By Anthony Strano
Author’s bio: Anthony Strano is Director of Brahma Kumaris Centres in Greece, Hungary and Turkey
Anthony Strano explains what happens when we have a direct personal relationship with God and why it is important.
I remember when I was thirteen and I thought, “What am I going to do with my life? I’ve got the energy of youth, the aspirations of youth—what will I do?” I was growing up in Australia, a very free country; you can practically do anything you like at that age. I picked up the Bible and opened it. It opened at the place where God was asking Solomon, “What is it that you would like most of all?” I was surprised. Solomon didn’t ask for more money or a bigger palace or anything like that; he just said, “I would like to have wisdom.”
I thought, “That’s a good thing to ask for, to be wise and understanding.” Further on I read, “Beware of youth! Youth is like the green grass. Today it is fresh and glowing and tomorrow it will be dry and the wind will come and just blow it away.” So I started thinking, “When I’m thirty or forty and I look back on what I have done, what will I say? Will I be happy with the decisions I made?” I remember that whole day, just staying in silence. I always liked silence. It was a mirror through which I could understand many things, not analytically, but I could feel them. I had a characteristic that I never quite trusted my own perception about things. I felt it was easy to delude yourself, so one must always have a point inside oneself from which one is observing.
One Christmas Day, I woke up very early and decided to go into the forest. It was just around dawn and there was an oval fir tree with a lot of dew on it. I was watching it. The sun rose higher and higher and rays of light hit the drops of dew and the wind started to blow. It was a beautiful experience, all those drops of dew starting to reflect many different colors—green and blue and red and yellow—and as the wind was blowing lightly the colors were changing. It was like a Christmas gift to me, nature’s Christmas tree. Then of course the sun rose completely and all that finished. I thought it would be nice to be like one of those drops, somehow able to reflect something hidden, something silent, but also very beautiful.
I began to realize that to have a true connection with yourself, with God, with other people, it is important to keep a very deep faith and a very consistent humility, because the faith in yourself, in God and in other people helps you to go beyond many difficulties, doubts and tests, and makes you confident that—even though you may not understand—there is always a solution. You also need humility to never ever get into the trap that ‘I KNOW’. Always keep the self open, for only when I am open is truth given to the self as a gift. All divine things are gifts; the only effort one needs to make is to position the self in such a way that one is able to receive those gifts. As one receives those gifts they increase as one shares them. But you share them simply as an instrument—not as one who made the gifts. Whether it is of wisdom, of peace, of happiness—those were given, absorbed and shared.
As you read about others’ encounters with God, you find with some that it transforms their life, becomes the foundation of all their life. Others have it but then forget it, and get lost in routine again, lose the awareness, the wonder of that encounter. When there is a genuine encounter with the divine, the human being feels three things—deep transformation, deep insight and great inspiration.
Transformation is driven by the desire to really change the self, to return to something pure and original that has been forgotten or that has been polluted, and knowing very deeply that if there has been this transformation within the self then certainly one will be in a position to help and co-operate with other human beings. A deep transformation only comes when there is that encounter with God, because what transforms the depths of the self is love. If God remains abstract, as for many people, then there is very little transformation. When God becomes personal and real then one is able to experience the relationship, and it is through relationship that one begins to experience the love that gives one faith in oneself and the courage to change.
The encounter, which is silent and very personal, often cannot be described. In some ways it shouldn’t be described too much. In the silence there arises insight. Insight is the opening of the third eye and spiritual blindness is taken away—in particular the blindness of being very critical about things and people, of getting lost in weaknesses of others and caught up in trivial things. Insight is where I am able to see the positive reality of others, no matter what their appearance may be, no matter how negative they may appear to be. The insight of someone who has encountered God is to see through God’s eyes, to be able to see others as one’s brother or one’s sister. It is this insight that starts to create a sense of unity and friendship, and a sense of belonging to all.
A personal encounter with God also gives me great inspiration. The impossible can become possible. There’s nothing that I can’t do. There is always that support, acceptance, faithfulness from God in His relationship with you. He doesn’t abandon damage or diminish you, but holds you. You are sacred to Him. It is great inspiration when you feel this, not just knowing it intellectually but also feeling it.
From abstract to real, this is something we all have to make an effort for. That comes from going into stillness, silence and listening. When there is this encounter, one’s faith and courage are empowered. There are always tests, problems, difficulties, but one always has that strength to overcome them because one is now able to look and see with another ‘eye’. One sees with an invisible eye, you hear with another ear, an invisible ear. One does not have to see everything ready and tangible in front. I don’t have to see the solution because I know it’s there and it comes at the right time. The person who has a genuine encounter and ongoing experience develops a lot of kindness, generosity, tolerance—but especially non-violence. They never think they are better or superior, or inferior. There is a feeling of equality with others—that others are as good as me, that whatever good I have in my own self, others have it also.
