The Right Time to Seek God

God dwells in our heart as supreme Consciousness, teaches Vedanta. That means we are essentially divine; but this fact remains hidden from us because of our identification with our body and mind and the consequent belief that we are limited individuals. Scriptures exhort us to know God in this very life, for only God-realization can lead us to fulfillment and make our life meaningful.

But, burdened with worldly responsibilities and desires, most of us are not able to think of God. We naively suppose that study of scriptures and practice of spiritual discipline can wait for old age, when our worldly responsibilities are over. But things don't turn out that way. Very few people are able to practice spiritual discipline and develop devotion to God when they get old. A mind that has been accustomed to worldly thoughts does not all of a sudden begin to think of God with the aging of the body: it continues to be beset by worldly cares and anxieties. So there is a need to find time for prayer and spiritual discipline right now amid our worldly duties.

There is an advantage in filling the mind with higher ideas when we are young: then there is vigor in the body and mind, and ideas that inspire us can easily transform our thoughts and actions. But in old age, we may no doubt be inspired by spiritual ideas, but there is not enough strength in our body and mind to fashion our life according to those ideas.

However, until the right time comes people do not turn to God. As long as our needs are met by the world, we don't feel the necessity of God. When someone asked Sri Ramakrishna why it took many people a long time to realize God, he replied, "Most people don't feel any longing for God unless they have once passed through the experience of wealth, name, fame, creature comforts, and the like, that is to say, unless they have seen through these enjoyments." There are endless desires in the mind. We tend to think that someday they will all come to an end by themselves. But the Bhagavata (9.19.14) says that it is not true: "Desires can never be quenched by enjoying sense objects, just as fire fed with clarified butter only flames up all the more."

Nor should we wait for our duties to be over. A well-known Sanskrit verse says, "He who thinks he will remember God when all his worldly duties are over is like the fool who thinks he will have a dip in the ocean after all the waves have subsided." Says Sri Ramakrishna, "Do your duty with one hand and with the other hold to God. After the duty is over, you will hold to God with both hands." Prayer and meditation at fixed hours in the morning and evening is a good way of holding to God with one hand. Sri Krishna's teaching in the Bhagavad Gita (8.7) also underlines this point: "At all times, constantly remember Me and fight."

So the right time to seek God is now. As our devotion matures, we grow from thinking of Him along with other things to seeking Him above all other things.

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