“I Want You to Teach Me”: Nikhil Jain and Donna Crisafulli
June 18, 2015
This story is a part of the American Pilgrimage Project, a conversation series that invites Americans of diverse backgrounds to sit together and talk to each other one-to-one about the role their religious beliefs play at crucial moments in their lives.
When people speak of faith in terms of responsibility, we often think of responsibility as responsibility to an institution, or to its precepts, or to its past, or to its figures of eminence.
But Nikhil Jain's story of the sense of responsibility that led him to renew his work as a teacher of meditation is different: responsibility, in his case, is to faith itself.
Jain told his story to his friend Donna Crisafulli during an American Pilgrimage Project session in Albany, New York, in 2015.
No believer during his childhood in India, Jain came to meditation as a young man and deepened his practice in the United States. He moved from “a believer with no faith to a believer who has complete faith in God” and became a teacher of the practice.
News that his father had committed suicide in India—after a long depression—left him “shattered. I also felt very empty from within, that something I had developed such a passion for could not even give me the strength to help my own father.” Though he continued to meditate, he stopped teaching, sure that he no longer belonged on that path.
A request from a friend in need changed that when the friend, suffering from depression, insisted that “No, I want you to teach me—I really want you to do this.” All at once he felt the fruit of his practice of meditation as a responsibility to share it with others. In the combination of a smile and tears in his friend's eyes—“a super-powerful combination”—he felt the efficacy of it, and in that smile and tears he felt the presence of the father whom he had missed a chance to comfort at a time of need.
The deep connections between ourselves and other people, living and dead, are mysterious: they are the subject of religious belief, and, some would say, the basis for it, its reason for being. In Nikhil Jain's story those connections are especially real and palpable.
The interview was recorded and produced by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to preserve and share humanity’s stories in order to build connections between people and create a more just and compassionate world.