From a very young age, Nepal-born Surya Bhandari had a fervent desire to please the Hindu god Shiva. Because Shiva smoked marijuana, Surya sought to please him by smoking weed himself — starting at age 8.
Then in the sixth grade he learned about the dangers of tuberculosis and cancer from smoking and began to question the wisdom of the god. Also, kids at school started pointing at him as a “bad kid” for his cannabis consumption.
“In my little mind, I started thinking, ‘Why do they call me bad?’” Surya remembers. “‘This great god Shiva smokes marijuana. Why would they call me bad? Is it really bad? If I am bad, then this god Shiva is bad. If he is bad, is he really a god?’”
Surya as a young man
He belonged to the priestly Brahman class, but he turned his back on Hinduism, called himself an “atheist,” started using other drugs and alcohol.
“This Shiva destroyed my life,” he reasoned. “I’m not able to quit smoking marijuana. Someday I’m going to get TB or cancer and I’m going to die, and this god is responsible.
“I became so angry.”
One day he had a dream of being chased by a tall figure clad in a white gown. He thought it was a ghost. It scared him so badly that he didn’t want to go to his usual taekwondo that morning and instead decided to distract himself by reading one of his older brother’s books.
His older brother had either left home or been kicked out — he wasn’t really sure — because he had secretly become a Christian and was attending underground meetings somewhere downtown.
As Surya thumbed through the volumes on the bookcase, he happened to pull out a slim volume, opened it and saw — to his utter surprise — a picture of the same white-clad figure. Suddenly his fear abated, and he continued to read eagerly. “It was God, not a ghost,” he concluded.
Surya with his family today in Los Angeles
From that moment on, he wanted to become a Christian. But attending a church was no easy matter in those days in Nepal. Carrying a Bible was a crime worse than drug trafficking.
But Surya was determined. He begged an old friend of his brother to tell him where he could find the underground church that his brother attended. The young man was backslidden at the time and didn’t want to say anything. But after days of begging, Surya got him to relent and give him some rough directions.
The first chance he got he went eight miles away from his village to Pokhara. He liked the songs and listened intently without understanding much of the sermon. To his surprise after the service, nobody approached him or talked to him to explain things, and he was too shy to ask.
Revival in Nepal
Maybe people were afraid of the strict anti-proselytizing laws. They could get into a lot of trouble if they were perceived as trying to convert someone. Also, some may have been cautious, because a newcomer might be a spy from the police.
But Surya didn’t understand all of this at the time. It seemed to him that God’s people were indifferent. The next time Surya went to church it was the same. Nobody talked to him. So he quit going.
Then he did something that brought great shame on his family. He flunked out of school. His parents scolded him constantly and his brothers beat him.
So he took to the streets. He would leave before anybody woke up. He would come home, entering through the window, after everybody was in bed. HIs grandmother always saved him some food.
He tried but found that he couldn’t quit drugs. Everybody in town called him a bad kid. Even the principal of the school saw fit to take him aside and rebuke him for bringing shame on his family.
All this was too much for Suryam and he began to contemplate suicide.
“I loved my father so much. I did not want to bring shame on my father,” he says, reasoning to himself at the time: “If I can’t bring a good name for him, I have no right to live.”
He decided to throw himself off a cliff and into a river near his town. Read the rest of Chrisitanity in Nepal