“Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, become My devotee, offer obeisances to Me and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me.” – Bhagavad Gita (9.34)
While distributing Bhagavad Gita in a crowded marketplace, I met Hussain, a religious enthusiast (a mild word for a fanatic!). After a brief exchange of pleasantries, he got restless and pointed his index finger towards me and yelled, “You’ll go to hell and burn forever.” I was dressed in my saffron robes of a Hindu monk. I shuddered for a moment, and then the sight of a crowd that I knew didn’t share this zealot’s passion, eased me. I slowly retraced my steps, not wanting to pick up cudgels on a non-issue. He fumed, “Are you not afraid of God? Be fearful of the mighty Lord, his wrath and vengeance. Get smart, save yourself….” He howled more, but I was out of his sight and earshot.
I returned to our monastery that evening and reflected on the way we see God in our tradition- quite a contrast to Hussain’s understanding.
I want to love God and not fear Him. The man’s anger, I thought, reflected his own fears and maybe he’s starved of love. I wished he felt God’s reciprocation, the way Saint Francis said, “We must fear God out of love, not love Him out of fear.”
From fear of God to Love
A chapel in Rome displays a painting of God where devotees look at a dazzling light with awe and fear. Hands outstretched and eyes widened, they beg for mercy. Contrast this with Vrindavan- the land of Krishna, the God for millions of Hindus- where you find many paintings of God in His baby form, bound by His mother, Yashoda. Here God begs for mercy!
His crime? He broke a clay pot and was caught red-handed stealing butter and distributing it amongst the monkeys of Vrindavan. His mischief had broken all records, and His concerned mother decided to punish Krishna by binding Him to a wooden grinding mortar.
To be continued…