I was aware that some people who practiced transcendental meditation wound up losing their sanity. I knew I had to stop right away. There were other ways to self-realization; so I switched to simplified Kundalini Yoga (SKY), which seemingly had the answers. I also took up martial arts class after being impressed by the peaceful looking masters in the movies. It seemed they knew the purpose of life. I was serious about both SKY and martial arts and received my black belt and also took a course to teach SKY.
My typical morning would begin at 3:00 A.M. For the next four to five hours I would meditate, perform Yoga, work out briefly, then go to martial arts class. This was my routine 5 to 6 days a week for almost 4 years. But to my sadness and surprise, I was not closer to filling the emptiness inside me. Nevertheless, I still believed I was on the right track, so I kept going. I even taught my parents some yoga and meditation. I wanted them to be able to reach “Para-Brahma” if I happened to get there. I withheld my latest methods from my parents until I was convinced the methods would do no harm, then I would pass them on. I never mentioned to my family my internal quest. They simply observed me involved in yoga, meditation, and martial arts and probably assumed that these were a part of growing up. I wish now that I had told them about my internal struggle.
Being rooted in Indian (or Hindu) methods, trying to look for the solution in Christianity was totally out of the question. I thought many Christians were hypocrites who conveniently changed their belief system to accommodate anything they wanted to do. In fact, a lot of my friends perceived Christians in India as people without conscience, mostly because of the British rule in India. While the British ruled India for 200 years, we did not hear a single good story about the Christian faith.
In 1991, I moved to Chicago to pursue a master’s program in computer science at Northern Illinois University (NIU). I was 21 years old, and I brought my spiritual emptiness along. By this time, I was accustomed to failures in my pilgrimage and was almost convinced I could spend a few more years in my spiritual quest and it would have got me nowhere. But not quite. I decided to turn to the Vedas, the ancient Hindu scriptures for answers. I remember my mother had said to me that our family was to follow the Rig Veda, so I found some books in a library that explained the Rig Vedas. They made no sense to me. One particular book, however, was deep and fascinating and supposedly simplified the Vedas. The author elaborated on the fundamental concepts of Hinduism. Yet, he never answered my deepest question.
So, I turned to science for my answer. I became interested in some of the best sellers on quantum theory, written by an Indian doctor. The author elaborated the seeming truths of the universe from a Hindu perspective. His books caught my attention, and I spent several months reading them. He even used his experience from transcendental meditation to explain several concepts. I thought I had missed out on these teachings during my meditation days. Nevertheless, I was terrified by the recollection of the side effects of transcendental meditation and never wanted to try it again. The author claimed he enabled cancer patients to respond well to chemotherapy by removing their guilt from their minds. He established the connection between mind, body, and the presence of intelligence in every cell of the body. There were many more things he claimed to be true.
The only thing I really learned from his books was that guilt would catch up with us someday, somehow before we died. This is simply the law of Karma. I knew I had done at least a few things wrong in my life. But whenever they bothered me, I just shut them out. On the other hand, I thought, “What if there are no absolute standards for right and wrong? Or what if I could rationalize my guilt by blaming my wrongdoing on my circumstances, my childhood, peer pressure, or on something else? Then I need not be guilty of anything.” It seemed like a great idea but never seemed to work. I believed there must be some absolute standard somewhere. But even so, guilt was not the major issue in my life then. Self-realization was!
Since I could not find any answer to convince me of the truth, I sometimes challenged my friends with the question, “What is the purpose of your life?” It struck some like a lightning bolt. Some gave answers, but usually, I quickly discounted them as false. I was surprised that nobody gave an answer that made me even consider his or her reason. Deep inside I longed to reach the end of my quest.
It was in 1991 when I happened to meet Sophia. She was a Christian from India. We worked together in the computer lab at NIU and became good friends in a short time. Sometimes, during casual conversation, our difference in religious beliefs surfaced. Once I asked her my favorite question, “What is the purpose of your life?”. “To glorify God,” she replied, sincerely and casually, as if it was so simple. I was astonished! My ego was so big, I ignored her answer and asked more questions to cover up my surprise.
