Letters on Yoga 2

[The following passages are from a manuscript that reached me some days ago. The author, knowing of my active literary engagements and of my interest in spiritual matters, allowed me to share it with others who might be interested in and even benefit from his own experience....]

Paisley, Scotland.   07 September, 2004.     At first I couldn't recall whether it had been in Christchurch, Buenos Aires, Reykjavík or New York.  The sea, the harbour, the sky, the seagulls, all merging in the ubiquity of spirit.  I had the vague feeling it had been years ago, but my mind couldn't either remember a precise date.  Even the face of my friend had started to fade away, his or her face fusing into the river of faces of timelessness, his or her voice now evoking a higher music full of beauty and harmony and wisdom.  At some point I started to realise that perhaps these apparent flaws of my memory could actually be the result of a higher working within me, a deeper understanding of universals which, like pure and true friendship, are faithful and are neither bound by time nor space.     I finally realised that it had been both in Christchurch, Buenos Aires, Reykjavík and New York -perhaps even in many places more, now forgotten by my physical mind-, and that it had been both many years and just a few days ago - time and space revealing themselves as mere instruments of illusion.  I could now distinctly see the different faces, clearly perceive the sweetness and deepness of the voices, and recognise that what my friends had been trying to explain to me was their own gratefulness and appreciation of the spiritual life.  Finally, after such a long time, I seem to have started to understand what they were so sincerely trying to convey.  It has all proven to be another solid testimony of life's cyclic unfoldments around a multiform axis of truth which makes me face an unescapable destiny of progressive self-discovery...       Yes, it has taken me all these years to start to comprehend what spirituality is all about, and especially what living a spiritual life has meant for these old friends of mine.   "Unhappiness followed me," one of them once told me.  "I had tried out many different lifestyles, sincerely giving happiness a chance in the ordinary world.  There was a constant voice inside telling me that I was fooling myself, and spirituality would be the only answer to this maze.  A giant realisation dawned that I was the one who had been escaping reality."  Those words had struck me in my deepest core, as I had myself repeatedly envisaged life as an unsurmountable maze, an endless labyrinth in which the map you try to trace never seems to get a definite form, thoughts which would often bring me to despair, hopelessness, frustration.  While I heard her words, I could hardly hold my breath in awe of the inner courage she was now showing by recognising and challenging her own previous weaknesses, accepting her own previous escape of reality, and kindling the determination to embark on a journey within and out of that self-escape, which so few dare to do.  My bewilderment was so much stronger, as deep within myself I knew this journey was also awaiting me....     Some months later, or perhaps some months before -the continuity of time does not seem to matter any longer, does it?-,  another friend had told me, talking about his experiences as a spiritual seeker, a physiotherapist, a chef and a meditation instructor, that he had met countless people who he thought were inwardly more than ready to start living a spiritual life; he had not seldom felt that deep within, those people knew spirituality would offer them a staircase -difficult or steep, perhaps, but straight and certain-  towards higher levels of fulfilment.  His conclusion was that outer bonds impeded these people to take that final step, just the step that would inspire them to give spirituality a chance, even out of curiosity.   Now, what did he mean by "outer bonds"?  Outer in respect to what?  How could he be so certain that it was a spiritual void which these people were experiencing and suffering from?   I wondered whether he also attributed my general frustration to such a spiritual want...     I must confess that although at the beginning my mind acted with hesitation and doubt towards the value of living a spiritual life, it was a mental or philosophical pursuit which helped me to delve into the mysterires of that "inner reality" and the nature of true spirituality, and finally adopt a more spiritual turn of mind and attitude towards life.  That spiritually-oriented intellectual endeavour was promptly answered by another friend who was deeply submerged in the study of spiritual texts, particularly texts written by so-called spiritual masters.  One of those texts reads as follows: "There is no real or final satisfaction in a human, egoistic life, except for those who are too common or trivial to seek anything else, and even they are not really satisfied or happy,  -  and in the end, it tires and palls.  Sorrow and illness, clash and strife, disappointment, disillusionment and all kinds of human suffering come and beat its glow to pieces - and then decay and death.  