Ask him if he's ever seen God, and he asks you, "Who hasn't?"
Dada, which is a respectful term for big brother in several Indian languages, is exactly that - a big brother to countless people who visit the Sadhu Vaswani Mission, an educational, religious and humanitarian organization based in Pune, India, founded by the spiritual master Sadhu T.L.Vaswani in 1930.
With a razor sharp intellect, a great sense of humor and a wonderful, simple way of connecting with world leaders and school children alike, Dada has much wisdom to share. He has received many honors including the U Thant Peace Award and has written over 200 books.
Dada draws truths from all the faiths, be it Hinduism, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism or Sufi mysticism. To him, God is never very far away - He is actually within each of us. To find God, you just have to know yourself - but that is one of the most difficult things.
"Man has made many discoveries, but in the bargain, he has lost himself," says Dada. "He knows so much of the universe, of all that is outside of himself, but what does he know of himself? If I were to ask you, 'Who are you? ' you would immediately point to your bodies. And I will say you are not the body. The body is a garment, you are the wearer of that garment...you have put on and put off thousands of garments.
The body is but a house; you are dweller of this house. When the house perishes, you do not perish. You continue to live for you, the real you, is immortal, you are eternal. God has given you the gift of life, and what God gives, he gives unto eternity."
Each one of us has to play a part in this cosmic play, and to know who you are you, even as you live in the world, you must separate yourself from all your material possessions and titles, and what you think is yours. As Dada points out, material things are what make us prisoners and bind us to the world.
"When the call comes, I have to leave everything behind. I can carry nothing with me," he says. " When man is born, his hands are empty. When he dies, he cannot take with him even his own hands. So, therefore know that nothing belongs to you. Everything is given to you for use. Use it wisely and well. Outwardly you can say it belongs to you but be sure nothing belongs to you."
Dada recalls a man who asked him, "I am a seeker after God. Is there any shortcut to God?' He responded, "God already belongs to you. You just don't have the awareness that God is already with you. Whoever has attained God, has attained Him within the human heart. Therefore, keep the heart pure, keep the heart clean."
Practical Suggestion #1. Always do the right thing, because it is the right thing to do.
Do everything in the best way you can.
Practical Suggestion #2. Let Your love be universal and unconditional.
Let your heart be filled with an abundance of love but see that you are not attached to anyone -- no one, nothing belongs to you. You belong to God.
Practical Suggestion #3. Walk the path of truth.
We often speak lies, and that is the path of true suffering. Always speak the truth.
Practical Suggestion #4. Keep yourself away from all gossip
and all unpleasant, unproductive talk and always speak sweetly and gently.
Practical suggestion # 5. Every day, spend some time in silence.
It is your daily appointment with God. You keep a number of appointments every day, but you miss out this most important appointment of all appointments. Begin with just a few minutes and take it to half an hour. In the beginning, you may not be able to hear his voice, but he hears every whisper of the human heart.
Practical Suggestion #6: Realize the oneness of all creation.
A saint gave his disciples this teaching, "Do not become like a pair of scissors, but be like a needle. " The scissors tears the cloth asunder, so wherever you go, be like the needle and patch up differences. Bring people together. Bind them with the silken thread of love. Because in reality, we all are one.
Practical Suggestion #7: Be an epitome of compassion.
Our compassion should be not only for man, but also for birds and animals. The day in which we have not helped someone in need is a lost day. Continue to do as much good as you can, to as many as you can, in as many ways as you can, on as many occasions as you can, and as you long as you can.
Dada gives this parting wisdom in our search for the Almighty: "Today and every day, turn back to God. Whatever you're seeking, you will get it if you turn back to God. Today, there is chaos, there is terrorism, anarchy, because there is spiritual bankruptcy. It is because we have thrown God out of educational institutions and homes that we are facing this difficult situation.
Turn back to God. Enter into a relationship with God. God is prepared to come to you in whatever relationship you want him to come to you. Tell him, 'You are my father, you are my mother, you are my friend, you are my brother, you are my master.' But you must develop some relationship with God. When a problem comes to you, you will go to leaders, bankers, doctors, the police, you will go everywhere, but you will not turn to God. A person who believes in God will first go to God."
Dada shares this story: " I went to an office, and the owner was sitting at a desk but there was a bigger chair and a bigger desk. I asked him, "Whose chair is this?" He said, "This is for my senior partner." I said, "Who is your senior partner?"
He said to me, "My senior partner is God. And, whenever I have a problem I cannot solve, I merely pass on the file to him, and I get the answer at the right time."
Then I asked him how much profit do you share with your senior partner? He said, "I share 10 percent. God is happy with 10%, but that amount is not to be ploughed back to business, it is to be spent for good causes as The Lord directs."
You can forge any relationship with God, that of a father, friend, a master. Dada says he has forged the relationship of a mother and child for himself. "God is my mother, I am her child," says Dada with an impish smile. " This relationship is really very useful and profitable. I entered into the other relationship too, with God as my father but I found it took very long. Fathers make you wait. The mother rushes to you immediately!"
All images copyright SadhuVaswaniMission.org
Lavina Melwani is a New York-based journalist for several international publications. She blogs at Lassi with Lavina. Follow her on Google+.