That day, deep inside me, I felt a heavy jolt. What Sophia said seemed plausible. Maybe there really was a God, external to me, who knew everything, including my emptiness and the reason why I exist. But I was so caught up with self-realization, I had no concept of an external God, separate from me. To glorify this God would mean to live a life worthy of the reason I exist. I thought, “Is it possible it’s so simple I’ve missed it?” I had heard a few noble answers to my question “What is the purpose of your life?”, such as “to help others,” “to serve my family,” “to become rich and give to the poor,” and a few others. But I knew deep within me that even when I did such acts of kindness, the motive was to demonstrate to others that I was good, so I could feel good about myself. Thus, my sacrificial services were selfish.
A multitude of questions and thoughts welled up within me. How could a simple religion like Christianity with one God so easily explain everything, while Hinduism, the ancient religion with several million gods, several schools of thought, several ways, and several rituals, obscure things? If Hinduism had the answer, how could I have missed it after so much effort? And what about the millions of other Hindus?
Sophia’s answer to my question “What is the purpose of life?” was not unique, because Hindu temple priests in India would have given the same answer. They would have said their purpose was to glorify God too. But what they meant was vastly different: their gods were idols. The temple priests cleaned, decorated, and even put their gods to sleep.
I also washed idols, sang to them, and recited several prayers to them when I was a little child. They were like material objects to which I gave glorified purposes and even life. To me these idols were statues, and my mind decided what I chose to do for them. What troubled me now the most was that if there was a God, glorifying this God could very well be the purpose of my life. And this meant that I should know this true God.
I fully understood what Sophia said. She meant her purpose in life was to glorify Jesus Christ. I had read some history books and knew Jesus was a man, like any of the thousands of saints in India. In India, there are several gurus who claim that they are god or claim to have contact with god or that they can show you the way to self-realization. I even have the official certificate to teach Kundalini Yoga. I assumed that Christ was like one of the gurus. Having been stumped by Sophia’s answer, I wanted to prove to myself Christianity was false by proving Jesus Christ was just another good person whom people deified. There are people in India who worship noble kings as gods. I was convinced that this was the case with Jesus also. I thought maybe better Bible translations enabled Christians to know their religious teachings. But the same information was available to me too, so I set out to prove Christ was a gimmick (just like the fake Indian gurus) by investigating Christian practices.
I attended a few church services and tried to stump the pastors with tricky philosophical questions. If they couldn’t answer me right away I never bothered to give them another chance. Of course, I never knew the answers to my own questions nor felt obliged to find any. I asked questions like, “Buddhism says desire is the cause of all evil — if you follow this teaching and have no desires, why do you need the commandments?” I was just throwing rocks at Christianity. But in spite of that, I learned a few Christian facts like, Christ was brutally killed on a cross, Christ claimed that He died for the sins of humanity, He supposedly came back to life in 3 days, and He was kind and loving.
Sophia invited me to a Christian retreat where an Indian pastor took time to explain a major difference between various religions and Christianity. He said that in all religions, man makes the effort to go to God, while in Christianity, God comes to where we are. I thought to myself, “WOW!!” This caught my attention. How I wish this was true! After 12 years of search, I now heard that the omnipresent God was right by me. Even before I could start to imagine this possibility, my family, culture, tradition, and heritage flashed before me. How could I even think of believing this? I hated Christianity. My parents and several others I knew in India had similar opinions. In spite of the fact that I felt his explanation could be true, I chose to deny the possibility. I stopped asking tricky questions. I was afraid I might find the answer in Christianity.
A few weeks passed and still, I could not ignore the fact that Christianity might have held the answer for me. The truth was, I was too scared to find out because of the cultural taboo. But, I reasoned, “If this God existed, He would resolve all my problems. He could take care of the consequences of my quest. If I ever find this God, the True God, I will never have to worry about the cultural consequences.” Even after thinking through this, I did not remove my guard completely. I made a final attempt to find fault with the Bible. Someone had given me a copy of the New Testament. Of course, I would never have bought one.
