Finding God's Presence Within Ourselves

Deepa Menon
Deepa Menon
By Deepa Menon
Washington, D.C.
Friday, December 1, 2006; 2:28 PM

I suppose I was definitely not an enlightened-at-birth child. I was born and raised a Hindu (courtesy parents), went to Sunday school (best friend) and attended Koran classes (cute crush). And there I was a typical sincere "convenient believer". If the going was tough, I'd pray, even offer a few dollars in exchange for divine intervention. At other times, chocolate cake scored.

Until 2000. That year, I met "God" and "faith", neatly packaged into one man with flowing robes and long hair -- His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

I'd just attended the Art of Living Foundation's incredible stress elimination program, cognized by Sri Sri. At the end of it, I attended his seminar. My first thought when I saw him was, "Oh he's so little!" Over time, I would see how five feet and five inches were a perfect cover to the personality and charisma that lay beyond.

One of the first things I remember Sri Sri, or Guruji as he is known, saying was (paraphrasing), "God is omnipresent. So, what stops you from seeing Him in yourself?" Suddenly, God became more than an "I-know-it-all" from Hogwarts. For the first time, I was amazed, not just at the traffic at Dupont Circle, but at the knowledge that God might exist within me. And my noisy neighbor!

Now, Art of Living is a volunteer organization that spearheads trauma relief and sustainable development projects all over the world. I saw how Guruji would entrust volunteers with major projects and encourage them. I wondered, "How can this person entrust regular people like me with such high profile projects and risk his name?" Strangely enough, all Art of Livings projects have a resounding success rate.

At that moment, faith redefined itself. It dawned upon me that Sri Sri was my Guru (the Sanskrit term for teacher). Revered in ancient India, a Guru's purpose in life is the disciple's growth. Through Sri Sri, I learned how wisdom and selfless service go hand in hand, and most importantly, how no situation or person is worth losing my smile over. You see, it is easier to see God in a smiling me.

In India, we play a game. As children we are asked, "If God had to come down to earth in one person's form, who would He be?" We named everything from pets to parents.

Today, for me, that answer would be "My Guru".

© 2006 The Washington Post Company