Discovering our true essence

Reflections

Discovering our true essence

It’s often difficult to pinpoint the beginning of a spiritual journey. In my case, serendipitous coincidences paved the way. On hindsight however, I realise that I seemed to have a propensity for such events. 

I’ve always had an alert, curious mind; always getting to the core of issues, bent on unravelling enigmas (I am a mechanical engineer by training and now a travel writer by choice). Simultaneously, I also had the constant perception of an inner world, a certain pull toward nature and ultimately, a quest for truth.

I remember taking off on Sunday mornings, when the world was asleep, on solitary sojourns, driving along country roads with no particular destination in mind, intending only on putting some distance between the city and me. Invariably, I ended up, as if guided by an unseen force, at beautiful spots — a river or lakeside, a hill top, green pastures or a wooded patch. I could spend hours in solitude, taking in nature, delighting in the stillness, for once free of the capers of the mind.  

This tenuous connection to something higher than me transformed into spiritual leanings and gradually, took me to diverse spiritual centres in search of truth and meaning. That same unseen force seemed to work behind me when, through coincidences, I came upon books by eclectic writers like James Redfield, Deepak Chopra, Louise Hay and Echkart Tolle — chancing upon them in a bookstore, someone pointedly lending me a book, unasked or stumbling upon a book title.

I understood how Sufism is the spiritual arm of Islam just as Gnosticism is of Christianity and Advaita Vedanta of Hinduism, not to mention Zen Buddhism or Kabbalah of the Jews. History tells us that the core spiritual teachings in every religion have always got sidestepped and obscured from the mainstream. Every spiritual seeker is aware of this. No wonder western writers have been increasingly looking to the spiritual essence of eastern religions.
Spiritual gems culled from these sources are now being re-presented in a plethora of books emanating from the west — but in a more logical and coherent manner, shorn of metaphors, symbolism and allegory — all pointing toward the common destiny of mankind. An honest, unbigoted look clearly reveals that organised religions have been signposts, milestones if you prefer. We err when we mistake the milestone for the destination. Content only with rituals, we lose sight of our ultimate purpose: to gain awareness of our true essence and realise the divinity within.

Somewhere along the way I picked up a wonderful tool called forgiveness and unburdened myself of the heavy baggage of grudges, bitterness and past pain. The salutary effect it has had in every area of my life has been amazing — from food habits to career changes to family and social ties. Ego was a big hurdle too, a demanding, unforgiving entity that had made my mind its home and made me believe I was it. Dismantling its talons from the recesses of my mind has been a formidable task. As Paramahamsa Yoganda says in his Autobiography of a Yogi, “The hard core of egotism is difficult to dislodge except rudely. With its departure, the Divine finds at last an unobstructed channel.”

However, while grappling with this task I also learned that we keep our egos in check and prevent it from becoming a threat as long as we are in touch with our higher selves and nurture our awareness of who we really are. Then our egos begin to serve us and not rule. Our task therefore is to make our egos function in harmony with our whole self. I stopped gaining transient happiness from catering to the demands of the ego and discovered instead a joy of spirit centred in my heart... that I sense sometimes as quicksilver bubbles rising up from deep inside my soul. Spirituality in that sense is all about laying a road from our mind to our soul. Travelling on that road could be the most important journey of our lives. 

Here I am reminded of that exquisite Buddhist saying: “Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible be found in us.” This saying seems to exemplify the spirit of true awakening. Here again, that unseen force I mentioned came to my aid — it’s a great ally once you get to know it. Writing, I discovered, has been of great help too. Sometime ago I started work on my first novel, a thriller. Taking my protagonist through life’s dark alleys, grim days and murky nights and the grisly twists and turns of the plot have had an unexpected offshoot — a catharsis of sorts for me!
Writing has also been a gateway as it were, to that divine source within, that all of us possess. I’ve had a way with words since long. But I had not done any serious pen pushing until mid-life when I began looking for something more meaningful than a successful engineering career.

The first piece I wrote was predictably on the human mind. I also began looking at my love for travel and commenced writing travelogues. I wrote on topical environmental issues, on science, and then spirituality. Apart from spurring my creative output, the journey has also involved a spring-cleaning of my heart and psyche, making room as it were for a higher consciousness. What have I learned so far? I resonate with these home truths: that life is about dissolving the old and creating anew, that lasting peace and happiness can come only from meeting the deep spiritual needs of our soul.

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