How do you fail to see, when you lay so much stress on the desirability of a merely human consciousness, that suffering is its badge?  When the vital resists the change from the human into the divine consciousness, what it is defending is its right to sorrow and suffering and all the rest of it, varied and relieved no doubt by some vital or mental pleasures and satisfactions, but very partially relieved by them and only for a time." It wasn't that long after I had received this excerpt that I discovered it had been written by Sri Aurobindo, who himself had experienced so directly and intensely the pleasures and triumphs and expectations and also the failures and pettiness and impotence and suffering and transience of the mere vital life, the life of desire, and who after heeding the inner divine call and initiating an inexhaustible spiritual discipline of more than 40 years, had reached a spiritual summit never reached before in the spiritual evolution of mankind... Sri Chinmoy is somebody I know you are acquainted with.  My latest readings of his writings have proven to be unexpectedly fruitful and enjoyable.  His perception evokes the unfallible wisdom contained in Sri Aurobindo's writings - what Aurobindo himself would with all sincerity and humility call a "total understanding and explanation of the economy of the universe and the cosmic reality with all its innumerable and multiform manifestations" - ; his poetic-prose style manages to condense an amazing amount of truth in a remarkable elegance of means.  Not few times have I found his writings as trying to propel an inner search within me; his words seem to evoke a truth that awaits to be rescued from within my own self, a promising treasure of boundless beauty and wisdom breathing inside my heart; he seems to be hinting what spirituality is, but expecting the readers to find the answers for themselves as part of the road towards self-discovery and fulfilment...   "Strange is this world of ours.  Stranger is our human understanding.  Strangest is our fear of the inner life.  The inner life grows in the unhorizoned vision of the soul.  It lives in the sublimest plenitude of the soul  (...)   Spirituality is a vast subject.  Yoga teaches us how to study this subject  (...)  Two things govern the world, only two things:  desire and aspiration.  Desire is for those who want to live an ordiary life, practically the life of an animal; and aspiration is for those who would like to live the life of the Cosmic Gods.  The life of desire is immediately followed by destruction.  The life of aspiration is followed by revelation, and revelation is followed by manifestation - manifestation of the Inner Pilot and manifestation of the Absolute, fully and completely here on earth." The person that helped me get in possession of these texts by Sri Chinmoy was very conscious of the efforts required and difficulties involved in living a true and  sincere spiritual life.  She quite often used to quote some of Sri Chinmoy's words:  "I have known.  I have known that few are those who want to be free from the snare of ignorance.  Fewer are those who are willing to pay the price, although they want to be free."   She also used to talk about another, more positive aspect of her spirituality:  her being a member of the Sri Chinmoy Centre, and the feeling of oneness, the feeling of belonging and support that she derived from her spiritual community.  She not only refered to it as a feeling of belonging and security which she had never felt before in the ordinary world, but often mentioned the opportunities that the centre's solid environment offered in the forms of  "nourishment for the soul" and "encouragement and inspiration to grow"...  As if her words carried with them the certainty of finally having found a map out of the maze, a haven of  security and protection where she could potentiate her spiritual endeavours to the fullest, however living at the same time an active and variegated outer life. I now perceive her presence, your presence, the presence of all those who have provided me with invaluable spiritual inspiration and unconditional support as rays of Grace with which the Higher Will floods the game of my life.  I feel I am know ready to "pay the price of freedom," at least give it a sincere try; I feel my search has started, and realise that if it were not for the Grace that descends and guides my steps -despite all my gropings and blunders- and the Protection which keeps me from submerging even more in the endless and fruitless vitalistic games of the outer world, my aspiration could have never truly kindled. I cannot but thank you for your constant presence and patience along these long years, first for enduring an obstinacy which initially manifested itself in the form of a sceptical intellectual inquiry, now for encouraging the inner call, that flame of aspiration, which I have finally started to comprehend and accept as a spiritual necessity in my life.    I feel this search has started to bear its fruits, and without ignoring the difficulties of the journey ahead of me, I look forward to the moment in which my westernised intellect will start opening to a truer spiritual experience, more intuitive, illumined, expansive, understanding and loving in its nature.... [manuscript continues...]