God, Faith and Belief
There is a great temple with a hundred priests to look after it. One night the chief priest went to bed and dreamed that God has sent word that He will visit their temple the next day. He did not believe it, because it is difficult to come across people who are more disbelieving than the priests. He did not believe his dream for another reason, too. People who trade in religion never come to believe in religion. They only exploit religion, which never becomes their faith, their truth.
No one in the world is more faithless than one who turns faith into a means of exploitation. So the chief priest could not believe that God would really come to this temple. The priest had never believed in such things, although he had been a priest for long years. He had worshipped God for long and he knew that God had never visited his temple even once. Each day he had offered food to God, and he knew that he had in reality offered it to himself. He had also prayed to God every day, but he knew well that his prayers were lost in the empty sky, because there was no one to hear them.
So he thought that the message was not true, it was just a dream, and a dream rarely turns into a reality. But then he was afraid, too, lest the dream should come true. At times what we call a dream turns into a reality and a reality as we know it proves to be a dream. Sometimes what we think to be a dream really becomes a reality. So the chief priest ultimately decided to inform his close colleagues about his last night's dream. He said to the other priests, "Although it seems to be a joke, yet I should tell you about it. Last night I dreamed that God said that he would visit us today." The other priests laughed and they said, "Are you mad that you believe in dreams? However, don't tell others about it; otherwise they will take you to be crazy." But the head priest said, "In case He should come, we should be prepared for it. There is no harm if He does not turn up, but if at all He comes, we will not be found wanting."
So the whole temple and its premises were scrubbed, washed and cleaned thoroughly. It was decorated with flowers and flags and festoons. Lamps were lit and incense burned. Perfumes were sprayed and every kind of preparation made. The priests tired themselves out in the course of the day, but God did not turn up. Every now and then they looked up the road, they were disappointed, and they said, "Dream is a dream after all; God is not going to come. We were fools to believe so. It was good that we did not inform the people of the town; otherwise they would have simply laughed at us." By evening the priests gave up all hope, and they said, "Let us now eat the sumptuous food cooked for God.
It has ever been so: what we offer to God is consumed by us in the end. No one is going to turn up. We were crazy enough to believe in a dream. The irony is that we knowingly made fools of ourselves. If others go mad, they can be excused, because they don't know. But we know God never comes. Where is God? There is this idol in the temple; it is all there is to it. And it is our business, our profession to worship him." And then they ate well and went to bed early as they were tired. When it was midnight a chariot pulled up at the gate of the temple, and its sound was heard.
One of the sleeping priests heard it and thought that it was God's chariot. He shouted to others, "Listen friends and wake up. It seems He, whom we expected all day, has arrived at long last. The noise of the chariot is heard." The other priests snubbed him saying, "Shut up, you crazy one. We have had enough of madness all through the day, now that it is night let us sleep well. It is not the sound of a chariot, but the rumblings of the clouds in the skies." So they explained the thing away and returned to their beds. Then the chariot halted at the gate, and someone climbed the steps of the temple and knocked at its door.
And again one of the priests woke up from sleep and shouted to his associates, "It seems the guest has arrived whom we awaited the whole day long. He is knocking at the door." The other priests berated him as they had done with the first. They said, "Are you not crazy? Won't you allow us to sleep? It is just the dash of winds against the door and not a knock of a caller." So they again rationalized and went back to their beds. The next morning they woke up and walked to the gates of the temple.
And they were astounded to see a few footprints on the steps of the temple. Surely enough someone had climbed them during the night. And then they noticed some marks of a chariot's wheels on the road, and there was now no doubt at all that a chariot had arrived at the gate in the night. And strangely enough the footprints on the steps were absolutely uncommon and unknown. Now the priests burst into tears and fell down and began to roll on the ground where the chariot had halted. And soon the whole village was at the temple's gates.
Everybody in the crowd asked with bewilderment, "What is the matter?" The priests said, "Don't ask what the matter is. God knocked at the door of our temple last night, but we rationalized everything. We are now damned. He knocked at the door and we thought that it was the flapping sound of the winds. His chariot came, and we thought that it was the rumble of thunder in the sky. The truth is that we did not understand anything. We only explained them away, because we wanted to enjoy our sleep."
God knocks at every door. His grace visits every home. But our doors are shut. And even when we hear a knock we immediately rationalize it and explain it away. In the old days they said that "A guest is God". There is a slight mistake in this maxim. The truth is that God is the guest. God is waiting as a guest at our doorsteps, but the door is closed. His grace is equally available to all. Therefore don't ask whether one attains through His grace; one attains through His grace alone. And as far as our efforts are concerned, they are a help in opening the door, in removing the hurdles from the way. When He comes, He comes on His own accord.