Today’s Podcast says that there are no methods or mantras to live Life. To avoid suffering we must simply stop wanting our Life to be any different from what it is.
Listen time: 7:14 minutes
On the path, the journey is the reward…
A young man asks me this question: “While I find great conceptual clarity with regard to intelligent living as a key to happiness, I am somehow, never able to practice any of what I learn. I am always unsure of where to begin. It is not about the why or how, it is about where and when to begin. Can you suggest a method that can be easily mastered and practiced?”
A large part of the young man’s question is in order. He loses the plot towards the end though. He seeks a “method” and one that is “easy to master”!
The most fundamental truth is that there are no mantras, no methods to live Life. Intelligent living comes from awareness, from your inner awakening; it cannot be boxed into a standard operating procedure! And nothing that requires mastery is easy. Simple. Period. If you must master something, you must keep at it again and again and again; no matter how good you are, each time you start, you start as a novice!
Now, let me answer the young man’s question. My answer is most likely relevant to many others who ask similar questions or who are confronted with similar predicaments. The reason why many have a “starting problem” is because they think too much, they analyze too much. A true seeker dives deep, unquestioningly, once they gain conceptual clarity. They don’t need any analysis. They don’t demand guarantees. They believe in the process, they trust the source, the teacher, and they dive deep. Once on the path, there is no looking back. And the non-starters remain where they once were – debating, analyzing, arguing.
I lean heavily on my understanding of The Four Noble Truths that Gautama Buddha taught:
- Life in our world is full of misery
- All our misery comes from our attachments and expectations
- We can let go of – or overcome – our attachments and expectations
- There is a path – others who have been on it have found peace and happiness; so, if we really want to, we too can embrace that path!
This understanding helps me keep it simple. When I started seeking, I didn’t question or analyze for too long. When I realized how futile any analysis of Life is, I simply looked to the evidence that lay in front of me. There had been, obviously, seekers ahead of me who have embraced the path that Gautama Buddha talked about. If they can, why can’t I – this logic is all that I needed to get going.
Now, having been on the path, for almost a decade now, I can tell you that it is beautiful. Here the journey is the reward. Because there is no attachment to where you started or to what you left behind nor any expectation of any destination to arrive at nor of anything to be attained or acquired! I am reminded of Vaali’s beautiful lyrics from a great song that features in the forgettable Tamil film “Azhagiya Tamizh Magan” (2007, Bharathan, A.R.Rahman, Vijay): “Nee Nadhipole Odikondu Iru.” It means, “You keep flowing like a river…!” And that’s really all we need to do to live intelligently! Not analyzing too much and getting bogged down, but to simply keep flowing!
The problem with searching for what isn’t there is that it takes you away from what is there!
We recently bumped into a couple who had attended one of my Talks a few months ago. The gentleman said he was very moved by our story and inspired by our ‘courage’. He suggested that we attend an Isha Yoga Program led by a prominent member of Jaggi Vasudev’s team. He felt we need to ‘put into practice a method that can attract abundance and inner peace into our Life’. Both Vaani and I politely declined his suggestion. He was a bit taken aback by our response. Noticing his discomfort, I told him that we had nothing against Jaggi Vasudev personally but we are saying no because we don’t believe that there are any methods to live Life.
The Isha philosophy has somehow never appealed to me personally. Nor has any other. In the past, people, out of sheer compassion and love for us, perhaps even concern, have recommended various approaches to us to help us ‘solve our problems’. Someone said that we must follow Buddhism, another said we must try or Pranic Healing or Reiki, my former secretary said we must embrace Christianity, a friend suggested we meet a Pir Baba at a mosque on Pycrofts Road (Chennai) who would look at eggs and tell us how to get rid of the ‘evil spirit that had gripped us’. So, the suggestions have been plenty. But we have consistently declined embracing any method, any practice.
Not that we haven’t tried anything ever. We did pujas, pariharams, went on pilgrimages to various shrines, across religions, wore rings on all fingers, fasted on specific days each week and followed several, several, methods and practices. But none worked for us – forget solutions, we didn’t even feel the peace we were desperately seeking! What I am going to say now applies to Vaani and me. There is no suggestion that anyone must agree with us or that it will work for others. After years of trying various approaches, we have realized that Life cannot be methodized. This understanding alone has worked for us. So we love it. And religion, practiced in a God-fearing, ritualistic, mindless, divisive manner, as it is done today, doesn’t work. At least it doesn’t work for us.
They say religion is for those who want to go to heaven. And spirituality is for those who have been to hell. Vaani and I have been to hell, are in hell, and are loving it here. Because if a problem-ridden Life is hell, then, no one is ever going to be living a problem-free Life. So, in a sense, we are all in hell already. Instead of loving what is, and learning to deal with it or work on changing it, we clearly don’t want to merely pine for – and suffer for – an aspirational state.
Spirituality is an inner awakening. It is understanding the divine, the godliness in you. And realizing that everything about your Life, including this lifetime is impermanent, except your divinity, or as every scripture points out, except your true Self. As Osho says, there is no God, just godliness. Or as German thinker Friedrich Nietzsche (1844~1900) asked so thought provokingly: “Which is it, is man one of God’s blunders or is God one of man’s blunders?” So, spirituality inspires us to live our temporary, soon-to-expire, human lives, intelligently, beautifully, happily. On the spiritual path there is no religion, there are no methods, no mantras, no practices. There is just an awakening; an empowering awareness that there is no logic to Life, just magic, everywhere, in every moment, in everyone!
I am reminded of Baal Shem Tov (1698~1760), the mystical Rabbi, who implored his followers to drop all rituals, all methods and all practices and simply trust Life. He used to say: “Trust Life, trust God, and whatsoever has been given to you, enjoy it! Enjoy it with such deep gratitude that every small thing matters and becomes holy, becomes sacred, becomes God.”
If you think about Life deeply you don’t have any other way to look at Life than with gratitude. This whole Life is a gift. The experiences that you have been through and are going through are unique gifts – that teach you and awaken you – too. When you realize this you will wonder why did you ever complain about Life, why did you have to struggle with and suffer in Life, instead of celebrating it!
Because you think you have to ‘solve this problem of Life’, it has come to mean a set of things that you don’t have or keep aspiring or searching for. Which is why you are looking for methods, which is why an external resource, a God, or religion, or ritual, is seen as a possible panacea. But are you at peace with your Life, are you happy, despite being religious, despite practices and rituals? To be sure, this search is futile because there is nothing, no one, to be found; there is nothing to be solved. You miss this simple truth about Life because while you are running amuck chasing what isn’t there, you never feel grateful for what is there, for what you have!
Life is happening in every moment. If you are not present in each moment you will miss the most spectacular show in, and of, your “entire lifetime”! You may define some moments of your Life as good and great and several others as plain drudgery. That’s perhaps because you don’t see the blessing in each moment. If you pause to look, every leaf looks beautiful in the sunlight, and differently beautiful in the darkness of the night, every cloud has a silver lining and everything around you, in you, is a miracle! What method do you need to see all this? What practice can help you see what is evident? How much more abundance do you need than what is and that which you don’t already recognize? When you do awaken to Life’s magic and beauty, you will stop searching for methods and start living with gratitude!
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