Steeped in Hindu culture I was brought up in Christ’s teachings. After years of spiritual quest and search for truth, I became deeply aware that I was at home in Christianity as well as in Hinduism. I became equally comfortable with Hindu pundits and Christian scholars. Fr. John Thekkedam (official name, belonging to the poorvashram, that is, prior existence) became Swami Snehananda Jyoti ( Love-Bliss Light: current self-chosen name of aspiration). The flip side of that was, some Christians thought I was misguided, and some Hindus thought I was a wolf in sheep’s clothing. This misperception on both sides is a small price to pay knowing that I am striving to integrate, to the best of my ability, the best revelations of Christ with the Sanatan Dharma (a way of living according to eternal righteousness) of Hindus. The discerning persons everywhere will know that I am following the one true God of both Christianity and Hinduism. I may also say that traveling along the arduous path through very difficult terrain I redefined theology, and discovered my leading gurus to be Christ, Buddha, Socrates, and Gandhi. Developing the concepts of non-violence as perfect love, and truth as God, Gandhi, to me, put the best teachings of Christ into systematic practice. He, in his own experiments with truth, integrated the best teachings of the Gospels with the best teachings of Upanishads and the Bhagavad Gita. Revealing God as his father and our father, and calling us his friends, Christ challenged us all to become perfect as his heavenly father. The call to Advaitic unity of the creator, the created, and the creation manifested for me the mystic union of every person with God revealed by Christ as the One who is in perfect communication and communion among themselves as the Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit.
God experience in Hinduism is God realization or sakshatkar (making real). Brahma satyam, jagat mithya: God is real, the world is unreal. In other words, only God is permanent, the world is impermanent. In Christianity, only God is eternal and immutable; all else, that is, the world of our senses, is passing “vanity of vanities”. We are not able to have God experience because we are in a tragic predicament wherein the world has become real and God has become unreal. There are no waves (we) without the ocean (God). There is no magic (we) without the magician (God). That is why, according to a great Christian mystic, “we live, and move, and have or being in God”; “we can do everything in God who gives us strength”. Currently religions have lost the ability to impart God experience because they are immersed in the materialism of the world. Religions have succeeded in substituting dogmas and doctrines, rites and rituals, and meaningless symbols and mechanical practices in the place of meaningful experience with God, and empathic encounters with humans that result in God experience. I very vividly remember what one of my older brothers told me some years ago. He told me lovingly, calling me by my nick/pet name: “I fully agree with what you say, but we cannot do it here”. Obviously, he was not wanting to take on the religious powers in his setting due to fear of suffering social isolation or ostracism of his family. The madness and ridiculous pomp of this world was powerfully brought to me from an incident that a friend of mine narrated to me recently. This happened during a wedding reception in his extended family. In a posh five star hotel in a major city where the reception was held, the parking attendant was told to allot very scarce and prominent parking slots at the entrance to the hall on the basis of pre-determined guests who came in very expensive cars. It so happened that a very close relative of the bridegroom, who also had difficulty walking, started in a Mercedes Benz that broke down on the way. He ended up coming to the reception in an ordinary car of another relative who picked him up on the way. As a result he lost his allotted parking space, and had to walk unrecognized from a distant lot.
So what is God experience? It is living a life according to God’s will as communicated to one’s conscience that is formed in freedom on the basis of truth, justice, fairness, love, and compassion. We cannot beat what Saint John said that we are all liars if we say we love God whom we cannot see while we hate humans (our brothers and sisters) whom we see every day. It is loving our enemies, loving persons we do not like on account of the harm they caused us, leaving them to God to deal with them the way God sees fit. It is following the Golden Rule, the sum and substance of what all the prophets and scriptures, said: “Do to others what you like others to do to you”. It is a relentless desire and effort to experience the oneness of humanity and the one God of all. All can have this experience if they will it. God’s generous grace will not be lacking for those who will it so no one will be thwarted. A good examination of conscience will reveal to us whether we have this wholesome and holy experience. Finally, it is seeing things the way God sees, and dealing with others the way God deals with while we find our own bearing in a senseless world