'Humbug! I tell you, all that they teach in these classes is utter rubbish'. In ten minutes I can reduce your beliefs about 'Atma', 'God' and 'Reality' to scrap. The only reality is the physical one. This body is real because matter does not perish. It will continue to exist in some form or other, but where is the atma? And mental peace? That's a self-contradictory term. So long as there is a mind there can be no peace, because your mind is the sum-total of your thoughts and memories. So till you continue to think and remember there can be no peace. If you stop thinking and remembering where is the mind? See! Mental peace, atma, Self-realization ' all bakwas! ' All secondhand knowledge passed on to us from ages'. blah, blah, blah.'
This interesting tirade came from a 51 year-old man I've known for years. I call it interesting because this man's journey has taken a 180-degree turn. Whether he has plummeted, reached the acme or is in a spiritual limbo is for him to decide. He has studied the Vedanta and avows it is the 'ultimate' philosophy; he used to sit in meditation for hours together; practiced bhrahmacharya; followed a prescribed path of strict self-denial and selflessness. He has devoured books on religions, philosophies and spiritualism, gaining a lot of knowledge and here he was today firmly entrenched in the belief that he has wasted his youth and life in illusory pursuits. ' Had I married or run after money, I would have been better off than I am.' He is angry, so angry that if he had his way he would abolish all religions, denounce every spiritual/religious leader ' past, present and future.
Why has this happened? Is he a failure? Has his divine quest been doomed? I think not. At an early age, before he had experienced life in its natural totality, he embarked upon an odyssey charted out for him by others. He believed everything he read because it had the stamp of authority; he followed what he was told was the 'right' thing as opposed to the 'wrong'; he imbibed 'moral values' and suppressed any desire/emotions he was conditioned to accept as 'immoral'. He adhered to spiritual discipline more by an austere negative control of the 'undesirable' than from true understanding. He reached one extreme and not having found the illusive atman and peace he has now vacillated to the other, negating every previous experience in toto.
What he, in fact every one of us needs, is to strike a balance and stay on an even course. The 'middle path', moderation, going to neither extreme nor swaying between the two, is what keeps one from going neurotic. Spiritualism does not mean aspiring towards the 'good' by fostering rigidity and stifling one's natural spontaneity. It is not to be mastered by formal methods and techniques that entirely curb one's intrinsic nature. It is an inward pilgrimage, private, often lonely, towards the Self, where ultimately the pilgrim, pilgrimage and destination all merge to become a unified whole. It is to accept life as it unfolds itself each moment, without weighing it and judging it by what could or should be. It is to benaturally good and virtuous as against forced compliance of rules and precepts. It is to have a capacity to rejoice in all things: to be capable of universal love. To just be. In the words of Lin-chi:
'When it's time to get dressed, put on your clothes. When you must walk, then walk. When you must sit, then sit. Don't have a single thought in your mind about seeking for Buddhahood'You talk about being perfectly disciplined in your six senses and in all your actions, but in my view all this is making karma. To seek the Buddha (nature) and to seek the Dharma is at once to make karma which leads to the hells. To seek to be Bodhisattvas is also making karma, and likewise studying the sutras and commentaries. Buddhas and Patriachs are people without such artificialities'
It means one must not desire even Nirvana or Moksha. One eventually has to understand that ALL desire is simply that: desire. It leads to accumulation of karma. One may say it is better than gaining 'bad' karma. But on this inner pilgrimage, if one wishes to make true progress one must finally learn to simply be. That is not to say one must exist without any effort, that one should live an absolutely useless, careless life and become a parasite feeding off the goodness of society. No. It is, as said before, to welcome each moment with whatever it brings, without undue elation or despondency or self-pity. It means to do your best and to leave the rest to God, Providence, the Higher Self ' whatever you wish to call IT.
There can be no seeking, expecting, wanting, wishing, on the way to spiritualism. There must be selfless surrender. That is where my friend erred. That is where most of us go wrong. It is not a trade where you barter every meditation, every penance, every incantation and chant, for favors. If we came from love, wanting only to give and serve, we would not open ourselves up to the pain of delusions. This is not the road to acquisitions. It is in fact one where we slowly and surely, with full commitment, begin to shed all the load of wants and must-haves. Life should be a joyous process of loving and living, instead of craving and possessing. It should be an unceasing flow of quiet contentment rather than one of always wishing things would be different.
The Gita says:
Thinking about sense-objects,
Will attach you to sense-objects;
Grow attached, and you become addicted;
Thwart your addiction, it turns to anger;
Be angry, and you confuse your mind;
Confuse your mind, you forget the lesson of experience;
Forget experience, you lose discrimination;
Lose discrimination, and you miss life's only purpose.