Interview with Prakash and Aruna Paingankar
"The essentials of all religions are the same: serve; love; give; purify; meditate; realize; be good; do good, be kind, be compassionate, enquire, 'Who am I'; know thy self and be free; love all; serve all; serve the Lord in all; speak the truth; be pure; be humble; concentrate; meditate; attain self-realization. These are the essentials of all religions. Customs, conventions, ceremonies are non-essentials; do not fight over petty non-essentials. Prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage are the first steps in all religions.
Be tolerant; be catholic; have a broad outlook; respect all prophets, all saints, all messengers of God. All saints speak the same language; all religions lead to God. Remember this point well, and live in peace and harmony with all."
- The Hindu religion is a way of life... all Indian prayers are related to all human beings. It's never for me. For instance, Sarve sukinah sant - let everybody be happy. Every prayer is like that. And that's not just for the Hindus, it's not only for my family, it's for everybody, the entire world.
- There's a saying in Sanskrit: The whole world is your family.
- But Hinduism believes in reincarnation. They always say that whatever you have done, you pay for it in the next life.
- In the Hindu religion, we don't force anybody to convert. You will never find a missionary going from door to door, asking people to become Hindu. If a non-Hindu person wants to marry my son, I don't have to make that non-Hindu person into a Hindu first.
- I pray once in the morning; the moment I get up, I pray. I have the Ganesha in my room. When I take a shower I do some small puja, small prayer for about ten minutes, and when I go to sleep, I do the same thing.
- I've been praying for my two grandchildren. I pray to God every day, without fail, to give them the best. Give them the best of everything they can possibly get-and the best is wisdom.
- In Indian philosophy, you always invoke God before you do anything.
- One musician told me that when he has a concert he always asks that one chair remain empty in the front row for God.
Ann: Prakash, what spiritual tradition were you raised in?
Prakash: I was born and raised a Hindu in India, near Bombay. Our son was born here, and our daughter was born in India.
Ann: And Aruna, you were born in India also?
Ann: Did you meet one another in India?
Ann: And when did you come here?
Prakash: I came in 1964, and I lived here as a bachelor until 1968. We got married in India, and then we both came here. But before that, I was here for four years. I came for my master's degree from NYU, and after I finished, I brought my parents here, and they stayed with me for one year. They liked the country, and they said my wife should also come here.
Ann: So you came? You started a whole new life, right? How about your children? Have they been back to India to visit?
Prakash: Yes, they visit quite often.
Ann: So they’re truly connected. You were saying that your daughter is married to somebody who is not a Hindu?
Prakash: She is married to an Englishman, and he’s a Protestant, but he doesn’t follow any religion as such. Our grandson Anand loves this God, Ganesha- there’s a Hindu temple in Flushing, Queens, and he asks us to take him there. His father doesn’t object, and I’m not going to tell him to choose Hinduism or Christianity.
Ann: No, he has to choose. But it’s wonderful for a child to be exposed to different religions.
Prakash: He’s now five, but one day when he was two years old, climbing up the staircase, he said, "Baba," he calls me Baba, "Can you take me to temple today?" He loves God, he prays to God every day. There’s a tape I have in my car all the time, and he makes us pray with the tape every time we sit in the car. We’ve had to play that tape every time he’s been here since he was one and a half years old.
Ann: That’s beautiful. And what is his name?
Prakash: His name is Anand. Anand means bliss (in Sanskrit).
Ann: Now, how many years have you followed the Hindu tradition? How old are you now?
Prakash: I’m sixty-two and Aruna is fifty-six and we’ve both been Hindu since birth.
Ann: And you’ve been very devout?
Prakash: Yes. I don’t particularly go to temple that often. That’s one of the Hindu principles I want to talk to you about. The Hindu religion is not a disciplined religion-in terms of going to temple every Sunday, for instance. The Hindu religion is a way of life. That’s all it is. There’s no definition as such-the way of life is called Hinduism. It stresses non-violence to start with: Don’t kill anything, don’t wreck any lives. You must have heard the word "shanti." Shanti, shanti, shanti-always peace and peace and peace. And the other thing about Indian prayers is that all Indian prayers are related to all human beings. It’s never for me. For instance, "Sarve sukinah sant-let everybody be happy."Every prayer is like that. And that’s not just for the Hindus, it’s not only for my family, it’s for everybody, the entire world.
