Seeking God

Do we really want liberation?

Not many people actually want ‘liberation’, my spiritual teacher said today. “Ask yourself, do you really want nirvana (liberation from the cycles of life and death)? Do you really want detachment from your hundred material pursuits and relationships? Doesn’t liberation sound boring?”

His words struck a chord and I sat up in my seat. “But what is wrong with that? What is wrong with not wanting liberation?”

“Nothing is wrong,” he said. “In fact, my guru once said that people don’t really want God; they just want God’s help in making their worldly existences easier.”

“But again, what is wrong with that? Aren’t our worldly desires and relationships natural and biological?” I pursued. “How can I help being attached to my kids, for instance?”

“True. As Sri Aurobindo said, out of a thousand people, only one person makes an attempt at achieving God. Out of a thousand people who make the attempt, only one actually reaches his or her goal. The question is, are you making an attempt at spiritual liberation?”

“I guess I am not,” I admitted after some thought. “I am happy and content in my worldly existence. But isn’t this a desirable state to be? Aren’t we told to be happy with what we have?”

“Ah ha, today Aekta is finally paying attention in class,” my teacher laughed. “There are four pre-requisites to liberation. (1) You have to have a certain spiritual discontent. So, no, you will achieve no substantial spiritual growth if you stay happy and content in your material existence. (2) You have to believe in a higher power. (3) You have to believe that you are capable of achieving liberation. (4) You have to believe the goal of liberation is worthwhile pursuing.”

I chewed my lips thoughtfully, weighing which of the points I could check off my list. A fellow student teased, “Let her enjoy her material pursuits for now. Isn’t all this ‘giving up’ and ‘detachment’ too much to ask for, Aekta?”

“Well, at least I have learnt where I stand,” I admitted, humbly. “I have learnt that I identify with St Augustine when he said, ‘Dear God, make me good, but not just yet’.”

(He actually said, “Lord, make me chaste, but not just yet.”)

“Well, there are three types of ignorance,” smiled my teacher sagely. “One is simple ignorance. The other is being ignorant about being ignorant. The third is being conscious about being ignorant. At least you’ve reached the third step.”

As the class ended and students filed out, my teacher walked with me to the parking lot. “You don’t have to eat the whole handi (serving bowl) of rice to know what it tastes like. You can taste a bite of it, satisfy yourself, and then move on. A lot of enlightened souls began their journey quite young. The next step is to aspire to aspiration.”

The symbolic meaning of his words stayed with me all evening. Ramakrishna said, “Do not seek illumination unless you seek it as a man whose hair is on fire seeks a pond.” I have come to the startling realisation that my hair is not on fire.

But I can aspire to aspiration.

Will you ignite me, Krishna?

Seeking God

We got a drooling kinda love

I have been reading a lot lately, and one of the books I read extolled the virtues of meditation (not that I was difficult to convince). So I sat down the very next morning at 4.30 am to enjoy 30 minutes of silence while everyone was asleep.

Surprise, surprise. It was a cacophony in my head. Doesn’t matter how quiet the house is, I realised, when the space between the ears is noisy.

Still, I forgave myself since it was day one of meditation after a very long time, and tried again the next morning. This time, I didn’t make it past even a few minutes, so difficult was it to sit still. I became so disillusioned, in fact, that I gave up meditation completely.

Today, though, my perspective shifted.

Doggy love: When it comes to living in the moment, you gotta hand it to dogs. They probably pioneered the concept. If I leave home even for 30 seconds to go get something from the car, they jump all over me as if they’re seeing me after years. When I come out of the shower every morning, they drool all over my feet in happiness to have me back after a mighty long time, unconcerned that — hello?! — I’ve just washed myself squeaky clean. If I scold them for barking too much from the balcony at the neighbourhood strays, they put their heads down for precisely three seconds before they’re wagging their tails and expecting me to do something exciting (like tickling their ears) instead.

They’re never sad for long; they never hold grudges; they are quick to forgive and always ready to receive adoration. There’s no ego or shame or pride in their relationships. It’s just pure, unadulterated, unconditional LOVE ME RIGHT THERE BABY.

Why yoga: Then today, at my Gita class, the topic came up about Krishna extolling yoga as the path to achieving Him (or enlightenment). The teacher elaborated that one of the key lessons in the tome is: “All of life is yoga. There is no part of it that is more or less important than others. Everything that happens, all activities, all relationships, all events, can be used for yoga.”

In other words, yes, yoga is the path. But whatever path you are on is also yoga.

I considered my sweet dogs and their mindfulness meditation of being 100 per cent present in every moment of their lives. I considered my restlessness as I sat down to meditate in the silent darkness a few days ago. I looked at my cravings, my habits, my fears that drew me in directions I didn’t really want to go any more. I dwelt on the changing landscape of my desires, always wanting something more, always seeking something new, always in a state of flux.

And I thought to Krishna, “This, too, is my path, isn’t it?” All these colours, too, are what life wants to paint through me.

My dreams, at the moment, have got drool all over them. I can mourn the mess, or I can use this opportunity to turn yikes to yoga, and tickle Life’s ears back.

Love me right there baby.