As I have discovered during my life journey, finding my own truth is not that easy. There are so many barriers, so many veils that hide the face of truth and it takes a very long time to uncover them. The Isha Upanishad says:
“The face of truth is covered by a golden vessel. O sun, please remove this covering so that I can behold it.”
People have interpreted this verse in different ways. My own interpretation is that the “golden vessel” refers to the worldly activities that entice us and prevent us from seeing the truth. We get so caught up in these activities, that we cannot see anything beyond them. The Sufis talk about purdah, or the veil, that hides the face of truth. In common parlance, purdah or niqab refers to the veil on a woman’s face, that has been romanticized in songs and poetry, especially in Bollywood. For the Sufis, it is not something physical, but rather a spiritual barrier to seeing the truth.
If I look at my own life, the veil completed covered the face during much of my childhood. I grew up in a privileged home, as my father was a well know journalist. I was lucky to go to good schools and live a comfortable life, but I was lost in my own cocoon all through my early years.
The veil lifted quite a bit when I faced some personal tragedies; my father and elder brother passed away while I was still a teenager. Our whole lifestyle was upended, and we even moved to a new city, staying with my uncle. With all this churn, I started digging deeper and the veil of ignorance lifted quite a bit. The golden vessel of an affluent lifestyle became weaker, and I could get a few glimpses of a higher reality.
The veil was back in place when I started studying at IIT Kanpur. The pace of studies was far too intense to think of much else. Luckily, we had a very good library on campus, and I borrowed just about every spiritual book I could. I also got a chance to delve a bit into yoga, but without the benefit of having any teacher.
Later, I settled into my career and was too caught up in material things for a long time. There was the business of making a living and, also, the allure of worldly pleasures. I got married and raised a family. The veil lifted quite a bit during marriage, as my wife and I shared a lot of spiritual values. The birth of children was a spiritual activity because there is tremendous joy in watching them grow up.
The veil lifted a bit more when I had an accident, with a serious fracture in the arm. I was hospitalized for a few days, and I have always found that hospitals are very spiritual places. People go there to heal, and the atmosphere is charged with care and compassion. The golden vessel was shattered during the brief time I was in hospital.
Then life went back to normal, and I was caught up again in the race to make a living. During the process, I found time to enjoy the good things of life, like good food or, rather, food that tastes good. Life in India is also very stressful at times; sometimes it feels as though the whole world, including our relatives are out to “get” you. There is so much corruption that every day life becomes very challenging. There was some respite when I started writing for a newspaper; the writing bug was deeply implanted in my brain, a gift, no doubt, from my father. Writing helped to clear the mind and the veil lifted quite a bit during that phase of my life. However, it also created the illusion that I could make a substantial difference to the world, and this, perhaps, is the biggest illusion of all.
Finally, I left India with my family, essentially to provide my children with better opportunities for growth. It’s been a roller coaster ride, trying to settle down in North America after landing here in my middle age. There have been ups and downs but finally I settled down with a job in the government service in Canada. This has brought stability and a chance to introspect more deeply into spiritual matters, along with my wife. We found great beauty in the Siddha Yoga path and, more recently, in the virtual company of Om Swami ji.
The pandemic proved to be a blessing for us as we got to spend more time on you tube. One day, a talk by Om Swamiji popped up almost by chance, and we were hooked. Om Swami ji talks in our language, as he is well educated and widely travelled. He is very traditional, following his Parampara, yet he is fully tuned to the modern world. He seems equally fluent in Hindi, English and Sanskrit. Just listening to him removes the veil of ignorance at least for a while.
The veil got removed much more during the nine-day Nava Durga havan. It was a divine experience right from the beginning, and we were lost in another state while watching the havan and listening to the Sanskrit chants in his melodious voice.
It was a taste of heaven, and it doesn’t get any better than this.