Ann: Oh, what a beautiful principle. If we could all follow that!
Aruna: There’s a saying in Sanskrit, "The whole world is your family."
Ann: Beautiful and true. Absolutely true.
Prakash: May all be happy, may all be healthy, may all experience what is good, and let no one suffer. Every prayer is like that-may peace be for all, may good befall all, may peace befall all.
Ann: Let me read this, because it’s beautiful, "May good befall all, may there be peace for all, may all be fit for perfection and may all experience that which is auspicious."
Have you ever lost faith with Hinduism?
Ann: What happened that you lost faith? Do you know?
Prakash: My belief gets shattered when I see untimely deaths, or children suffering. That’s what makes me think. But Hinduism believes in reincarnation. They always say that whatever you have done, you pay for it in the next life. My question is, why did God create the world like this? Why do we do something in this life and get paid or rewarded or punished in our next life? Why not complete the act and the punishment in this life alone so people will be more scared to do bad things?
Ann: Christianity said that-you’ve only got this one shot, you’d better be good.
Prakash: Okay then, you see we believe in reincarnation.
Ann: I believe in reincarnation too.
Prakash: But I think that belief makes many people behave well. Because I don’t want to suffer in my next life what I’m suffering now. Why should I suffer in my next life also? Eventually you become a saint.
Ann: Is there any way to know how many lives you’ve already lived?
Prakash: I believe in astrology, and I was told I had three lives before. One was a rich man, another was an ordinary person, and I forget the third one. I haven’t experienced it myself. But I fully believe in reincarnation.
Ann: And Aruna, do you believe in reincarnation?
Aruna: Yes, I do.
Ann: Prakash, what brought you back to faith?
Prakash: God has given me so much. Why should I complain about something wrong happening to me? I’ll give you an example. Friends of ours lost their daughter, who was the same age as our son. She was about twenty-five, and they completely lost faith in God. They came to me and said, "We have lost faith in God since He took our daughter away."
So I said, "Yes, I agree with you, He’s cruel and all that, but look at what you’ve got in your life. You’ve got a beautiful wife. You have enough money to be absolutely happy. You have one daughter and one son. You are living in this country. You know, God has given you everything-He took one thing away; don’t not believe in God for that. Thank God that until fifty-five or sixty you had all these things."
Bad things have to happen. I understand that’s very easily said, and at the same time, I also believe that losing a child is absolutely the worst suffering in life. Cancer is much better. I would rather suffer from cancer myself than lose my own child. Things like that shatter my belief in God, but I come back again.
Ann: Have you ever studied any other spiritual paths?
Prakash: Like what?
Ann: Like Christianity. Did you ever read anything about Christianity?
Prakash: We learned of it in school, but never really studied it.
Ann: So Hinduism filled your need?
Ann: And of course, since Hinduism says to honor all people, that makes it very easy, right? Some religions claim to be the only way, so studying other religions can really open some people’s minds-but you didn’t have to have your mind opened.
Prakash: Also, in the Hindu religion we don’t force anybody to convert. You will never find a missionary going from door to door, asking people to become Hindu. If a non-Hindu person wants to marry my son, I don’t have to make that non-Hindu person into a Hindu first.
Ann: Can you name some people who have been your spiritual heroes or heroines? People you admire, who directed you toward Hinduism? Or it might be books or things like that.
Prakash: We weren’t directed into Hinduism, we were born Hindus. My grandmother, my mother’s mother, used to perform all the prayers every day for one hour in the morning and one hour in the evening, and I was brought up in that kind of a custom. So I was directed by her.