After reading the first chapter from the book of John, I understood Jesus was the Word of God, God’s expression. Chapter two talked about Jesus’ miracles, so I figured He was not an ordinary man. In Chapter three, Jesus talked about being born again — this was truly fascinating! The concept of reincarnation as I understood it was not a physical birth and death but a mental one. When Jesus said we had to be born again, it made a lot of sense to me. I knew he was telling me about a new life — like starting a new resolution on New Year’s Day, except this time for real, with a brand new nature of Jesus!
I realized that I would have to submit to Christ and forfeit self-realization for Christ-realization. This, I reasoned, was a great exchange. The Bible also mentioned that “God so loved the world He sent His only Son, so that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have everlasting life.” When I read Chapter four, where Jesus talked to the woman at the well and told her if she drank His water, streams of living water would flow from within her, so that she wouldn’t have to keep traveling to the well, it all clicked! I was running around trying to fill my emptiness, and Christ was saying He would not only fill it, but fill it in such a way that it would overflow. So if I accepted Christ’s help, I need not seek other things to fill my emptiness. This was the solution I was looking for.
I began to see the big picture. I was incomplete because of my own nature. This incompleteness was the emptiness I felt. For so many years I tried several methods to fill up this incompleteness, but none worked. If I had died this way, I know for sure I never would have been with God. But God in His love sent Christ to fill up my emptiness and make me complete. Christ suffered the ultimate consequence: death and separation from God. In doing so, Christ paid the penalty I was supposed to pay. But, after dying, He came back to life in three days. He passed through death, the termination of our physical existence. God showed what would happen to those who are made complete by accepting Christ’s death as a ransom for their own.
This made perfect sense. Even death cannot keep me from being with God by choosing this Way. Previously, I thought that only at death one would know his destiny. But by this Way, Christ has shown salvation is readily available. I can enjoy salvation while I am still alive today. But what would I have to do to receive this?
Jesus claimed that just by believing in Him, this is possible. The ransom has been paid in full for all humanity. The Way has been paved for everyone to pass through death. Since God is omnipresent, He knows my thought process, He is very near. All I had to do was take one step of faith. I felt as if Christ was waiting on me, to just take this step. In the silence of my heart, with all sincerity, I said, “I believe in You Jesus, as You have revealed.”
This happened early in the morning on March 5, 1994. Words cannot express what happened at that moment. My emptiness was gone, just as if it never existed. I felt a deep sense of cleansing, great peace, and satisfaction. I knew this was what I was looking for, for 12 years. Christ never promised wonderful experiences and feelings at the time anyone accepts Him. But that does not negate the authenticity of Jesus’ promise. Some of my friends felt nothing when they took this step of faith. Yet there is only one Christ, one Way, one faith, and one result: salvation.
Now, after looking into the Bible and who Christ is, I am convinced this is what the many different ways in Hinduism have been trying to achieve. We had prayers like, “Lead me from falsehood to Truth,” “Lead me from Darkness to Light,” “Lead me from Death to Immortality.” I recited this every day in school for many years. Christ fulfilled these prayers when He said “I am the Truth, I am the Light of this world, I am the Life and Resurrection, and I am The Way.” I plead with all my Hindu brothers and sisters to take an openhearted look at Christ. The different ways available in Hinduism are an attempt to reach God by self-effort, but, fortunately, God requires no effort from us. By faith in Jesus Christ alone, God grants salvation.
More than two years have passed since I came to Christ. An additional blessing walked in my life through Sophia, my wife. We got married one year after I came to Christ. Now having known Christ, our hearts go out to all those who have not come to know Him the way He ought to be known. Christ fills our spiritual emptiness by giving the Holy Spirit when we believe in Him. Only the Holy Spirit can satisfy this longing.
