I was raised in a multi-faith family studying both the Christian and Hindu scriptures. We observed Christmas and Janmastami (the birth of Jesus and the birth of Krishna). So my two primary sources of inspiration, spiritual comfort, and illumination come from the New Testament, and the Bhagavad Gita (the song of God), the ancient Hindu scripture spoken over 5000 years ago.
I realized that the essence of these two great scriptures is the same, that I should have a personal and loving relationship with God and try to be pleasing to the Supreme by using my life for the wellbeing of others.
My faith was really put to the test and deepened when I was deployed to Iraq. There was a big sign over the gate at our camp that read “IS TODAY THE DAY.” I fell asleep most nights to the sound of mortar attacks, and woke up to the heart-wrenching task of going through a list name by name of every American casualty the day before.
I knew with little doubt that any day could be my last. So every night before I went to sleep, I would rest my heart and my mind in contemplating on verses about the eternality of the soul. I would reflect on the fact that we are only here for a certain length of time and nobody knows how long. Is today going to be the day?
- I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. (1 Corinthians 15:50)
- So we do not lose heart. Though our outer nature is wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed every day … [W]e look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen; for the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. (2 Corinthians 4.16, 18)
- Know that which pervades the entire body is indestructible. No one is able to destroy the imperishable soul. (Bhagavad Gita 2:17)
- For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does the soul ever cease to be. The soul is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. The soul is not slain when the body is slain. (Bhagavad Gita 2:20)
I found great comfort in recognizing that I’m not this temporary body—that’s not my real identity. My true identity is that I am the spirit soul, servant of the Supreme Soul, temporarily in this body, using this body as a vehicle. In this way, both Jesus’ and Krishna’s teachings were always at the forefront of my mind.
Jesus taught: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 22:37-39)
This is the same message of the Supreme Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita:
- O son of Kunti [Arjuna], all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me. (Bhagavad Gita 9:27)
- Engage your mind always in thinking of Me, offer obeisances and worship Me. Being completely absorbed in Me, surely you will come to Me. (Bhagavad Gita 9:34)
When many people think of religion, they think about externals: what group, sect, or denomination you belong to; what church/temple you attend; who your pastor, rabbi, or guru is; when/why did you “convert”; etc. But to me, the essence of “religion” is not about these externals. Rather, it’s about my personal relationship with God, others and the planet. In short, my "religion" is my loving relationship with God, and the motivation that springs from that relationship to try my best to use my life in the service of humanity and the planet.
Perhaps, therefore, rather than saying I’m “religious,” it would be more accurate to say that I am a very spiritual person, and yoga and meditation are the focus of my spiritual practices. Every day I spend time alone to meditate, resting my heart and mind in God’s unconditional love, which is manifest in God’s countless Holy Names. This is my refuge from stress, worry, and fear; my source of strength, courage, and happiness. It is what drives, directs, and motivates me. It is my manna, the food which sustains me.
This spirit of putting love into action (karma yoga) is also the essence of what is called "aloha". Karma yoga (aloha) is central to the teachings of both the Bhagavad-Gita and the New Testament. Love isn't inactive: it’s not just a sentiment. Love is a motivating force that propels you into action.
That's why I have made aloha a central focus of my campaign. Our campaign is motivated by aloha, rooted in aloha, and is an expression of aloha. Aloha is the spirit of deep respect and love for all of God’s children—regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation, economic status, or level of education.