I believe one of the biggest people in the Hindu religion is Swami Vivekananda. He gave a speech in 1893, at the First Parliament of World Religions in Chicago. They say it is one of the best speeches about religion-on all faiths, interfaith.
Aruna: And he was very young at that time.
Prakash: And he was the first one to use the term "brothers and sisters." He has been one of my spiritual leaders.
Ann: And Aruna, have there been any spiritual influences in your family?
Aruna: In my family we didn’t perform so many religious rituals because my father and my grandfather did not believe in God, as such, but they believed in humanity. My mother’s side was religious, so I had exposure to both.
Ann: We were talking before about harsh things happening. Can you cite any profound spiritual experiences you’ve had associated with birth or sickness or death? Have you had a sense of the divine, or a sense of protection or a mystical experience?
Prakash: Well, I lost my cousin at the age of fifty-two. It was another shattering experience for me. He suffered from cancer. I have never, ever known a better person in my entire life-and I’m not saying that because he is my cousin. He was always very happy, always very calm, quiet, helping every human being he could help. And then he was taken away by God. I just received a letter from his wife, and it made me cry so much. She asks why God wanted him; he was so nice on this earth. So that shatters your opinion.
But, I’ll be honest, I have two grandchildren, but when Anand was born, I firmly believe some spiritual thing was born in him. The way he goes to God and the way he prays, the way he wants to go to temple and the way he is calm and quiet. I believe there is some touch of God in him-God sent a gift to me. At my age, I needed some peace and quiet, and God sent him to me.
Ann: You told me a lovely story about an illness.
Prakash: Last May, I had a gallbladder operation. I was supposed to be home in one or two days. The doctor said the operation was very easy, and I shouldn’t worry about it. So we went, and it turned out to be a nightmare. Something happened, I had some fluid buildup, and the doctor kept me there for ten days, and those were the worst ten days in my life. That was my first operation, and the hospital is not my favorite place anyway.
So after ten days I begged the doctor to let me go home. "You are just collecting fluid and throwing it out, I can do this myself; I don’t need a nurse. I’m old enough to do all that." So I came home, and the fluid was still going on, and I was getting nervous. So I went to Mt. Sinai Hospital and told the doctor, and the doctor said it was very close to my liver and I would have to be operated on. We fixed the date for June twenty-fifth -it was June seventeenth or eighteenth. Then this friend of ours came in from India, like a godsend. She hadn’t been here for two or three years and she called Aruna and said, "Where is Prakash?" When she learned I was in the hospital, she couldn’t believe it. She came and gave me Reiki. I was praying to God the hardest I ever had in my life, because I didn’t want to go for another operation. So, anyway, after we went to Dr. Schwartz at Mt. Sinai, we came back and in two days the fluid had stopped.
Ann: So it’s a miracle?
Prakash: It was absolutely a miracle. I believe that it was because of the Reiki-there must be some good to that-and because I was praying hard, and God came and touched my stomach and said, "You’re all right. Go." Instead of having an operation on June twenty-fifth, I was working on June twenty-fifth.
Ann: So God sent your friend to you, and the alignment of the energy is what did it.
Prakash: Exactly. Two things aligned together and it expedited the whole process.
Ann: When I do prayers on people who really have a sense that there is a bigger picture and a divine being, I can feel the energy move in their bodies much faster than with people who are doubtful. God will heal anybody, but certainly having a spiritual path really helps.
Prakash: It helped me. It gives me a lot of courage, I tell you. When I’m down, when something goes wrong, I’ve had prayer for so many years, I know He is behind me. I always feel that He will take care of me, and He really has. I am not the wealthiest man, but He has given me enough.
Ann: The important blessings?
Prakash: All the important blessings I want. One daughter, one son, a beautiful mother, a beautiful father. My mother passed away two years ago, but I had her a long time-she was eighty-six when she passed away. I’ve been blessed, and I’m very thankful to God. And I still keep on praying-I pray once in the morning; the moment I get up, I pray. I have the Ganesha in my room. When I take a shower I do some small puja, small prayer for about ten minutes, and then when I go to sleep, I do the same thing.
