"How often do you read Gita?" quipped Hannah staring at the book I was holding in my hand. I smiled back at my co-passenger on the train and replied "I try to read it everyday. But usually at least two days in a week for sure."
And her curiosity did not seem to stop there. She was quick to ask "Why do you read it?" I smiled and replied back saying that I enjoy reading it and that it answers a lot of questions that I seek answers to.
The next question really startled me - where are you going after this life? Hell of Heaven? WoW! I tried not to show my surprise and smiled back saying "I do not know!"
It felt very eerie that the only phrase I was using for the next barrage of questions from her was " I do not know!" The fact was I really did not know!
I guess she was exasperated with my constant mono-dimensional "I do not knows" and it showed up when she said "does it not frustrate you that you know so very little about this life?"
I smiled back and said " I want to know... But I am not in a hurry!"
I do not know why I was smiling all through my answers! May because those troubled questions regarding life have bothered me enough all through my childhood. I remember troubling everyone with those questions very early in my childhood. It was even more difficult for me to understand "life" specially during the phase I was an atheist. With out the framework of God, it was extremely difficult to grasp the essence and meaning of life! And now in front of me is someone who is questioning my "curiosity" (or rather lack of it) towards understanding life!
Its not that I understand life. Its not that I do not want to know about it. It is just that at this stage of my life I just am willing to persevere and wait till I understand what it is. I am not talking about intellectual definitions here. I want the answer to come from within me - I cant really explain what I am searching for... but the quest is on!
Now that is something which did not go well with her. That I was willing to wait for the answers! She mistook "waiting for the answers to arrive" to "no interest in knowing the answers!" And she quickly said "what if you die before you know the answer?" Well, what if I die? I die! There is nothing much I can do if I die before I know the answers... and I just put the question back to her "yeah ... so what can I do if I die earlier?"
The most interesting question she asked me was what I meant by living life to the fullest? That was an answer I had given her for one of the million rapid fire questions she posed! And now she needed an explanation!
That really set me thinking.... she prodded me and asked if "fullest" for me meant "pleasures". I did not answer... i was still contemplating what exactly living my life to the fullest meant to me. Was it fun, pleasure, recognition, fame, success? I did not know. But I was sure it was none of them.
I want to live a life where I can really live the way I know is the right way to live. A life where I truely internally realize that all life springs from God and be compassionate towards every life form. Now saying that intellectually is one thing and practising it is other.
Practising by deeds is tough. But try doing it even at the thought levels, and you will know the challenge it is posing me every day! Can I forget and feel no animosity for anyone? Can I wipe out all the anger in me at a subconcious level? It is one thing to 'talk' about love for all creatures, it is another thing to restrain your actions to show that. And it is yet another thing that even at the level of your subconcious you harbor no ill feelings even to people who have been unfair. Can I ever get to that state of empathy? I do not know... but I will try ...
As I thought further, Living life to the fullest also meant that I contribute and do justice to all the intellectual gifts that God has bestowed on me. I realized that intellect breeds arrogance. I also learnt that intellect with out ability to empathize with other people's needs leads only to the downfall of the self. I have lived most of my life in the past as if I was the Sun and everyone else revolved around me like the planets. I would consider that I would have lived my life to the fullest the day I sincerely, from with in, bring in a realization that I am just a tiny spec of dust on the periphery and if I can put others needs at par with my own. Its easy for me to speak all this at an intellectual level, but to do it and to do it consistently before I die is what I would seek.
Living life to the fullest? Does it also not include the courage to accept the mistakes I did and then with determination and grit work on correcting them?
and ... and....
Now so much was going through my mind, but I did not want to scare a stranger away... so I smiled and said "a life where I live to my full potential!"
And then she came to the original question ... "now tell me... you do not know most of the answers that you are seeking for. Why do you read that book then?"
I was a little baffled and I said "thats exactly why I read it!"
"So you have all the answers there?"
I said "May be! I want to find out!"
Then she was back again "do you know where you are going to after this life?"
For a second, I wondered if she was sent from the other world to deliver me away from earth! I got a little curious and I responded with another question... "do you know where you are heading to after your life?"
Pat came the answer - "Heaven!"
Why? Because Jesus will take her to Heaven. Because she has faith in Him.
I was happy for her. And I honestly admired her for the conviction and faith she had in God. Here I was, at a stage of struggling to understand God, Life and nuances of karma - and in front of me was a girl who seems to have understood it all!
But she had more to say... "Please go and get a bible.... read it and you will find all the answers!"
"Sure! When I get time, I will definitely read it", was my response. She did not seem to be happy about it. She insisted that I read it with out fail and subtly indicated that it will clear things that Gita could not answer for me so far.
I was surprised but I was still smiling and said "If you ever read the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhi, you would realize that Gita was his guide whenever encountered tough questions in life. So it is not necessarily the book alone, it is ultimately the recipient who needs to be of a certain standard to receive the knowledge. And it is obvious, that unlike the Mahatma, I am just a beginner on this path and hence I do not find all answers yet! But, yeah... I am definitely open to read the Bible!"
That did not seem to make Hannah too happy. But I still should thank the girl to set me thinking on what exactly living life to the full really means to me!
While I was about to get off the train, she again said "read the bible and it will answer all your questions!"
I have not read the Bible yet directly, but I firmly believe ultimate realization depends on the sincerity and maturity of the recipient of the knowledge and not just the book - be it the Quran, the Bible , the Upanishads or the Gita! And I promised myself to strive to achieve that purity in deed and thought, so that someday I will resonate internally with what I read!