Book Excerpts
 

The Journey is Set...
      On a business trip to Detroit, Michigan, in 1969, I met a young man at an exhibition of Far Eastern Art. Our conversation turned to a discussion of Indian philosophy, about which I had very little knowledge. The exchange intrigued me, and as I would realize later, I was at a crossroads on my life's journey. My new acquaintance suggested that I read Autobiography of a Yogi. He then invited me to accompany him to a yoga service the following Sunday. My first meditation experience brought me to a level of consciousness which I had never known. It was the impetus which led to my in-depth study of Indian philosophy and the sacred science of Kriya Yoga. The more I learned the more I sought to know. I felt very strongly that I needed to return to a place I had never been; and in December of 1988, destiny set my path toward India. Without itinerary or expectations, I began the first of three solitary journeys, each of which would last for six months.

Withstood the Tests of Time
      This book is a tribute to the traditional values of India. For thousands of years, the basic cornerstones of Indian culture had changed very little, and probably account for why some historians believe India to be the oldest continuously surviving civilization on earth.
      Modern India, like the rest of the world, is in a state of major transition as her people grapple with the enormous task required to balance science and modern technology with the inner peace of the soul. Although Indian culture has had the resiliency to withstand over 300 years of Mughal conquest, I wondered if it could survive the effects of Western materialism on its growing middle class. I now know that my concerns were unfounded. My travels throughout India revealed that Hindu values are deeply ingrained in its society. Not only will India be able to assimilate Western technology into its own culture, but will be stronger for it. Long after the modern buildings in cosmopolitan Bombay have been reduced to rubble by time and the elements, the eternal verities of village India will be as vibrant as ever.

Incident Proves Prayer is More Powerful than Protest
      When I am asked what impressed me most about India, my reply is the peaceful demeanor of her people and their openly expressed devotion. The following story will illustrate both characteristics. After a four hour bus journey from Madras to the South Indian town of Tirupathi, our guide informed us that we would not be able to continue our trip to the nearby holy mountain of Tirumala. A local labor strike prevented our going further. Because Tirumala is one of the more important pilgrimage centers in all of India, the passengers were very disappointed, yet none complained. Most were tranquil as we sat together in a group waiting to see what would transpire. We realized that missing our visit to the magnificent statue of Sri Balaji, the deity to whom the temple was dedicated, would be a great loss to us all. Hindus believe that prayer requests made standing before this statue will be granted, which explains why an average of 30,000 pilgrims visit there on any given day. I struck up a conversation with one of the passengers who saw the labor strike as a man-made adversity that could serve as a spiritual challenge for all of us.

His insight inspired me and I joined the others in praying silently that our pilgrimage to Tirumala would somehow be completed. At that moment such peace came over me that I had no doubt that God would grant our request. Shortly after lunch, we were told that the strike had been canceled and the buses would transport us to the mountaintop. Through God's grace, I had been able to tap into the collective devotion of the pilgrims and to feel their all-pervasive love, which I believe changed the course of events. I learned a great lesson that day: Prayer is more powerful than protest!
      In a similar situation in other countries, most people would have complained vehemently. But not these pilgrims. Because of the value and historical proof in Indian life that prayer has worked for millenniums, there was no discussion and it was a given that prayer was the natural and proper course of action. More than in any other culture I know, Hindus have connected God with their daily life.

Devotion Expressed in Everyday Life
      Another revealing incident took place while I was traveling in the modern city of Bangalore. I visited one of its oldest temples, known as the "Bull Temple," which is named after a huge monolithic sculpture of Shiva's bull, Nandi. A little boy standing in front of the altar was too short to see the image of the deity. He kept tugging on his mother's sari until she could ignore him no longer. When she lifted him up for a peek, he leaned over and lovingly kissed the statue. the child's adoration was not unique, and I witnessed similar occurrences at several other shrines. I remembered the comments of a Hindu doctor whom I had visited in Western India. He told me that "Because of the devotional nature of the Hindu people, the foremost thoughts of the mother and the father are of God. This devotion manifests itself within the mother's womb during pregnancy through the influences of the parents' conscious and subconscious thoughts, and when the child is born, devotion is part of its nature."

Can Love Save a Life?
      Devotion expressed itself outwardly in various ways, including the strong sense of responsibility that individuals exhibited for their parents and members of their extended family. A man I sat next to while traveling told me a poignant story. His mother had been in a coma in a Bombay hospital. Against all hospital regulations, the man's wife insisted on staying in the same room and even slept on the floor to be close to her mother-in-law, ensuring that she was timely bathed and kept in clean clothing. Doctors and even her husband's relatives told his wife that his mother would not survive. But against all odds, she did! His mother had a total recovery and now lives happily again with her son and daughter-in-law. He commented: "Loving feelings can save a life."