Ann: And is it a fixed prayer?
Prakash: No to be honest with you, I’ve come to a state in my life where my prayers are humming in my mind unknowingly. I’ll go for a walk at lunch in Brooklyn, and my prayers are going on. I take a tape sometimes and listen to it.
Ann: And Aruna, have you had any experiences where you had a sense of the divine?
Aruna: Not divine as such.
Ann: Have you felt protected or directed? A lot of people have a sense of a door opening.
Aruna: That happened once when my daughter was getting married. We didn’t know anything-she and her husband met in London, and when they got married, Prakash and I were worrying about what type of person this man was. And believe it or not, my grandmother came in my dream and she said, "Why are you worried? I am there to take care of your daughter; don’t worry about this marriage." And I stopped worrying. I said, you know what, somebody has sent me a message. And so far, the marriage has worked out well. They’ve been married eleven years.
Ann: Your son-in-law is not Hindu, but you can still pray together. He honors your journey, and you honor his journey.
Prakash: Absolutely, and not only my journey, he allows his own children to go the way they want.
Ann: Now, Prakash, you said a little bit about your spiritual practices, that you were really raised with these holy principles? Is that right?
Ann: And your family Aruna-although it wasn’t as religious-what were the principles that your family taught?
Aruna: I think everyday life-the first thing is humanity. You don’t lie; you don’t hurt people, that sort of thing.
Ann: But you see, if you don’t have a spiritual path, sometimes you’re never taught that. I think a spiritual path makes those boundaries, makes that path.
Prakash: One of the books Hindus follow is called Gita. And there’s one small phrase I will read to you, "You have but the right to perform action; you have no hold on the results thereof." You perform the action today, but don’t expect any results made from it. May you not seek the rewards of action, and may you never engage in the wrong action. This is the most important standard in the Book of Gita, or Gita, as they call it.
Ann: You just do it because it needs to be done.
Prakash: As much as I want to practice, it’s a difficult standard to follow. If I do something good for somebody, indirectly or directly I hope it does something for me.
Ann: That’s right, it’s our ego. Are there any other prayers than that?
Prakash: No. But I want to show you that the prayer includes everybody-not only me, myself and my family, but everybody in the world, everybody you know should be happy and content.
Aruna: Usually when your elders tell you to pray, they tell small children to ask God to give them wisdom. My grandmother and my mother and everybody, they said, "If you pray to God ask for wisdom; don’t ask for anything else, because wisdom will get you everything."
Ann: Your husband says he prays twice a day. Do you pray during the day?
Aruna: Yes I do. But we usually pray individually.
Ann: And Prakash, do you meditate as well?
Prakash: To me, prayer is meditation. I listen to a lot of Indian classical music, it’s one of my hobbies. I think that music allows me to meditate. As a matter of fact, one of the most fantastic singers is a divine singer. He once said that when we sing, we are not singing, we are meditating aloud. Because we have to concentrate on that path; we have to go a certain path-for the next half an hour or an hour, That’s where we go.
It’s not related to religion, but Indian classical music is a totally different music than anywhere in the world. The musicians don’t read books; there is no music in front of you. One particular thing can be sung for two minutes, five minutes, one hour, because there is no music in front of you. And if you are singing it properly, that music brings up the sound "ohm," which means peace. I have heard some people sing so that you can hear the "ohm" in the background by itself.
Ann: There’s a beautiful center up in the Catskills-have you ever heard of Gurumayi? I’ve been there, and I’ve watched people go into ecstasy, just from the singing.
Prakash: I believe in that, because I listen to music a lot of times; in my car, my home, going to the train to Brooklyn, I have my Walkman on listening to music. Aruna claims my blood pressure is low because of music.
Aruna: And he’s a type A personality!
Ann: How about you Aruna? Do you meditate or spend any time on reflection?
Aruna: Yes, I do a lot of reflecting on what I’ve done, and what I should do, and what I shouldn’t do. That sort of thing comes to my mind quite often.
