Everything is a journey because you start from one point and you move towards something you aim to find, explore or find the reality of.
How can we define a spiritual journey?
In most cases, the spiritual journey starts when you have experienced lifeand decided that apart from day-to-day existence, there must be something more . It can’t be just this – in which we are born, go through some experiences, get married or unmarried, have kids, have a business or a job, then in the end, you die.
Is this all to life or there could be something else? Now, some people say this is what life is- you’re born, you enjoy, you die and that’s the deal. But there are some who don’t accept this, think it can’t be so meaningless, there must be something more. There is pain, suffering, little bit of happiness and then it’s over? So, some people begin to think.
Look at Buddha’s case. He was born in a luxurious family. He experienced all the pleasures and happiness of living in the palace. In fact, somebody had told his parents that if he sees sick people or people who are dying, he may leave home. So, they kept him protected. One day he happened to see a sick old man and he started thinking – Is this life? Can I also get sick like this? Maybe, who knows! Then one day, he saw a dead person and looking at the dead man, he said – is this the fate of all human beings, to die?
In fact, the Yoga Vashishta is about a state where Rama himself gets into some kind of a depression, wondering what life is all about, why am I living? So, that’s where Vashishta comes in and teaches the Yoga Vashishta. In the same way, Buddha too started thinking. What is all this! Then one day, he saw a monk, he was begging for his food with a beautiful smile on his face. This made him wonder. He doesn’t have a palace, a wife nor children, he has nothing! What’s he smiling about? He seems so peaceful. For hunger he eats food somewhere and he’s quite happy. What is it that makes him happy? And what is it that here in the palace everybody seems stressed out? He started his search. In fact, they call it ‘setting forth’.
So, he walked out and he searched. First, he became a Jain Shravana. Then, he became a yogi, he tried various things. – He started questioning – Is there freedom from sorrow? He concluded that desire is the root of all sorrow, and Nirvana is freedom from sorrow for all mankind.
Come to another journey. There was a young boy in Tamil Nadu, inMadurai. He was a normal child except that he used to sleep like a log. And he had not done any sadhana. One day, he felt that he was about to die, So, he said, so what happens when I die? He lay down like a dead body. And then it came to him that the body was dead but he was not dead- ‘I am alive’ So, he started thinking – who is the ‘Real’ me? Apart from the body that is born and What is that that is permanent, my true identity? This young man went deeply into it, saying my body, my mind, the thought that says this is mine, cannot be ‘Me’. So, what can I be? He went deep into this understanding, into this exploration. He found that he is neither the body nor the mind. Chidananda roopa Shivoham Shivoham like Shankaracharya said. I am of the nature of bliss and consciousness, I am Shivam, I am Shivam. So, that’s another journey. So, there’s Buddha’s journey and there is Ramana Maharshi’s journey.
So, the common point is, the beginning of a spiritual journey is – dissatisfaction with the status quo. Fortunately, those who have experienced this say it’s joyful, blissful and that it’s infinite. The speed of the journey may depend on the road you take, the vehicle you use, the maturity that you have, and the treasure of experience you carry from your past. It so happens – that there are innumerable ways to reach That. One cannot say that this is the only path. Some paths suit some people and some don’t. So, before you choose the path on this journey, make sure that it is meant for you. Now sometimes, it’s difficult to figure that out. So, therefore there are teachers who can help you figure this out – is this your cup of tea or not?
That which we seek, that which we search, whatever be the journey, whichever way we are traveling – is something so intimate – we are actually searching for ourselves in our true essence, not in what we believe it is, heard it is or somebody says it is. So, all you require is a clear mind not prejudiced by all that one has gathered. If one can’t do that, well, one can still have some spiritual experiences but not reach the goal.
While there are different ways, the essential thing about listening to someone who probably has travelled the path and touched the goal – is to listen to it with a completely unprejudiced mind, with no load, with no garbage on your head. It’s veryrare. Very,Very rare.! First two and a half years I spent with Maheshwarnath Babaji, out of that one year was spent in unloading because- he said – even if I give you something, it’s not going to become a part of you because you’re so .. Because I went after reading a lot, even the university library’s Philosophy and Religion shelvesI finished by the time I met babaji.
