The rich landscape of Indian history holds testimony to the fact that excessively rational minds often find it hard to reconcile the spiritual with the material, simple living with elevated thinking and compassion with renunciation. Whatever way of life one adopts, there is always a question of belief and disbelief that lingers in the background. Do I believe in the truth of something or not? Do I have faith in a particular religion or not? Does ethical living truly have importance for me? Is one born a saint or becomes one? Are being and becoming mutually exclusive when it comes to the question of sainthood?
According to the Vedantic scriptures, as one’s individual spirit coalesces into the singular all-encompassing Spirit that is at the same time eternal, all-pervading and without a beginning and an end, one realises that one is always and does not become. The knowledge of the one-undivided Self dawns and one is no longer deluded by the fallacies of time and space. One is only that exists — ‘Sacchidānanda’ representing existence, consciousness, and bliss.
In Tripura Rahasya, a text of unknown origin often quoted by Swami Chinmayananda’s teacher Sri Ramana Maharshi in his talks, there is a mention of an extraordinary city. The city is inhabited by people who dwell in a state of permanent bliss. Not a single soul is deprived or depraved. The citizens followed the path of Advaita Vedanta and attained self-realisation thus resulting in a life of perfect and everlasting happiness.
At this point before commencing the discussion on the significance of spirituality, it is absolutely essential to find out what we are looking for in life. Are we buyers of pleasure like the Hedonists, or do we truly seek perfect unending bliss and freedom? Is spiritual evolution simply a means to this end? Or is there something in it that goes beyond? How does one draw oneself from the clutches of the emotional and psychological traces that one has been carrying for lifetimes? Are we ready to trade both the bad and the good for the knowledge of the Self?
The path might be simple. But, it is certainly not easy. Worlds and worlds of mental constructions, preconceived notions, ideas concepts and innumerable psychological fetters begin to crumble as one advances on the road less travelled by.
Oscar Wilde once said, “The only difference between the saint and the sinner is that every saint has a past and every sinner has a future.” Courage might be the answer. Not every courageous person might be spiritual, but every spiritual being is definitely courageous. This can be seen in myriad examples throughout history. Even Adi Shankaracharya, the guru of the gurus of the school of Advaita Vedanta, had to trick his mother into believing that a crocodile was dragging him to the depths of the ocean persuading her to permit him to renounce the world — so much for the sake of enlightenment.
At some point of time in our busy lives, almost all of us contemplate such questions and strive to find satisfactory answers to them. Some of us find ourselves enervated along the way and switch to other occupations and engagements, choosing not to bother further.
However, a handful of us, being unable to bear the lightness of being, carry on. We make it the sole ambition of life to rip apart the subtleties and break every barrier that comes their way so much so that one day, even the ground that they had been standing on slips away, giving way to ultimate knowledge.