Prakash: Every morning she has her cup of tea. She has to get up before me, and she sits in the kitchen reflecting on the good days, the bad days, all that has to be done. She remembers her forefathers, and parents-you know both of us have lost our parents now. We’re getting old. But she remembers in that way.
Ann: We’re the frontline now, right?
Prakash: Exactly. That’s why I look at Anand, and I say that’s the beginning of the end.
Ann: That’s right. I do that with my grandchildren. Now, can God talk to us? Can you really hear the divine?
Prakash: Yes, He directs you. Many times, especially when you have problems, or you are going on the wrong path, your conscious mind tells you, "Wait, come back to the right path."
Ann: And Aruna, you find that also?
Ann: Do you have a spiritual community?
Prakash: Yes. There’s a temple in Queens. There’s a temple right on Long Island here. People don’t go to these temples regularly; you go when you feel like going, or if there is a special day, some special occasion. For instance, there is a special day for Ganesh. We’ll go for that, and you should see the procession that day; it’s one of the biggest ones in Queens. It’s in September. It’s community.
Ann: So you would go to temple for certain events?
Prakash: If I have to make a special prayer, or if I’m really happy, I like to go there. We go as much as possible. The temple is about thirty miles from us, so it’s a little bit far out.
Ann: So is it a Sunday service or a Saturday service?
Prakash: Every morning.
Ann: Every day? You can go any day? Is there a priest who is there?
Prakash: Yes, there’s a priest, and they open the temple at seven in the morning, or even earlier, and it’s open until nine at night.
Ann: And are there certain times for prayers and teachings?
Prakash: Yes, and there’s a ritual there-at this time and this time we do this, you know. And in Hinduism there are lots of gods. They say that there are 33 million gods. But three of them are the most important: the Brahma, the Vishnu and the Mahesh-the Creator, the Protector and the Destroyer. So there’s a temple of four gods there in Queens.
Aruna: This temple is not run by a saint or yogi; it’s people like us who are running that temple. They are praying to Ganesh, they are praying to daily Goddess, they are praying to Shiva. That is the temple that we have in India. And those priests do not heal you; they will tell you to pray to God.
Ann: Earlier we started to talk about why bad things happen to good people. Maybe you can talk about that-Why do bad things happen to good people?
Prakash: Payback time.
Ann: Payback time? Really?
Prakash: Reincarnation. When you do bad, you may not pay in this birth, but you pay in the next. And both Aruna and I believe in destiny. Whatever is going to happen is going to happen. My payback could be less or more, but destiny is destiny, you cannot control it.
There is a story in the Hindu religion about a king who was told that he was going to die on such and such a date. He said, "No way, I’m king. I’m not going to die; I’ll protect myself in every possible way. He went into his castle, and all his soldiers were on alert, there was a doctor and all that, and nothing happened.
At 11 o’clock at night, the king said, "See, I’m still alive. Nothing is going to happen to me today." Then he took a bite out of an apple, and there was a small poisonous worm in there, and he fell over. When your time is up, your time is up. Whether you are a king, a doorman, whatever, your time is up. So we both believe in destiny. I think that it’s our destiny to be here.
Ann: To be in America?
Prakash: Yes, and neither of us has one single relative in this country. I don’t think that’s true for every Indian. Most have somebody or other, but neither of us has a single relative in this country.
Ann: You were in school, and then you went back and got your wife?
Prakash: Yes. I came here to get my master’s degree. I was here working for four years, and then I went to India and got married, and we both came back to America in 1968.
Ann: And did you know Aruna while you were still in school?
Ann: So, you went back and met her when you finished your master’s degree?
Ann: Destiny then.
Aruna: Yes, I believe all major things in your life are controlled by destiny.
Prakash: We believe in horoscope and astrology.
Aruna: You cannot avoid that.
Prakash: That’s true
Ann: I went to an astrologer last summer, and she said to me that I was going to meet a man shortly, and he would be strong, and he would not need me but he would want me. And I would not need him, but I’d want him. And in the next month I met a wonderful man. I had been alone for 18 years. It had been a long time. We have a spiritual connection, we really do.
