You are getting old.
You are getting old.
You, my friend, are getting old.
No, it’s not a warning. Just a reminder; actually, maybe a confession. We are all getting old. Time to wake up.
When I say “old”, while I’m referring to the physical body, I don’t mean just the body. I mean our tendencies, beliefs, habits, everything. At the turn of every decade of our life, our priorities, body, and brain undergo a profound shift. Nature propels us to grow, to move forward, but often our temperament and opinions pull us back into the old ways. I am not saying so based on any scientific data, therefore, my statement may not be factual. I’m simply speaking from my personal experience and learning I gain by dealing with people of all ages. One day, you are 22, and then suddenly, you realize, you are forty or fifty years old. It was just yesterday that you became a parent and now today, your children are getting married. Life, the good times and the not so good, just zoomed past in a flash. So fast that it may even feel like nature’s played a prank on you.
Sometimes, I’m asked why I don’t write more on scriptures and spirituality, something mystical, rather than scribbling on the practical issues of life?
In answer, let me share a little Tibetan story: The Gates of Shambhala. 1 The entire story, literatim, has been taken from The Book of Ichigo Ichie by Hector Garcia and Francesc Miralles. As follows:
The story goes that a hunter was pursuing a deer across the frozen peaks of the Himalayas when he came upon an enormous mountain split in two, allowing him to see what was on the other side.
Beside the opening in the mountain, an old man with a long beard beckoned to the startled hunter to come closer and see.
The hunter obeyed and peered into the vertical crack that was just wide enough for one man to pass through. What he saw left him breathless.
On the other side of the opening was a fertile garden, bathed in sunlight and seeming to go on forever. Children played happily among trees laden with fruit, and animals frolicked freely in a world filled with beauty, serenity, and abundance.
“Do you like what you see?” the old man asked when he saw the hunter’s amazement.
“Of course, I like it . . . this must be paradise!”
“Indeed, it is, and you have found it. Why don’t you come in? Here, you can live happily ever after.”
Overflowing with joy, the hunter answered, “I will, but first I want to go find my brothers and friends. I’ll come back with them soon.”
“As you wish. But remember, the gates of Shambhala open only once in a lifetime,” the old man warned him, frowning slightly.
“I won’t be long,” said the hunter, before running off.
Excited by what he’d just seen, he retraced the path he had taken, crossing valleys, rivers, and hills until he reached his village, where he told his two brothers and three childhood friends of his discovery.
The group set out at a brisk pace, guided by the hunter, and before the sun dipped below the horizon, they managed to reach the high mountain that gave access to Shambhala. But the mountain pass had closed, never to open again.
The man who had discovered that miraculous world would keep hunting for the rest of his life.
My reason for using this platform to share my musings on life is not too different from the story above. Life is too fast and too precious to not live it fully. That is, at times, we get so busy searching for our truth in the reality of some other world, that we completely forget to make the most of this life we have right here. We get so busy looking that we stop seeing.
I don’t deny that mystical stuff is fascinating and life can be a mundane affair and its challenges, undesirable. But, that’s what makes it beautiful. My mother’s mother was an incredibly simple lady who spent her life in service. Every saint coming to that town would make a stop at her home. Every afternoon, she would mop the temple floor. She died at the ripe old age of 92. Her skin was as soft as a baby’s; there was some tenderness that gave away her age but not a deep wrinkle. And she passed away exactly as she had lived: peacefully. No diabetes, no hypertension, no heart issues, no joint pains, no body aches. Perfectly fit. She never bothered with any tantra or sadhana. Her life was a prayer.
It is when we fail to appreciate the beauty of life, that we look to engage ourselves in lifeless pursuits. Nothing wrong with that at all. In fact, I fully agree that an intelligent mind can find this simplicity all too familiar, and, therefore, boring. Yet, the truth is, all sadhanas, whether that be kundalini, tantra, mantra, meditation, or any other, are designed so I fall in love with life. That’s the whole idea.
The more I am in love with my life, the bigger my heart will be to practice compassion and loving-kindness towards others.
Like the gates of Shambhala, some opportunities will only knock once. We can’t take for granted this life, our world and, the joys it has to offer. Depriving yourself of what’s natural or to indulge excessively just because you can are two ways of taking life for granted.
Mulla Nasrudin was suffering from insomnia when he decided to visit the doctor.
“I find nothing wrong with you,” the doctor said after a thorough examination. “Learn to relax, chill, take it easy.”
“But, my business is stressful,” Mulla countered.
“I know, I know. You just have to stop taking your trouble to bed with you.”
“I can’t,” Mulla said. “My wife refuses to sleep alone.”
At times, I feel our race has a penchant for turning everything into a problem, a trouble of some sort. Even the beautiful act of meditation is a problem for most of us. We approach enlightenment as if this too is a problem we need to solve somehow. The truth is, we just have to have a big heart and be open to possibilities.
I don’t discourage you from looking, I do, however, urge you to not stop seeing. Don’t let your beliefs get in the way of your discovery. You don’t have to live the life of a mule when you can be the ruler. Shambhala was also named after the king who ruled it 2500 years ago.
The key, the lock, access to the gates of Shambhala, it’s all in your hands. Ikkyū 2 writes:
From the world of passions,
I return to the world beyond passions,
A moment of pause.
If the rain is to fall, let it fall;
If the wind is to blow, let it blow.
Only a genuine appreciation and love for life is beyond passion. Everything else is passion disguised in one form or another. Whether it’s seeking wealth, fame, enlightenment, or anything else – the basic nature of passion remains the same: it builds yearning in us.
Also, let me in you on a secret. Randomly pick any five posts from this blog. Now, select five verses from any scripture of your choice. Read them alternately. Are they saying the same thing? A good chef doesn’t serve you the ingredients raw or talk endlessly about the recipe. Instead, s/he will serve you the meal. Each post that I write is my humble attempt to serve you.
Squeeze the most (not the hell) out of your life. Each moment gone is many more lost.
P.S. Black Lotus changes coming next month.
Notes [ + ]
|1.||Derived from the Sanskrit word,शम्भल [Śambhala], Shambhala is a mythical place in the Himalayas. It’s also known as Siddha-ashram in the texts of Hinduism or Shangri-La in Chinese culture. In the Mahabharata and the Harivansh Purana, it is prophesied to be the place where Vishnu’s last incarnation, Kalki, will be born.|
|2.||Although a monk, Ikkyū Sōjun (1394-1481) was an iconoclast whose thoughts on awakening were nothing short of revolutionary in his times. He taught that the need for sense-gratification was as real as the body’s need for food and water. And that denying what the body required naturally went against the basic fabric of Zen. One of his poems I quite liked when I first read Ikkyu is as follows:
I’ve left in the temple the things I’ve always used,