I recommend listening to the whole service, but you can jump to 4:14-10:00 for my segment.

Priten Shah ’19 – April 22, 2019 | Morning Prayers by Harvard Memorial Church

Morning Prayers service with speaker Priten Shah ’19, Harvard College, Dudley House, April 22, 2019.

Good morning everyone!

I’d like to start the morning off with a Gujarati poem from 15th Century Hindu poet-saint Narsinha Mehta. I’ll alternate between the original Gujarati and my English Translation.

Vaishnava Jana To…

When I got into Harvard 6 and a half years ago,  I was excited to grow. As a student. As an intellectual. And, As a member of society.

Little did I know that along the way I’d grow in a way that is more important than I ever imagined as a child. I grew as a lover. A lover of knowledge. A lover of humanity. A lover of life. And, a lover of God.

St. Aquinas in his Summa Theologica tells us that while we have no way to know of God’s positive attributes, we can know that the good things that exist in the world must be found in greater quantity in their source. As he puts it, “”Whatever good we attribute to creatures, pre-exists in God,” and in a more excellent and higher way.”

The love and goodness I have been blessed to encounter in my short-lived life are evidence enough for me that the source of these things is full of infinite and overflowing love.

Since coming to Harvard, I’ve kept a list of all the people in my life whose love towards me I could never match. I call it my list of Angels.  This list contains people from all parts of my life, and the only thing they have in common is that I can’t explain their willingness or ability to put up with me. They have all loved me unconditionally and in doing so they have shown me what Krishna of the Gita means when he says “samaṁ sarveṣhu bhūteṣhu tiṣhṭhantaṁ parameśhvaram (They alone truly see, who perceive the Lord accompanying the soul in all beings).”

God’s love shines through the acts of these angels  and I thank God every day for them: many of whom I met at Harvard:

my first-year proctor and friends who helped me survive the hardest time of my life knowing better than myself what I needed,

my Sanskrit professor who has talked me through major and minor life decisions, conversations which I still replay in my head when I need guidance,

my philosophy professor who has seen me through my biggest downs and celebrated with me my biggest ups and in doing so, taught me that the greatest gifts a teacher can give are love, kindness, and a whole lot of patience,

my friend, business partner, and older brother who has made the incomprehensible decision to play not one but three major roles in my life and carries them out with bountiful love and selflessness,

and the countless others who have shown me love in the hardest way possible, without reason.

While I am not so arrogant as to think I could repay the goodness, grace, forgiveness, aid, and love of these angels, I pray every day that I can match even a fraction of that in my actions towards others. Just as God has shown love and mercy through their actions, I long to myself be an instrument, despite my imperfections, of God’s goodness.

These angels all have taught me more than I could ever learn from opening books, sitting in lecture halls, and doing PSETS. They have collectively, and seemingly unknowingly, taken me from a droid concerned only with “my next step,” to someone who tries to remember to appreciate and be grateful for his existence for it allows him to be a vessel and vehicle of God’s goodness.

My transcript, my mind, and my career show that 17-year-old Priten was right when he thought Harvard would change him. Little did he know that his heart and soul would change the most.

I only hope that as I leave Harvard I continue to carry the gifts from the people that I have met here, and begin to share them with others as a true devotee on Narsinma Mehta’ account ought to do.

I’d like to end today with a prayer from St. Francis that was introduced to me by one of my angels and echoes some of the sentiments from earlier.

Lord make me an instrument of your peace

Where there is hatred, let me sow love

Where there is injury, pardon

Where there is doubt, faith

Where there is despair, hope

Where there is darkness, light

And where there is sadness, joy

O divine master grant that I may

not so much seek to be consoled as to console

to be understood as to understand

To be loved as to love

For it is in giving that we receive

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned

And it’s in dying that we are born to eternal life

Thank you.

Image Credit: Ingfbruno [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons