Why My Hindu Practice Has Made Me A Better Catholic
A man gains a better appreciation for the Catholic religion from his Hindu practice.
As I began to study the great Bhagavad-Gita, I found out that my seemingly childish impression of a personal and loving God was not actually so. It was steeped in the deepest truth. The theology of the Gita is immense and all-inclusive. The reality of the Divine is explained in three ways: God is His all-pervasive, transpersonal essence, at the same time He is also the guide or conscience within our heart, and at the same time He is also a distinct individual. It is His unique personal feature which the Gita describes as being the preeminent of these three aspects.
The Gita climaxes with this passage, in which Krishna, the original Personality of God as described in Hinduism, tells his friend Arjuna that:
Always think of Me, become My devotee, worship Me and offer your homage unto Me. Thus you will come to Me without fail. I promise you this because you are My very dear friend.
I remember hearing, as a child, that God was always with me, seeing what I was doing, understanding my heart. There was never a moment where I felt threatened by this. Instead, I simply felt like I had a dear friend who would always be with me, and who would always help me, and whom I felt I could love in return. As I entered into the Bhakti faith I began to experience this simple reality in all its depth.
The path of Bhakti which I follow is a system of connection, or yoga, with God, based on the idea of loving, devotional service. Real devotional service is the giving of one's body, mind, and words to the service of God. In the Bhakti-rasamrta-sindhu, a classical 16th Century devotional treatise, we read that:
"When first-class devotional service develops, one must be devoid of all material desires, knowledge obtained by monistic philosophy, and fruitive action. The devotee must constantly serve Kṛṣṇa favorably, as Kṛṣṇa desires.'
The Hindu diaspora is filled with examples of such fidelity, including A.C Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who braved the rigors of old age to bring the Bhakti tradition to the West at the age of 70 in 1965. In my exploration of my Christian roots, I come across the same mood in St. Francis of Assisi, who understood very deeply that to truly serve means to be an instrument of God. St. Francis wrote that:
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved, as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive