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.