When you have that genuine encounter with God, the vision of universality is restored and there is an attention on personal change and giving. There is never an inflated sense of superiority. However many forget to protect their genuine encounter with God with humility and self-respect. Instead they start to say, “I saw this vision, I saw this light, and I got this message.” So what did I do with the message, with the light? Did I grow? Growth is measured by the respect I have for others and the non-violent attitude towards all things. I accept any differences as something divine and enhancing for the world; I realize such differences do not limit but enrich.
One thing is very important in cultivating our encounters with God. While we have to make an effort in our movement towards God, equally we need to be aware of the point at which to stop, to be still, and be guided. We grow up in the West feeling that we have to create everything, we have to make it happen, that it’s up to us. It is in a way, but it’s not all up to me. Sometimes I just have to position myself. When I first went to learn meditation as a method to get closer to God I had very good experiences of God, which I didn’t expect so quickly. I remember, the very first time, feeling God, not just as the Father, but as the Mother. I had never thought about the Motherhood of God before, but as the rather traditional Fatherhood. I had the feeling of God, my eternal Mother, looking at me sweetly and whispering. “I love you as you are, you do not have to prove yourself. You are what you are and I love and accept that. But, yes, make the effort to change, to awaken the purer part of the self and this will bring you great joy.” Quickly afterwards I felt the Fatherhood of God, like a wave of great gentleness soothing the self. He was definitely not ‘the stern authority in charge’, which I had learnt about in school.
I never felt God was really strict and authoritarian anyway. As well as a Mother and Father, He was a wise and concerned Teacher trying to keep me on the right path.
When I was very young and some adults were upset with me they told me, “God is looking at you and only forgives you 3 times if you are naughty.” I got really afraid because I know l had been naughty many more times than just 3. Everyday, my naughtiness or ‘mistakes’ were in the vicinity of at least 33! because one day I had made a conscious count of my ‘sins’. When you are very young the things you are told impress themselves on you. But deep down I thought, “I’m sure God’s not like that. God doesn’t measure.” God is a Friend. And the blessing of such a benevolent friendship is a true gift from Him.
My own experience with meditation has been that when I step into silence and I tune my mind and connect with this Benevolent Point, this Point of Benevolence for all of the universe, when I can connect to that current, then I fill myself, not just with light, but with deep compassion and understanding. In that compassion and understanding, there is change in the self, attitudes, vision towards others. This is why, when people say God, Allah or Father and then there is a lot of violence in their behaviour towards others, it is clear that they are very far from God. The one who is pure cannot be violent, cannot give sorrow. In silence we have that encounter with the Benevolent One. Then we are able to feel ourselves lifted, our consciousness is lifted and made positive, encompassing, and reconciling with other souls. We feel the joy of being alive, of being a human being. We don’t reject anything and we don’t get attached to anything, because both poles do not keep the balance and the harmony necessary to maintain joy.
When we have an encounter with God we experience God’s Fatherhood, God’s Motherhood and above all God’s friendship, sweet friendship. Yes, the ancient Egyptians were very right, God the Father, the Mother, is the Lord of Sweetness, and it is that sweetness that takes away the bitterness of the past and enables us to experience the power of forgiveness, to let go of things, not hold grudges. When there is that forgiveness for my own self then I can start to realize who I can really be.
This love-filled transformation makes a human being spiritual. A true relationship transforms and frees you, it does not bind and limit. When we encounter God as He truly is, then our consciousness ascends to a level of universality and compassion where there are no barriers of resentment, accusation or fear.
To be able to keep your courage, faith and principles, even in times of opposition, and to keep a kind eye on those who oppose you—this is spiritual! This is the ability to have mercy and compassion towards those who criticize and oppose. It’s not just a question of being stable and strong but having a kind eye for everyone. For that we require the sustenance of a personal relationship with God or else we can’t do it. If I don’t feel that relationship, I can be kind once or twice to people who are negative towards me, but to keep doing it requires a very positive, continuous flow of strength within the self. This is why meditation is important, not just for the self, but also for others. It’s in meditation that I get close to God and experience the power he is constantly offering me. This closeness to God is called bliss. Bliss is an experience that is internal, beyond touch, sight or anything physical and no-one can ever take that away from me. I carry it within myself.