The little boy was probably about eight years old. We saw him for only a moment as we were driving back along the busy four-lane road from Ananda’s center in Noida to our ashram in Gurgaon. With cars, motorcycles, bicycles, and motor rickshaws whizzing by in both directions, the boy was hanging his family’s laundry on the metal guardrail of the center meridian between the lanes.
Somehow his demeanor—cheerful, energetic, and helpful—caught my eye. We guessed that his family lived in the plastic tarp hut on the stretch of dirt along the side of the road. To him, this little stretch of dirt was his home, the lanes of unceasing traffic were his backyard, and the center meridian his clothesline. It could all be gone in a moment, but for the present, it was his fixed reality.
Being in India has always held an indescribable, fascinating quality for me, as if there was some profound truth just beneath the surface that at any moment was about to reveal itself. The clearest I can explain it is the revelation of a timelessness in the passing moment, the eternal in the ephemeral. The poet William Blake put it this way:
To see a World in a Grain of Sand
And a Heaven in a Wild Flower,
Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand
And Eternity in an hour.
With a depth of understanding and wisdom that reaches back into antiquity, the philosophy of India has taught us that this world is only an illusion, circumscribed by the mental concepts of time and space. The great saints have taught us to seek the only true and lasting reality as the presence of God within our own soul—that the infinite nature of God can be experienced within our own finitude.
Some of the ways in which God is worshipped here reflect this understanding. Recently the holiday of Durga Puja was celebrated. (Durga represents Divine Mother in Her role as the Protector and Destroyer of evil.) During this celebration, which lasts for many days, beautiful larger-than-life-size clay statues of the goddess are worshipped. Her presence is invoked in many ways: Garlands are draped upon Her, kirtans are sung in Her honor, aratis are performed before Her.
At the end of all the celebrations, Her statues are brought to a river, submerged, and dissolved back into formlessness. That which is eternal had taken form and now has returned, once again, to eternity.
This is part of the wisdom that India imparts to us: to know that although our lives last for a brief period of time, our soul’s nature is eternal and can be experienced at any moment. As Swami Kriyananda has described it, we should try to live in the “Eternal Now.”
With love in God and Guru,