Christ lovingly warned that He is the ONLY way to the Truth, but wide is the way to destruction. With such profound statements, Christ is clarifying His uniqueness. Many philosophers and gurus of this age are unable to discount Christ, and so try to include Him in their ways. No one can suggest that their way is right without negating The Way through Christ. Either Christ is not The Way and a liar, or all other ways lead to destruction. No other possibilities exist. Some claim Christ was a good teacher, an excellent philosopher, or a scientist. This totally degrades the Son of God to a mere man. Christ was crucified because He proclaimed His status – The Son of God. The so-called great men show us some ways that they themselves follow, but Christ showed The Way and became the means by which we become children of God. He became the Gospel, He Himself is The Way to God.
My thanks goes to Christ, my Master, for saving a wretch like me.
I am Manoj Ramachandran and was born in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. I was born into a rich middle class joint-family. Our family believes deeply in values and acknowledgement of God in every day activities. Every morning, every one in my family will spend a minimum of five to fifteen minutes to pray to the pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses. Every body in our family believed that is there is a God but he has chosen to reveal himself in many ways over time. We were not sure about the times of history when God came into the world to reveal himself to Hindus but there are countless beautiful stories that mark the deliverance of God for ordinary people. I was curious to know whether God has chosen to do so recently and wondered why God seems to be so far in the 20th century. But, we also believed God is infinitely great and it doesn’t make sense to take a step to find out more about him and Idols are the only way to show to God our reverence and present our needs. I began to admire the fact there is something inside in everybody’s heart that makes one acknowledge God. I never wondered about how the world originated but was very afraid about death. There are so many theories explaining death but nothing was convincing enough. I thought there will never be answers to such questions.
During my teenage years and my year as freshman into college, under the pressure of peers, I had to explore the world and enjoy its pleasure that resulted in a very bad company. Most of time in college, I wasted time, money, and energy into the things that I now regret. But, I believed that was the thing to do at that age. After all, I thought, Life is going to end after few more years from then and life should be full of pleasures. Unfortunately, life didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I was treated very badly by sophomores (2nd year students) when I was a freshman that I started crying and wondered why I ended up in college at all. I was depressed and started hating my college life. I realized that I don’t have any control on your life. I was already addicted to many bad habits and life started stinking. There was no peace inside and the more looked I looked deep into my heart, more I desired to keep it clean from the foul emanating from inside. But, it was too late. The things that I enjoyed had taken control of me and I had become a slave to many things. I was just seventeen by then..
I felt that time had come to start life from scratch. It was clear that I had only two choices to make. One was to continue down the same old path and destroy myself or to forget the old path somehow, and muster ‘new strength’ from somewhere and change my life around. But, I didn’t know how and where to start. It made sense to me that meditation is the way to start because I have heard that meditation will help control the mind. Yes. I understood that some sort of control on my life was missing. I need to be restrained by a higher power that I believed is achievable through meditation. So, I registered myself in Transcendental Meditation (TM) with the consent of my parents. They didn’t know about my addiction but were happy that I am doing well to myself. I was so proud of myself for taking the first step to make my life as a clean slate. I realized that I have sold my mind for nothing and I have right to take it back. But, I realized how foolish I was when I understood that I was already dead inside because of my bad habits and it is going to take “spiritual power” from outside rather than inside to deliver me out of the pit?
I started hating the things I did before but could not stop doing the things that I hated. I came to understand what it means to be addicted. I started crying and was desperate to reach higher level in TM so I could tap the spiritual power waiting for me. But, I wasn’t sure how long it is going to take to ‘receive’ the power and how much of it I needed. I was simply confused. Isn’t that true that my inner nature has been corrupted because of the things I shouldn’t have done? I realized that I don’t just need the power to take away addiction but also to change me from within. I felt the need for a perfect example that would tell me the way I should live and direct my life. Naturally, my inclination was to look up to Swami Vivekananda whose life is still an example to millions of Hindus. I started reading his books and try to emulate every single step he had taken. I began reading his books and his books directed me more toward God and meditation.
