Does God exist? The small words and the length belie the weight of this question. It is not a new question either ; To the believer, an answer is not required. To the non believer, the answer “Yes” will evoke a naughty “Have you seen Him ? What does He look like ? Did he have four arms ?” etc,. I have not seen God and I am not particularly concerned as to what He or She looks like.
I have experienced God in my life. Not that I needed an experience to make me believe in Him. As a devout Hindu, I do believe in the existence of God. I also believe sincerely that God propels and guides my life as per a master program that He has written for my life, choosing to intervene or interrupt, bless or reprimand through various methods as He deems fit.
I am able to vividly recollect two incidents in my life when I experienced God. They were very distinctly different and happened under different circumstances, but strangely both incidents happened in the precincts of a temple. In one incident I experienced God from outside and in another from inside. One incident was witnessed by my wife who is not alive now but when the other incident happened I did not have my family or a friend nearby. (I could reconstruct the date of the second incident but I am not too sure about the first incident)
The first incident happened probably in the year 1990, the place in the Sri Venkateswara Temple otherwise also known as the Birla Mandir on top of a hillock at Hyderabad near the Tank Bund lake. As you enter through the gates of the temple, there is a fairly steep slope that leads you up to the marble steps leading to the sanctum sanctorum and also to the parking lot for vehicles on the right side; the place for keeping footwear is on the left. ( or that’s how the locations where during that period). On that day late evening, we: my wife, my son and me had just completed darshan of the lord and were picking up our sandals, feeling good about the visit and getting ready to leave the temple.
We were facing the slope on which cars and scooters were making their way up to the parking lot. I saw a scooter with a man and a woman on it moving up the slope. Suddenly the scooter seemed to stop, the man riding it losing control and scooter about to fall and slide down. I ran to the scooter, caught hold of the handlebar, steadied the vehicle till the man and woman alighted without any mishap and then handed the scooter to the man. I returned to my family and I guess we went home without much ado. All this would have happened in about a minute or less, it certainly takes longer to write it now.
Although the incident passed and happened in an insignificant amount of time, it is vivid in my memory and I have ruminated on it many a time. How was a person of my build (160 cms 55Kgs) able to stop and hold stable a falling scooter on a slope alongwith two adults on it. Even though it was for a very short period of time, it did prevent injuries or any other mishap to the couple or other around. Where did I get that superhuman strength from ? Who propelled me to do that act ? did I see the scooter, decide to help the couple, summon courage, get into the right position etc,. etc,. ?. Obviously No. Some force propelled me, some force gave me the command, the directions and the courage and the strength. I even believe that I did not do anything on that day, I was merely the device / instrument or medium through with the act was performed. The only explanation that I have come to believe strongly was that God stepped in to save the couple that day. They and the others in the vicinity were not destined to be hurt that day and God chose me to be the medium. For those precious seconds, I think God was in me and to put it rather crudely, to that couple I was God on that day. Does God exist, of course He does, I experienced it by being Him for a few seconds.
Am I superman ? Have I exhibited superhuman strengths on other occasions after that ? The answer is no. I strangely do not relate to that incident in that way at all and never sought to look for a revisitation or manifestation of that power ever again. There is no recollection in my mind of any other event or incident of unusual powers till date.
Many years later in May 2000, we visited Tirumala-Tirupati, to pray and pay our obescience to the Lord of the seven hills Srinivasa or Balaji. A visit to the Tirumala temple is a family custom and we try to visit the shrine atleast once a year. We had moved to Mumbai from Hyderabad. This time we were four in the family with my daughter having been born and there were also a few other relatives with us. We had arranged for a special puja to be performed by making bookings before hand and paying the required money. This entitled us to have a certain number of people enter the temple without being in the long general queues. However we were two numbers more than what the ticket would allow, so it was suggested by our cousin who knew the details of the temple well that I should go with the “Jeer” and I would be escorted from there to puja location to join the family by one of the priests later.
The holy Jeer enters the temple in the morning to perform the personal puja (Satthumarai) and a small crowd of devotees who are visibly identifiable as belonging to the sect through religious markings and attire and some knowledge of the scriptures are allowed to accompany the holy Jeer. Since I qualified on all these counts I joined this group without any difficulty and entered with temple along with the Jeer.
Like all others I was dressed in a veshti, below the waist, a Utthariyam tied over the veshti and bare bodied above with only the holy thread across the left shoulder and with the vermillion and chalk marks on the forehead.
We had made out way inside the temple, past the outer prakarams and were just entering the sanctum sanctorum when one of the persons in the group asked me rather harshly “ Where is your sacred thread ?” I touched and looked at my shoulder and chest and found to me utter dismay that the sacred thread was not there. I was in deep panic. To be found inside the sanctum sanctorum alongwith the Jeer’s group without the sacred thread was sacrilege ! This was indeed serious trouble. I wondered what possible evil or incarceration would happen. I would be ostracized. I did not know what to do now, how to explain or to whom to plead. I knew the thread had been on me, else I would not have been allowed to enter the temple by the disciples who check people who join the group, the thread has always been on my person 24 hours of the day from the day it was bestowed on me at my Upanayanam. However I do not wear the silk veshti and Utthariyam or remain bare bodied in my normal day and there was some discomfiture with the dress. As I pondered my fate, I must have sought God’s help involuntarily as I do not remember praying fervently. I suddenly realized that a very small boy, thin, brown skinned, bare bodied, dressed in a dhoti was speaking to me and said that he had seen a “poonool” on the floor a few yards back from where we had entered. I realized he was one of the group that was allowed entry into the temple that morning for the Jeer seva. I ran to the area pointed by the boy and did find the poonool lying on the floor. Without much ado I quickly picked it up wore it on my body across the shoulder and re joined the group without event. The pooja was performed well, with the chanting of the pasurams by the Jeer and the group; I joined in to the extent I knew some of the verses, had an extremely satisfying and long darshan of the Lord and came out. I do not remember noticing where the boy went or looking for him in particular. It is only later as I recollected that incident that I realized that it must have been the Lord who manifested himself to show me where my poonool was in my minute of difficulty and saved me from ignominy in His abode.
I am positive that I have experienced GOD on those two occasions. The first one when God acted through me as the medium and in the second, He manifested in front of me, to save me, in the form of a small boy. Agreed both these occasions were not earth-shaking events or miracles, but to me they are divine experiences.
I am not in search of events like these and do not know whether I will experience any more such events. May be I do have had some such events, but I am not able to recollect them vividly as I did the two incidents. Maybe God does not want us to remember these events in that way and erases our memories of such experiences. (like how the wizards modify the memory of the muggles whenever they are forced to perform their magic in front of the humans in the Harry Potter stories) I am sure many of you may have experienced events like these.
The scriptures say that there is a bit of divinity in everyone of us. Every true act of kindness that we do to others, every good deed that is selfless is a manifestation of the divine in us. The Lord is our savior and my unshakeable faith in Him tells me that He does come in to save us from physical and other perils as and when we deserve such succor as per the grand program He has already written for all of us. I am convinced that God will perhaps never manifest in front of man in the physical form that we see in pictures with four arms and be jeweled. Man created that image.The true God is the one who lives in our hearts, probably formless and infinite. That is why we cant “see” Him but experience Him we surely can, in many ways and many times. (1821 words)