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Rabi Maharaj knew from a young age that he had been born into the highest caste of Hindu society. His father, one of the most worshipped Yogis on his home island of Trinidad, had renounced all worldly attachments to seek through meditation the ultimate goal of Hindu spirituality—Self-realization and unity with Brahman, the One Being that lies within. From before Rabi was born in 1947 until his death when Rabi was eight, he sat in the lotus position, spine straight, eyes staring yet seeing nothing, uttering not a word, day in and day out. Nothing was more important than the daily transcendental meditation, which, according to the beloved Hindu god Krishna, was the surest way to eternal Bliss.
Rabi began meditating at age five. Later, he added ceremonial baths, repetitions of mantras, and rituals of invocation, obeisance, and appeasement to Hindu deities—partly because the meditation could be quite frightening. As he became more experienced, he began to see psychedelic visions, to hear unearthly music, and to visit exotic planets where the gods talked with him. Sometimes in a Yogic trance he would encounter frightful creatures like those he'd seen depicted in the temples. Rabi's teacher explained that these things were normal and encouraged him to continue seeking Self-realization.
Gods at War
But try as he might, he could find no peace with the fearsome god Shiva, who was also known as the Destroyer. In many a trance he would sit fearfully before this deity while a huge cobra coiled about the god's neck hissed and darted its tongue at him. One afternoon, Rabi was enjoying a walk among nature when a rustling noise interrupted his reverie. He turned and to his horror saw a large, thick snake bearing down on him. With a steep drop-off behind him, he was cornered. Paralyzed, he suddenly heard his mother's voice from a long forgotten past, "Rabi, if ever you're in real danger and nothing else seems to work, there's another god you can pray to. His name is Jesus."
"Jesus! Help me!" he cried.
It came out more like a desperate choke, but immediately and to his utter astonishment, the snake dropped its head, turned clumsily around, and wriggled off.
Who is this Jesus? Rabi wondered. He had attended a primary school run by a Christian denomination, but he couldn't recall hearing much about Jesus. Whoever Jesus was, he was obviously very powerful.
The fears of meditation were offset by the exquisite pleasure he felt being an object of worship. By age eleven, he had Hindu boys lining up to be his disciples, and adults would pay nicely for his blessing. He loved his religion and knew that, somewhere, his father must be pleased.
The general pleasure lasted until he enrolled in a prestigious high school in Port of Spain. Unlike primary school, which had been populated with East Indian Hindus like him, here his classmates came from a variety of backgrounds. Some made sport of his Hindu beliefs, which threw him off-kilter (Didn't they know he was a god?), but he was also exposed to more ideas about the Christian God. This notion of one God who was Creator of all, separate from his creation, was wholly different from the Hindu understanding that there is one Unity swarming with many gods. And how starkly different the lovingkindness attributed to the Christian God from the terror Shiva struck in his heart.
As his teen years progressed, tensions also mounted at home between Rabi and his Aunt Revati, who expected him, guru or not, to do his chores. One morning, epithets were flying when suddenly Rabi picked up one of his grandfather's heavy barbells and, blindly enraged, swung it over his shoulder aiming for her head. Only his cousin's quick lunge for the other end of it saved him from doing the -unthinkable.
Rabi was horrified. What had come over him? Those were enormous weights, far too heavy for him to pick up under normal conditions. Where had the strength come from? What kind of spiritual path was he on? And who were these gods that he was inviting into himself?
"You are not God!"
One day, while in the course of receiving worshipers at home, Rabi reached out to touch a village woman's forehead to bestow a blessing when he was startled by an unmistakably authoritative voice. "You are not God, Rabi!"
He froze, his arm in midair.
"You . . . are . . . not . . . God!"
It was the voice of the true God, the Creator of all. He knew it instinctively. He drew his hand back, and the room grew silent, all eyes on him. After an awkward pause, he pushed his way past the crowd, made for his room, and fell across his bed, sobbing.
He wanted to tell the true God that he was sorry, but he didn't know how. He was terribly afraid of astral travel now, but he knew no other way to search for God. If he didn't find this God soon, he would have to kill himself. He could not bear to live any longer without him.
He stayed in his room for four full days.
Soon thereafter, a visitor came to see him. "Hello, Rabi, I'm Molli," said the attractive girl of about eighteen. "I've heard how religious you are, and I wanted to meet you."
People frequently sought Rabi because of his religion, but Molli was different. She asked him about himself and whether he found his religion fulfilling. "Trying to hide my emptiness behind many words about my great knowledge of Hinduism, I lied to her and told her that I was very happy and that my religion was the truth," he wrote in his autobiography, Death of a Guru. He paraded before her the Hindu gods and the philosophies of the ancient seers. "She listened patiently to my pompous and sometimes arrogant pronouncements. Without contradicting or arguing, she exposed my emptiness gently with politely phrased questions."
He wanted to believe what she said about Jesus dying for his sins so he could be forgiven and have fellowship with God, but Molli was a Christian, and he could never become a Christian. He hated Christians.
Yet there was no way he could argue with what she was. He wanted her peace and joy.
They talked for nearly half the day. Before Molli left, she looked at him with compassion. "Before you go to bed tonight, Rabi, please go on your knees and ask God to show you the truth—and I'll be praying for you." She left, and he returned to his room, utterly undone.
Pride demanded that he reject everything she had said, but he was too desperate to save face any longer. He fell to his knees. "God, the true God and Creator, please show me the truth!" And then he slept. Strangely, for the first time in his life, he felt like he had prayed and gotten through—not to some impersonal Force, but to the true God who knew him and loved him.
Sunlight in the Soul
Still, the chess match wasn't over. He checked out Bertrand Russell's Why I Am Not a Christian from his school library, hoping it would help him remain a Hindu. To his dismay, it only left him more convinced Christianity was actually true, as Russell's arguments struck him as weak and contrived.
The days ticked by, and Rabi knew he was existing in an unsustainable limbo. Soon after his fifteenth birthday, his cousin Krishna invited him to a small church meeting about an hour's walk away. "Why not?" he said, surprising himself.
It was a modest but breathtakingly joyful gathering. What a contrast between the relationship these Christians enjoyed with Jesus and the ritualistic appeasement of gods at Hindu ceremonies. And he had never heard anyone refer to any Hindu god as "wonderful" or a "counselor." Having daily worshiped the sun, he was still dark and cold inside. These people had sunlight in their souls!
The speaker preached on Psalm 23, "The Lord is my Shepherd," and Rabi hung on every word. He still abhorred the thought of becoming a Christian, but . . . how he wanted Jesus to be his shepherd! At the end, he went forward and dropped to the floor. For years, Hindus had bowed before him. Now he was bowing before Christ. "Lord Jesus, I've never studied the Bible, but I've heard that you died for my sins at Calvary so I could be forgiven and reconciled to God. Please forgive me all my sins. I want to be a new and changed person."
He returned home and told his waiting family, "I asked Jesus to come into my life tonight." Reactions were mixed, but in all, thirteen members of Rabi's family ultimately rejected the Hinduism of their ancestors for the joy of Jesus.
The following day, he and Krishna hauled all the idols, Hindu scriptures, and religious paraphernalia out into the yard. With the adults' consent, they set them on fire and watched the flames consume their dark past. Rabi took special pleasure in smashing Shiva. A few days earlier, he wouldn't have dared think of doing such a thing. "But the iron grip of terror that had held me for so long had been broken by the power of Jesus." •
Epilogue: Rabi worked with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association in Europe in the 1970s, and following that, founded East-West Gospel Ministries, based in Southern California.
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