What happens if what I am looking for is here, there and everywhere. How do I travel to it! How? I cannot. Perhaps one can find it when all movement of trying to grope and grab has stopped. Or find That when Patanjali says- chitta vritti nirodha. In that stillness it is discovered that what you are searching is right here and what is right here is also what is right there. Once it is discovered right here then ‘that here’ is seen everywhere. It can’t be the other way around.
This journey is taken by someone who has seen the whole illusion of it; Generally most people are swimming with the stream, carrying on with the big river that is flowing, the stream. Rarely does one person standup and try to swim against the stream. Naturally there are obstacles. Because there are attractions that give you temporary happiness all around you. When you say I’m unhappy- there’s something that gives you some happiness. So you take it with the result that the central turbulence is covered off temporarily or swept under the rug and we carry on with life. When we realize that this is only sweeping under the rug and we need to look at it as it is, then begins the churning!
Only when the churning takes place, one can finally separate the truth from the scum that comes out. And just like in the Samudra manthan described in the Bhagavatam, the churning took place and first the poison comes out. So, when you’re on a spiritual journey don’t get frightened when the poison comes out- very important to note. Because amrita will come only in the end. And when the amrita also comes, watch out! The asuras may steal it and run away.
When the churning happens, if it is genuine, what was inside will come out. It’s quite natural. It has to come out and only then evaporate. It’s like heating water; when you heat water it bubbles. Without bubbling it cannot become vapour. In the same way this bubbling will happen. So it’s the duty of the teacher to say don’t get frightened, don’t get defeated this is the bubbling that’s taking place; absorb it. Let it happen till it evaporates and goes off. That requires patience. If you don’t have patience on the spiritual path, you might become a patient! The last part of the spiritual journey is patience and calmness and acceptance. Not in the beginning! In the beginning if you accept it, then you can’t move ahead. Then, the amrit comes out. Amrit means that you realize.
Asato Ma Sad-Gamaya– May I be lifted from the unreal to the real.
Tama Soma Jyotir-Gamaya– May I ascend from darkness to light
Mrityor-Ma Amritam-Gamaya– May I ascend from (mrityu) death to deathlessness.
Which means that at the end of the journey you realize that the true essence in you is a deathless entity. The physical body cannot become deathless. After many years, it will leave. But the essence is something which cannot go. It is deathless; it’s called amrit because it cannot be killed.
So sometimes the goal may not be far away. It is right here. In the beginning it would appear as if it’s there; oh I haven’t reached it yet. Keep trying! Then one day you realize that it is right here; so all trying ceases and I am in my true essence. This is the goal of the spiritual journey.
You need to work hard to bring your mind to one-pointedness and keep it away from distraction and not get satisfied by the little things that are happening. Dissatisfaction is very important to move on the spiritual field. Otherwise one can get caught in little little things and say ahhh..I’m okay; now done. You may have a vision and you may say ah.. now I’ve reached.
So I wish everyone a beautiful journey. It can be beautiful if you make it beautiful. It can be hard if you make it hard.
And if you see somebody who has enjoyed the journey then you’ll also understand the beauty of it and how wonderful it is. And because you’re on the spiritual path it doesn’t mean that you’re walking around with a frown on your face; or you’re not wearing good clothes. It doesn’t mean any of these things. It means that wherever you are, your mind is there looking for it. You can’t isolate yourself from this world, it’s impossible! Stay in this world but all the time let the mind say na na na… okay, but I’m looking for ‘that’. Then one day the journey will conclude. It’s actually a continuing journey; there is no real conclusion like other things.
I wish you all readers to take up the journey, don’t get frightened by it. It’s simple and nice and beautiful. Please remember, last word, that the journey is as important as the goal. It’s not just a goal.
Thank you very much.
– Sri M