Many people who come to me are in genuine search of a spiritual path, some form of destination.
They tell me they have everything yet something is missing in their lives, they cannot pinpoint what it is, they feel somewhat incomplete, they say. I know that feeling. They are materially successful, physically well, emotionally good, mentally strong, yet why this void? And, can something be done about it? How to proceed on a spiritual path? Before I offer you my perspective, let me share a conversation I had the other day:
A sincere devotee, a genuine spiritual seeker, has been in touch with me for quite a while; he is the academic dean of a large educational institution. He visited me a few weeks ago. As part of his spiritual journey, he had a list of places he said he wanted to visit. I told him if that gave him joy, he could, but how would roaming around outside give fulfillment to an inner quest on a spiritual path? Narrating a profound and beautiful story, he said:
“You know Swami, when I was studying in the eighth grade. I sat for my Maths exams. I knew I wasn’t prepared as I hadn’t studied at all. I stared at the examination paper and was not surprised to see that I didn’t know the answer to any of the questions, not even one. I didn’t know what to do. So, I sat there and filled my answer sheet with drawings of trees, mountains, meadows, figurines, cattle, the sun, and so forth. At the end of the three hours, I submitted my answer sheet and went home.”
“The truth is, Swami,” he added, “I made those drawings instead of solving the paper because I didn’t know the answers. Had I known what to write, I wouldn’t be sitting there killing my time. Similarly, on my spiritual quest, on my spiritual path, I’ve thought of all these activities and places, etc. I want to visit because I don’t know the answer. I don’t know how to solve the question paper I’ve got in front of me. So, I’m just drawing.”
“I can help you solve it,” I said, “but we are looking at the wrong question paper. Even if you answer it perfectly, the real questions will remain untouched.”
We both chuckled. What he said makes so much sense, though. Why do people get into relationships, get married, have kids, engage in endless pursuits, lead their life as if clockwork, go around in circles, and compete in the rat race? If you enjoy it, go for it. And, by no means am I suggesting that you give up the world or its pleasures. In fact, live every moment to its fullest.
However, most people are not living but just getting by. They are drawing random figures because either they do not know the answer or they simply have the wrong question paper at hand. They could be doing what they love, if not all the time, at least most of the time. The fact is a vast majority do not sit down and ask themselves what it is they want from their life; they ignore their calling, their inner voice.
Life is not about sitting in an examination hall. God is not testing you. I am confident he has better things to do. You can keep answering questions, or you can take a moment to reflect, to inquire, to know, to ascertain, to understand, to be what matters to you, to do what gives you joy.
I thought that my voyage had come to its end
at the last limit of my power,
that the path before me was closed,
that provisions were exhausted
and the time come to take shelter in a silent obscurity.
But I find that thy will knows no end in me.
And when old words die out on the tongue,
new melodies break forth from the heart;
and where the old tracks are lost,
new country is revealed with its wonders.
(Tagore, Rabindranath. “Closed Path.” Gitanjali.)
Inquire. Reflect. Assimilate. Prioritize. Act. Be. Most people do the reverse, a folly. When questions cease, answers are needed no longer. Self-realization is that state of inner quietude; everything becomes crystal clear. There remains no examination hall, no question paper. The concept of time disappears. Just you, the original you, in peace and bliss. Do not get so busy living that you leave yourself no time to breathe.