I remember the autumn of 1987. I sat in the lap of the hills of Mussourie, India, at night. The infinity of the cosmos, our home, the milky way could be seen with the naked eye. As I looked up and gazed at the sheer enormity of it, an older Tibetan lady perched herself next to me.
She said to me, “beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yes,” I replied in complete wonderment.
She then asked me if I believed in God.
I had actually never thought about it. So I told her that it wasn’t my priority.
“It doesn’t really matter whether you have a belief or not. Just know that you have friend, a permanent best friend, the Universe. It is all powerful and helpful. If you ever get into a tight spot, ask this friend for help,” she told me.
I peered into her old eyes. They actually shone in the dark. It is difficult to write about it, but I felt a strange sense of peace when I saw those eyes.
Then she continued,”Do you know why this creator friend made the galaxies, the moon to shine at night? Why the Sunrise, the enormous creation? The joyous beauty?”
I looked blankly but curiously at her. After all I had barely entered the spirited world of early twenties. Not really the time for philosophy. But I somehow wanted to know the answer.
She did answer,”For all of its creation, but most importantly for the humans. We are the only ones who can appreciate these wonders and feel gratitude for them. Always remember son, whenever you encounter the artistry of nature, it is time to be thankful. Because it is made for you.”
She blessed me and disappeared into the night.
I don’t know if I ever understood that there was a God. But I did try to say a subliminal ‘thank you’ since that day; whenever the breeze brought a nip. When the scent of the Jasmine permeated the night. When the Sun rose or the moon shone at me. Whenever I encountered nature. And I did everyday, numerous times.
Two decades later, I happened to visit the same city.
It was night and from the terrace of my friend’s home, I saw once again the sight of twenty years ago. The same wonder, the identical wizardry in the sky.
Only this time it was different. She wasn’t there.
Yet this time I felt a presence. Inexplicable in words. A consciousness of unending love. A Divinity if I may say so. An experience so etched in my soul, that it feels real until today.
That night as I went to bed I happened to chance upon a writing of Ibn Arabi, a great sufi mystic of the twelfth century.
He wrote that every wonder of nature’s creation is made for ‘man’ to enjoy. To experience untold abundance, infinity of the creator. That is how the omnipresence can fully express itself.
It is one’s privilege to be grateful each time one experiences any wonderment of nature. Its beauty.
If you do that, it is assured that one day, the Universe, God will unfold itself to you.
Did I experience the awakening of that unfathomable infinity in me that night?
Maybe I did.