Loyalty to Family
      The deep loyalty that exists between husbands and wives and other family members serves as a living example from one generation to another. An Indian doctor whom I had met told me that his father, a man of modest means, had paid his college expenses. The doctor, who had a large practice said, "I am a doctor and a man to day because of what my father sacrificed for me. If my father ever needed me, I would close my practice, withdraw my children from school, even if it meant their missing important exams, and take my family the several hundred miles to my father's home to care for him. I would not allow a servant to touch my father in my presence." To bathe and otherwise assist his father was the doctor's pleasure and duty. His children would see him serve his father, and in turn they would serve their father, and their children would serve them. The elderly die peacefully in India, surrounded by their devoted families, and in the familiar setting of their own homes. they have a "soft" death and pass on fulfilled. To me, this is the quiet beauty of India.

Dharma
      It is impossible to understand India unless one understands the concept of dharma. Dharma has many meanings to the Hindu. No single English word can summarize all of its connotations. Within an individual's own life, it refers to one's inherent duty to live in harmony with the eternal principals of righteousness that uphold all creation. Thus, the social and moral implications of the Indian philosophy of dharma are reflected in the highest virtues expected from each member of the community. It is seen most clearly in village India. I recall once in a small town in Rajasthan, a young boy saw me drop my wallet which contained a huge sum of money by his standards. When he came up to me to return it, I tried to offer him a few rupees, but he would accept nothing. I asked someone nearby to explain to the boy why I wanted to give him something for his act of honesty. After talking to him, the man explained to me that the concept of accepting a gift for doing a good deed made no sense to the child. Dharma is a noble act and needed no outside reward.

Promises are Kept for Life
      I learned in a most unexpected way the life-long commitment a Hindu woman takes into a relationship. When visiting Indian friends in Central India, a 15 year old girl asked if I could get her a pen pal in America. When I was preparing to leave a week later, she had not returned, so I sent for her. As she handed me her address, she confided that the reason she had not come back was because she was not sure that she could commit to writing to someone for the rest of her life!

Indian Values Revealed
      When traveling on a train one day, I met an Indian who asked me if I thought I would ever marry. I answered, "Yes, if I ever met someone with whom I had soul unity." Looking at me with a smile he replied, "Soul unity comes through many years of marriage."
      After lunch, my host took me to the home of one of his neighbors. While there, I admired some crafts. As we were preparing to leave, the young artist offered to give me a large porcelain vase, but I explained that I could not accept it as it would get broken. She then brought me a small bouquet of artificial roses. I told her that I would use them for my daily meditation in front of my travel altar. Leaving the room abruptly, she returned with a bottle of perfume. She sprayed the artificial flowers so they would smell good for God. Though their fragrance has long faded, the memory of her simple gesture is perennially present.

Sincerity of Action
      After visiting with many Indian families over a period of years, I am impressed by the sincerity with which each family member accepts his or her familial responsibilities. Duties were not discharged from a sense of obligation as if they were burdensome. An Indian I met on a bus explained that "Duty is performed from love and affection, like a mother taking care of her child." He said his mother and wife still serve in that spirit. Though there was some inconvenience caused from three generations living together in his home, he stated that his wife did not feel burdened by a house full of people and seemed to thrive on her selfless duties. He was emphatic that "Action must be supported by feeling. Once it becomes a duty performed mechanically without feeling, the tradition ends!" 

Traditional Versus Modern Values
      I do not suggest that Indians or any peoples of third world countries should deny themselves the material benefits of Western civilization, yet it seems to me that many young Indians (as well as the youth in much of the rest of the world) are forgetting the true values of the family structure. The attributes of duty, loyalty, and service are often forsaken in favor of selfish considerations and monetary gain. Many are moving away from their ancestral homes, opting to live even in the slums of cities or moving to other countries, in search of treasures without value.
      As the twentieth century draws to a close and a new millennium is about to begin, it is my hope and prayer that all of us will do our part to strengthen our individual families, and by extension, the family of man.

India's Ecumenicism Offers Hope for World Peace
      Though turmoil often exists in India between different factions, her religious communities have lived harmoniously in spite of some zealots' selfish motives. Because of the tolerance of Hinduism, I believe that eventually India will become the example for global ecumenicism, showing today's multicultural world that peace is possible amongst diverse populations. I witnessed Hindus and Muslims sharing the same shrine in Gwalior, Hindus and Buddhists worshiping at the same religious site in Darjeeling, and Hindus and Christians praying together at the Church of our Lady of Good Health in Velakanni in South India. Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh religion, is revered by Hindus and Muslims as well as Sikhs. If different religious communities can worship together in parts of India, surely the rest of India can do the same.

Sharing the Best Between India and America
      When Albert Einstein said, "Science without religion is lame, and religion without science is blind," he could have been describing contemporary American and India. India has become over-balanced spiritually and cannot adequately provide for the material needs of its own people. America leads the world in consumer comforts, but has veered sharply off course morally. Each culture would benefit from adopting the best qualities of the other. It is my belief that the United States and India can give the world a new direction: a materially efficient democracy that is spiritually guided. For this to become a reality, each of us must do our part.

 
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