Prakash: And what kind of astrology was this?
Ann: It was definitely done with a chart. She sits with your chart and she actually hears or sees patterns that you wouldn’t necessarily. My sister is an astrologer and she does my charts but it is a certain level of understanding. This woman really does it from a mystical level. It is very interesting.
Prakash: How much of this besides this, she told you is the most important for you to understand, anything else?
Ann: She just said there is going to be a lot of changes in my life. I don’t remember the other things.
Prakash: Does she charge you money for that?
Ann: Oh yes. I paid her $100.00.
Prakash: For one hour?
Ann: Yes. She lives way out in the mid West. I called her and we did it over the phone and then she sent me a tape of the session But my teacher, my spiritual teacher, said I should do that. She said it is part of my training to understand how these mystical connections happen; how someone one thousand miles away can look at a piece of paper and give you a profound reading. I didn’t speak with her at all. I just gave her my name, my birth date, where I was born. She then looked mystically at what was going to happen in my life. The most outstanding thing is that a wonderful man came into my life. The other things where you can always say your life is going to change, good things are going to come your way, there’s going to be some sadness or sickness, we’re all going to get that.
Ann: Well, That’s going to happen. Right?
Ann: But this was so distinct that I was really a little bit awed!
Prakash: I know many who do believe in that now in Astrology readings.
Ann: Do you believe in praying for certain things?
Prakash: I’ll be honest, in my prayers, I’ve been praying for my two grandchildren. I pray to God every day, without fail, to give them the best. Give them the best of everything they can possibly get-and the best is wisdom.
And I tell you honestly, that’s why Anand is coming out so well. He’s five and he’s reading second grade books already. He has three hundred books here; I buy him a book every day. And I think his father is the reason he loves to read so much. Roger was reading books to Anand from the day he came home from the hospital. And he just loves books.
Ann: And then he can read easily because he’s so used to books! That’s wonderful. Grandparents are incredibly important, you can’t underestimate that. Your grandchildren are very blessed. I have 10 grandchildren and pray for them also but not every day - I should start that practice.
Prakash: You asked me who gave me direction in my life. It was my grandmother. My mother’s mother; she was a very spiritual lady. She was totally uneducated, but I have not come across any woman smarter than her in my life. She could not even write, but she had money she kept in the bank, and she learned how to sign her name just so that the bank would accept her account-because she didn’t want to put her tongue impression on the paper. And her signature was a special calligraphy. But she had a huge part in my spiritual learning, and she still does.
Ann: Well, what do you think our place in the world is, as human beings? What is it that we are supposed to be doing in our lives?
Prakash: Giving as much pleasure to other people as we can. Helping as many people as we can. That’s my goal in life-being helpful to as many people as I can, in any way possible.
Aruna: That is his personality. He is absolutely giving in nature.
Prakash: My philosophy-and this has nothing to do with Hinduism-but my philosophy is that I want my children to enjoy whatever money I have while I’m alive. I don’t want any will, nothing to be left behind. Right now, I want to help my daughter. She wants to buy a house-okay, if she wants some money, I’ll give her the money. When Anand was born I bought the best furniture I could buy for him. Let them enjoy it. What is the sense of giving them the money after I am gone? I cannot see what they do with it; I cannot enjoy it.
When we were new to this country, we had no backup. Having no relatives here, if I had been without a job, we would have had it really hard. But my daughter and my son have the feeling that if something happens, their father can support them for some time at least. But we had nobody, and that was a big, big handicap when we came to this country.
Ann: But you did it, right?
Prakash: I didn’t do it. God made me do it. I believe it.
Ann: He gives us the possibility.
Prakash: I’m still in touch with India. I go there every year almost.
Ann: Do you have siblings?
Prakash: Yes, one brother and one sister.
Ann: You’re all Hindu, and yet you’re living in totally different cultures. What would you say is the difference?
