The need to do some inquiry came as a gradual realization after I had finished medical school. I was working in a hospital in Surat, Gujarat, India when a Hindu priest brought one of his followers for treatment. I noticed how faithfully the priest visited everyday and showed genuine concern for the welfare of the young man. At times we would converse and he would expound on Hindu thought and philosophy, hoping for my agreement.
There were Muslims in all the communities in which I lived. Some of my boyhood friends were Muslims. We got along quite well although they did discuss differences, mainly in regard to certain behavioral patterns, pointing to the lax moral standards of the west.
In Shimla, Himachal Pradesh I was privileged to meet with the monks from Dharamshala, where the Dalai Lama lived. Some would come over to the hospital for a check up or treatment and we would exchange ideas. Those were memorable chats, sitting out on the porch, looking out to the snow-capped mountains of the grand Himalayan range.
Later in Jalandhar, Punjab, I made Sikh friends and even went to visit the Golden Temple in Amritsar – the most sacred site of the Sikhs. Watching their benevolent attitude and communal spirit was quite an experience.
I had also worked in Ranchi, Jharkhand (then Bihar) which is a few hours away from Bodh Gaya – where Gautama Buddha, the founder of Buddhism was said to have been enlightened under a ficus tree some 2500 years ago.
By the time I came to the US with my family in 1993, my mind held a lot of information gleaned from those various conversations and discussions. But it was not until six years later that I was jolted into making a study. One day driving home in Hendersonville, North Carolina, I heard a question over the radio, “Is your religion true because you believe it OR do you believe your religion because it is true?” I don’t remember listening to anything more; I think I lost the station as I flipped the dial. But those words got to me. I spent long hours trying to answer what seemed like an ordinary “party riddle”, but which I knew was deeper than that. There were serious implications and ramifications to each option and I would jot them down. I tried to give a good reason for my beliefs, but every such reason seemed to be matched by reasons from others’ beliefs too. Of course there were differences in the religions but just stating the difference didn’t help. What was needed was a reference point to make a meaningful comparison. Alas! There was no such thing as a universally accepted standard!
This started me on an intense search for something more satisfying than what was in my hand. I needed something to appease my restless mind. If nothing could be done about this question with the information available, I wanted to know that for sure. If there was a more definite, credible answer, I was going to look for it.
There were times I was so intense that my wife and children wondered if this was a reasonable venture or whether I would lose my mind. Their’s was a real fear – because mine was a real search. I was not interested in academic hair-splitting. I decided that if anything was going to impress me it would have to be the broad facts and evidences. I was not going to play games with this question.
As the concepts developed I found a group in Maryland that was willing to listen. My mother and sister Parul lived there and while on visits to them, I would set aside time to discuss my findings. It is to them I owe my appreciation for their eagerness, feed back, and encouragement. There was Biju, Parul, CJ, Karen, Geetika, Glen, Nick, and others. Thank you each one.
I read voracioulsy during that period and began to develop a structured set of arguments based on the information from the readings. I read the Quran, the Mahabharata, (Bhagavad Gita), Buddhist Literature, the Torah, the Talmud, and the Bible. I later read those scholars who also had been driven to investigate and make comparative studies for themselves. I read Josh McDowell, Lee Strobel, Ravi Zacharias, Ralph Muncaster, Micheal Green, EG White, and others.
As I was trying to make sense of the numerous claims out there, I was faced with a very basic question – “Was there a God in existence and what was the evidence for that?” It would be futile to look for a certain named lake or river if water itself did not exist! This fundamental question had to be addressed – a truly daunting task. But I’m glad I struggled through with it.
Today there is a seminar on power point called Come Search With Me in which I have put, in logical sequence, the findings of my study. Here is its outline: . . .
THE SEMINAR AT A GLANCE
IF I WERE A MAN ‘ON THE STREET’ WITH NO RELIGIOUS AFFILIATIONS OR LOYALITIES AND WAS FACED WITH ALL THE DIVERSE RELIGIONS AND THE CLAIMS BEING MADE, HOW WOULD I BE ABLE TO FIND MY WAY THROUGH THE MAZE?
GENERAL QUESTIONS ADDRESSED
- IS THERE A ‘GOD’ IN EXISTENCE? HOW WOULD I KNOW?
- WHAT IS ‘TRUTH’? WHAT ARE THE CONCEPTS TODAY (INCLUDING MODERNISM AND POSTMODERNISM)?
- DO ALL RELIGIONS FINALLY END UP AT THE SAME DESTINATION (PLURALISM)?
- IF THERE ARE MULTIPLE CLAIMS TO BE ‘THE ONLY WAY’ HOW DO I RESOLVE THIS?
SPECIFIC QUESTIONS ADDRESSED (TO THE WRITINGS/RELIGIONS — HINDUISM, ISLAM, BUDDHISM, JUDAISM, CHRISTIANITY)
- WHAT TYPE OF LITERATURE IS THE WRITING?
- DOES THE WRITING OPEN ITSELF TO BE CHALLENGED FOR AUTHENTICITY
- WHAT IS A TOP FEATURE OF THE WRITING? IS IT CLEARLY SUPERNATURAL?
- WHAT IS THE HIGHEST CLAIM OF THE FOUNDER FOR HIMSELF?
- WHAT IS THE NATURE OF THE MESSAGE/MISSION OF THE FOUNDER?
- HOW DOES THE LIFE OF THE FOUNDER COMPARE WITH HIS OWN TEACHING?
- HOW DOES THE LENGTH OF MINISTRY COMPARE WITH THE RESULTS?
- WHAT ARE THE REPORTS OF THE BIRTH OF THE FOUNDER?
- WHAT WERE THE CIRCUMSTANCES AT DEATH OF THE FOUNDER?
- WHAT WAS THE POST-DEATH SCENE?
- IS IT POSSIBLE TO MAKE A REASONABLE CONCLUSION?
- EXAMINATION/SCRUTINY OF THE CONCLUSION
Of course questions remain – they always will, as long as our finite minds attempt to touch that which is infinite. But we have no option except to choose the path to travel and the principles that will govern our lives. Refusing to choose or postponing our choice is impossible because that itself is a choice and then, by default, we will be governed by principles we did not choose. So what shall we choose? How shall we go about it? That’s what “Come Search With Me” attempts to address. COME SEARCH WITH ME.