For the very first time, I fully understood the spiritual side of Swami Vivekananda. He was not just on a quest for obtaining more powers in meditation but the true quest was spiritual. He wanted to know God more. My struggle for deliverance had found a new road. One day, few strange thoughts came my to my mind, “Can God be the solution for my problems? Can God change me? Does God still care about human beings?” I had never thought about God in such a way before and it looked very unreasonable for me to expect God to care of one single person in the entire world to come and help in time of need. The more I read Swami Vivekananda books, more I thought about God. It was strange that I was then facing a different set of questions. I had to answer myself the following questions. Does God really exist? Does God really care? Will my deliverance come? What is the standard of moral life I am looking for? One day, it struck my like a lightening bolt that standard for living should come from God and not from men. I started searching for life’s moral standards in “Bhagavad-Gita”, Hindu’s Holy Scripture. I never fully understood why I was not asked to read them at an earlier age by our elders. Before too long, I plunged myself to reading “Bhagavad-Gita” and I was becoming an ardent reader of it. The more I read, more questions came to my mind. The most simple and beautiful realization was that I was attracted more towards God than the standards. I realized that my real search was to know the creator personally more than the commandments. I have read countless stories about how God had personal relationship with ordinary human beings in the historical past. I wondered whether it is possible for God to accept me just as I am and have a relationship with me as a father-son relationship even in this century. The answer came but in a much different and unexpected way..
My thirst for being loved and accepted by God grew like a monster. I was beginning to get involved in Hare-Krishna movement and was encouraged by fellow believers to observe strict rituals. I was into Krishna-consciousness. The goal of my life has become to be filled with the consciousness of God rather than anything. While I was on the quest, I had a pertinent question that needed to be answered. How do I get rid of my old habits? Who will bring about me in a character change or change of heart? I was now quite comfortable doing regular meditation and chanting of Krishna name in the early morning, But, when the time of temptation comes, there was no strength in me to resist the temptation. I was not sure if God was offended at all because of my old habits and I wasn’t sure when the deliverance will come. One day, I looked up to the heaven with a cry in my heart to God for an assurance that I have come to an end of my search. Was I at the end of my pursuit? I wasn’t sure whether there would be anything worth exploring further. The burden of my heart was to know that God loves me and that God is willing to accept me just as I am and deliver me from my “evil” habits that were taking a toll on my life. Little did I know at that time that God did not despise my longing of my heart and would come after me!
I had become a sophomore by then. I was switching dorms and wanted to be alone without any roommates. Finally, I ended up having a very good room that helped me maintain solitude. Soon, I found out that my neighbor is a devout Christian but he was not on a spiritual quest. He claimed that God has answers to most of my questions. We became good friends and shared many hours of debates and arguments about Christianity and Hinduism. I have been to churches before this and never felt it is wrong to pray to Christ since I considered “all gods are same”. My Christian neighbor’s life was a like a light of a city on a hill that convicted my heart of my bad habits. He called the wrong actions and bad habits as “sins”. And, there was sense of contentment in his life that made me ask him more questions about Bible’s perspectives about life and other trivial issues. I was curious to know what Bible had to say about me and human life in general. I was angry at him sometimes when he claimed that Christ is the only way to God and questioned him why Christians go proudly to preach their religion? I told him that I respect Jesus and I was ready to consider him as Krishna’s son but nothing more that. I was proud in the fact that I felt more tolerant than him. But, this stance doesn’t seem to help answer my spiritual thirst. There were few questions started coming to my life. Can Christ’s claim that he is the truth be true? Is he the only solution? I didn’t have any idea how close I was to truth at the time.
