Do you ever feel that life is playing some kind of a prank on you? Strike that, actually. Life is a prank. In other words, as much as the outcome may catch you by surprise, it was supposed to be fun all along. At least, that was the idea. Best not to take it too seriously. As with any well-executed prank, however, the only trouble is that most of us only discover the humor of it afterward. Throughout our life we are struggling for one thing or the other, every lingering thought in our mind feels real and important. But, in the end, it holds little significance.

Naturally, a pertinent question to ask at this stage is: what is the meaning of it all, if any? What is the purpose of our life? We can’t say it’s to merge into the supreme soul for that is going to happen regardless. Besides, that seems to be the purpose of death: to vanish, to merge, to crossover, and what have you. I am talking about the purpose of our life. What is it that gives meaning to our life, something that makes us whole? Love? Possibly. Empathy, compassion, courage, happiness, success, all of these, none of these, whatever, you get the idea. 

Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn (1918 – 2008), a novelist, historian, and philosopher, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1970 wrote The Gulag Archipelago. A monumental work of nonfiction spread across three volumes, it documents his experience as a Gulag prisoner. His crime? He was a Soviet dissident, an outspoken critic of communism and Joseph Stalin. Having said that, he was sentenced to prison for eight years followed by an internal exile for expressing his views in a private letter. I first came across his works (and a version of the quote below) a few years ago while reading a book by David Brooks on a completely unrelated theme.

In The Gulag Archipelago, Aleksandr writes about his moment of reckoning, that defining strand of time when he realizes one of the most profound truths of human existence. I quote:

Bless you, prison. Bless you for being in my life. For there, lying upon the rotting prison straw, I came to realize that the object of life is not prosperity as we are made to believe, but the maturity of the human soul. 1

I feel this quote goes right to the heart of spiritual evolution. What is compassion, empathy or, love anyway? And what is it to be devoid of jealousy, anger, hatred? Nothing more than the natural responses of an evolved soul, if you ask me. To be in possession of a joyous heart that has love and respect for others, to have a mind that isn’t badgered by negative thoughts and limiting beliefs are the assets of a mature soul. The more spiritually grown-up you are, the greater at ease you are with yourself and the circumstances that surround you. It’s that simple.

Now, you see what your parents meant when they would say to you, “grow up!” Just kidding.

We want our lives to be like an aging wine and our sorrows like old bread. That is, the former gets better with time and the latter just perishes. It’s not a problem to have such expectations as long as you are prepared that it may turn out vice-versa. But you know what, that’s okay too because we are part of a grand practical joke and we ought to laugh at the tomfoolery of it all and not hold to ransom the very intention of the universe: flow effortlessly, let go. 

Oh, and even for a moment, I hope my selection of words did not convey that somehow I meant life is meaningless. It’s not. Every moment is worth an eternity. Life is beautiful, a blessing, there is much treasure to be unearthed. For such glory to be a part of your existence, however, it’s imperative that you allow yourself the room to mature spiritually. One can still get by without it, though it’s never the same. Yes, you can make a pickle out of raw mango, you can squint your face and nibble away as the tartness of it all jolts every taste bud on your tongue. In fact, at times, it gives you this exuberant feeling. But, my friend, it’s not the same as bitting into a succulent, juicy, ripe mango that fills your mouth with a zesty sweet taste. It makes you happy, it calms you down. This is the gift of maturity. There are many reasons why a mango is called the king of fruits, being raw is not one of them. 

Mulla Nasrudin was a bit distraught when his friend asked him if something was the matter. 

“You can’t help anyone in this day and age,” Mulla said. “I went to the bank for a withdrawal and in front of me was this old lady. We struck up a friendly conversation whereby she told me that she was at the bank to check her balance. To which I replied that there was no need to stand in the queue for that. I could help her check her balance. So, I tipped her to the right and she fell. That senile woman started shouting at me.”

So it is with life. Sometimes it tips us just to check our balance, our strength. It can be oblivious to what you mean because thoughts and words are fickle and limited.

The maturity of the soul is something you arrive at naturally if you are willing to take things a bit easy, if you loosen your grip a bit. You can count on the cosmic rhythm of life, the same one that has your heart beating even when you are asleep, that has you breathing without you having to do it consciously. The same life that found a support system to not only keep you alive but nurture you when you were so tiny that you could barely turn to one side. It heard you at a time when your parents didn’t know why you might be crying. It protected you against all odds. The steadfastness of your faith in Providence shows where you stand spiritually.

And, you don’t have to be wise, intelligent, or clever, you simply have to be in harmony. That’s a pretty accurate indicator of your spiritual advancement. For, only a mature soul can live in harmony.

Just step out and see the billions of planets, galaxies, and stars in front of you. (If they appear too close, you may be staring at the street lights instead. Look up.) These solemn planets, quietly floating away in the endless play of hide-and-seek are all things you were, are, and will ever be. Everything is right here, with you, for you, it’s available, everything is present — except you. Let go, let go, let go. Have faith.

Can you? Will you?

Peace.
Swami

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