23 May Seeking God – May 24 2020
Are you looking for me? I am in the next seat.
My shoulder is against yours.
you will not find me in the stupas, not in Indian shrine
rooms, nor in synagogues, nor in cathedrals:
not in masses, nor kirtans, not in legs winding
around your own neck, nor in eating nothing but vegetables.
When you really look for me, you will see me instantly –
you will find me in the tiniest house of time.
Kabir says: Student, tell me, what is God?
He is the breath inside the breath.
Winter 2013, I went with a small group of people to Kumbh Mela, the once-every-12-year gathering of holy men and women and spiritual devotees (100 million people over the course of six weeks) in Prayag, one of the holiest places in India. One evening while wandering through the madness, we were approached by a group of four or five young Indian men. This happens a lot in India. Young men stop you: to ask questions; to have their picture taken with you; to take your picture; to practice their English on you. To flirt with the Western women. This time, the young man shook my hand and smiled.
Hello. Excuse me sir. May I ask you a question?
Where you are from?
U.S. Los Angeles.
Very good. U.S.A.
Indians by and large seem to love the U.S.A. We do have democracy in common – theirs the largest in the world, ours one of the oldest. Such as it is.
The young man continued:
How are you liking India?
I am liking it very much.
This is good. Good. Tell me sir. What do you find is the biggest difference between your country and mine?
In my country we have forgotten about God. Very few are seeking God. But here…
I gestured around us. To the 20 or 30 million there at that moment, making pilgrimage to this place at this time to seek connection to something greater than themselves. The man smiled, radiant. I had given him an answer that he liked.
Yes. This is true sir. Everyone here is finding God. And you are here.
Yes. We are here. It’s beautiful.
It is beautiful. Yes. Thank you sir. Hari om.
Hari om. Thank you.
People in India are seeking happiness. They are looking to make money, to be successful, to have family, to find love. But also, to a great degree than here, they believe in a divine presence in this world and they see a loving connection with this divine presence as necessary for happiness and fulfillment. Connection to God first, and then business. God first, then family and love. Even the criminals I have met there follow this formula, in their own way.
In our Western culture the default approach to happiness often seems to be to seek money and success first, and then if there is time left over, maybe seek God. Or maybe not. To seek relationship, but as a place to find fulfillment, rather than as a place where we might fulfill our responsibilities of love and family in a God-centric world view.
And what we find is that the Indian people seem by and large happier than our culture. More welcoming. More open and accepting.
‘You are here at Kumbh Mela, respecting our traditions and seeking what we, too, are seeking. You are welcome.’
This is not to say there is no seeking of God here in our culture, but rather that our seeking is done on a far less-grand scale. One person, one prayer, one congregation or prayer circle or group meditation at a time.
But this is not a given. We don’t need to go to India to change things. We can ask ourselves the question here: What would it be like to feel God in this world? To see people aware of God, everywhere you turned? To find all religions and spiritual approaches acceptable? To seek evidence of God in the eyes of a stranger, and see in those eyes that the stranger is seeking God in you? Not just at Kumbh Mela, but in the East Village; on Ventura Blvd. or Melrose Ave; in Billings, Montana or Mexico City; in the coffee shop, the workplace, the supermarket or across your dining room table?
Today I will open myself to a way of seeing the world that shows me something larger than myself, greater than my ideas, more grand than my hopes and dreams. I will seek an experience of love, of God, with everyone I meet, and I will stay open so that my fellows might find an experience of God through me.