It was the afternoon of December, 18, 1997, my spiritual thirst would boil into something that I least expected. My Christian friend invited me to his room and went over the differences between Hinduism and Christianity. He explained to me that the same God could not have given utterly conflicting things to different people to follow and that he is not the author of confusion. He also told me that God of the Bible created and still creates people with a certain purpose and that I have to make a decision to follow Christ to realize that purpose. I was stunned about what he said. Till then, nobody has ever talked to me about my life’s purpose and has ever said that my life carried a purpose at all. I never thought much about that before. Here was the challenge that one’s life purpose could be realized by trusting in Christ and in him alone. One part of my heart longed that whatever he said be true. Other part was totally afraid to enter “fresh” waters. I was quite open to be accepted by the ‘true’ God and wanted to know if God had anything to do with my life. There were only two choices. One is to continue along the path where I didn’t know where the end is and another is to trust Christ alone and see if he had a purpose. After many hours of thinking that evening, I decided to trust Christ alone with all seriousness and sincerity. I was terribly afraid about the consequences. But, I thought nothing is more important than to know about my purpose in life.
I was ready to pay any cost to realize God’s purpose for me. My life as a Christian began that evening. I went to a church in Trichy and asked Christ to change my life.
I informed my Christian friend about my decision to follow Christ. He was completely taken by surprise. He was overjoyed and took me to his bible study group and church. I started reading Bible with great thirst. The first book of New Testament, Mathew that carried Jesus teaching blew my mind. I have never read something like that before. Every word of Jesus pierced my soul. I felt that his love, sincerity and sacrifice for mankind were appealing to my soul. I trembled before his holiness and majesty and his preaching. Yet, Bible said he is willing to me accept me just as I am and he is ready to change my life empowering me. I started praying to Jesus and bible was simpler than I had imagined. I was able to understand the simple yet powerful teachings of the Bible. After two or three days after becoming a Christian, I realized that there was joy in my soul as a result of my decision to follow Christ. History can say that no person has ever spoken like him. My soul was slowly getting convinced that Jesus is the creator and can help me and realize my life’s purpose as my thirst was slowly fading away. A new thirst started to spring in my life. That thirst was to know more about Jesus and his love that accepts any one at any stage of life. God of the Bible doesn’t need any qualification from us to accept us. Christ himself paid the sacrifice by accepting punishment for our sins so we could be accepted by God and we could receive his forgiveness. For the very first time, I was stunned to see God’s love in action.
My life began to change but my family didn’t know about the decision I had made. However, my thirst had gone. Jesus himself said in the Bible (John 8:37, 38) that “If anyone thirsts, let him come to Me and drink. He who believes in Me, as the scripture has said, out of his heart will flow rivers of living water”. The promises had come true in my life. I was overjoyed. My addictions were going away from me as I started to read Bible and pray to Jesus. My families and friends began to take notice of the changes that were happening. Their response shocked me. Some thought I had made a poor decision and some thought I had gone mad because of my spiritual quest and suggested to see a doctor. My family became worried that I had stopped worshipping idols and performing rituals required during festivals. I was very sad over many developments that happened after my decision. My family opposed going to church and reading the Bible. But, my soul was convinced that the claims of Christ were true after my thirst and addictions had disappeared. I felt I am in debt to follow Christ and my soul cannot lie to any body over what happened to it. Changes that Christ brought me in to my life were so dramatic that my friends whom I used to hang out with forged complaints to my parents to come to my college and take care of me as they thought I needed parental care and advice to come back to Hinduism. God had become so personal and a friend to me.
I soon realized that life problems are common to anybody and won’t disappear after you become a Christian. But, you never have to let your heart be trouble. I came to United States in August 2000 for my studies for my higher studies and wherever I go I make it a priority to keep God first in my life. My parents are still Hindus and are not interested in knowing and pursue the claims of Christ right now. Whatever may the future holds for me, I am fully prepared to remain faithful to the one who delivered me from a pit and has given me a new life.
Following are my two other favorite verses from the Bible:
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man comes to the father but through me” – John 14:6
“God is love” – I John 4:8
My purpose of my testimony is to tell you that there exists a God who is willing to accept us just as we are. He doesn’t need anything from us. Instead, He is a God of love who chose to give his own life for us and promised to change our lives if we trust in him. If you are honestly seeking to know the truth, please read the Bible for yourself and make the step of faith in following Christ without wasting any minute. It is a decision worth making. I have never regretted the decision to fully follow Christ till now.