Standing on a packed train on the way home from university, I was feeling terrible. It had been a hard week, I was annoyed with several colleagues, the train had been delayed and everybody nearby seemed to be coughing and sneezing on me! In the rush to get onto the train people were barging each other and getting into heated arguments. I was feeling erratic, as if I would hit someone at the slightest provocation.
As all this frustration and anger was swirling around in my head, I started thinking about what advice Hinduism could give me in a situation like this. I started contemplating advice that I had heard during lectures, or read from books. Recalling some helpful anecdotes from a talk I'd attended in the past, I felt better. It quickly occurred to me that it wasn't justifiable for me to be so angry and frustrated. People die of starvation or lose their loved ones to terrorism, on an almost daily basis. By comparison, I had little to complain about.
Then I thought about the concept of indwelling God, the idea that every person has a portion of the divine residing within him or her. Up until then I'd been growing increasingly annoyed at the people standing around me. But now I tried to think of God's presence in all of these people. Slowly my anger began to subside. Already I had come a long way towards restored sanity, the result of a few minutes of positive thinking.
But the journey home still had a long way to go. People were cramming onto the train in larger and larger numbers (even though any onlooker would have thought it was already packed to capacity). And my headache was not improving. Then I had an idea. I would chant God's name to help pass the time. Since ancient times, Hinduism has placed great value in "Japa" (repeating God's name with concentration and devotion). Many references from Hindu scriptures confirm this (e.g. Bhagavad Gita 10:25). Up until recently, I had thought that to keep repeating "Hari Om" or "Rama Rama" (or whatever else) is a generally pointless exercise. But some of my peers who actually practiced Japa had spoken of its great benefits, and I'd wanted to see this for myself for quite some time. "No better time than the present," I said to myself, and began repeating a mantra in my mind.
Within a few minutes I felt so much better. My mind was composed, my headache appeared to be subsiding, and my outlook towards everybody around me changed. I became filled with positive energy, and wanted nothing more than to do good to everybody around me. It was as if I could feel God's presence filling the whole area. Before, my mind was full of lust and the desire to possess more. Now I just felt happy like I already had everything I needed. By the time I reached home I felt great, and even helped out around the house a bit (my dad thought there was something wrong with me).
Reflecting on this episode, I realized that I'd experienced first hand the dire need of spirituality in modern life.