Prakash: The thinking. I’m going to be a little selfish. My philosophy in life is not the same as my brother’s or my sister’s. I like to give as much as I can-not only money, but help. Whatever I can do for people, I’ll do it. They are living good lives too-I’m not saying they are living bad lives. But once you come to this country you learn different things in life, your mannerisms change, the way you
Ann: Have you ever been tempted to go back and live in India?
Prakash: No way.
Aruna: When we were young, probably.
Prakash: Yes, we thought about it. I went to build a house there, where I was born. I liked the town, so I built a house there. My brother lives downstairs, and I have an apartment upstairs. But now, if I went and stayed there for good, I’d miss my children and my grandchildren. When I moved here at the age of twenty-four, I missed my parents. If I go there now, I’m going to miss the second generation-so I lost the first generation, and I would lose the second generation. I’d be a loser; I don’t want to be a loser.
Ann: This is your home, and this is where you’re going to build.
Prakash: Exactly. I like to visit, naturally. I have my best friends there, still.
Ann: Is there a Hindu language?
Prakash: No. Hindu is a religion. And an Indian is not a Hindu; keep that in mind. People always think an Indian is a Hindu.
Ann: And you say, there are Muslims and Christians and Jews in India as well.
Prakash: And there are Hindus who do not follow the Hindu religion. One of the policies of the Hindu religion is non-violence. And because of that Hindus don’t eat meat.
Ann: So you’re vegetarians?
Prakash: I’m partly vegetarian now. I gave up meat in 1984. Aruna still eats some, but not much at all. Even if we don't have meat for seven days we don't miss it.
Ann: Is there anything you would want to say to people about the importance of having a spiritual path? How has it enriched your life? How could it enrich somebody else’s path?
Prakash: Well, believing in God, or having a path, guides you in the right way. It gives me a lot of inner peace in times of trouble and in times of happiness also. There is never too much joy, and there is never too much sorrow. There’s a balance-the spiritual path leads you to a balanced life. It’s very difficult to practice, but you can do it.
Ann: Aruna, is there anything you would like to say about your spiritual path or about whether people should have a path?
Aruna: Yes, people should definitely have some kind of path-whether it’s spiritual or intellectual. Believe in something, and then your life will be much easier.
Prakash: In Indian philosophy, you always invoke God before you do anything.
Ann: In prayer?
Prakash: In prayer. If a person is singing, he will sing God’s prayer first. If you have a wedding in the house, you will have a special prayer first. But you invoke God and ask Him to come in and ensure that everything happens without any problems. One musician told me that when he has a concert he always asks that one chair remain empty in the front row for God. He says, "I’m invoking God; I don’t want God to stand in the back. Keep room open for Him." He tells me, and I believe him and trust him. He says, "I see God sitting there." He’s a very spiritual man, a very nice man.
Ann: I went to someone’s house, and it was clean, and there were flowers. And you could tell a lot of effort had gone into making it, not fancy, but beautiful. And I said, "I can see you pay so much attention."
And she said, "Well, God comes to visit all the time."
Prakash: I clean the house-Aruna, is a good cook, I don’t go in the kitchen, cooking is not my forte-but I clean, and you know why? Because my grandmother told me that cleanliness is next to Godliness. When you clean, you are invoking God.
Ann: Yes, you tend to change the whole vibration in the house.
Prakash: We have this special prayer, or puja, we perform once in a while. But we can see, when we do that the house really vibrates-as if there is something physical happening in the house. We have good incense going on, we have flowers in the house, there is chanting going on. Chanting helps you also, I firmly believe that.
Ann: When I work with people who are depressed, and they’re very, very dark, I say, "As soon as you get home, you must put music on." Without music your darkness will just collect, but if you put on sacred music, it will definitely clear out the space, and you’ll begin to feel better.
Thank you so much for your time - I can feel the light of God all around you both and your family. You are greatly blessed.
Living in Long Island, NY Prakash, an engineer, and his wife Aruna show the gifts of light and compassion in fullness in the way they live their lives.