God - 100 paths to GOD
by Suma Varughese
A behind-the-scenes information—why and wherefore of this special issue of life positive
Why hundred, you will want to know. Because, dear reader, it is exactly 100 issues ago that we first began this relationship with you. In April 1996, our first issue rolled off the press, heralding the birth of New Age in India (for math purists, we have included a couple of special issues to arrive at this figure).
In the eight-odd years of its existence, Life Positive has explored and reported on a vast range of subjects in the body-mind-spirit spectrum.
Always the underlying intent has been to assist you in your own personal growth whose goal, ultimately, is liberation.
Which is why our centenary issue is about 100 paths to God. One reader sent an irate letter accusing us of cheapening the concept of self-realisation by implying that there were diverse ways to attain it.
However, we take our inspiration from no less a source than the Vedic sages (the basis of much spiritual enterprise in India at least). The great ones affirm in their infinitely tolerant, all-accepting manner: “Ekam sat vipra bahudha vadanti” (That which exists is One; the wise call it by many names). Diverse are the ways through which the infinite entwines us to itself.
Indeed, those of us who are privileged to interact with many seekers through our work, never cease to be astounded at the innumerable ways through which people vend their way to God. Death, accidents, illnesses, misfortune, discourses, courses, passing words overheard or read somewhere, a chance meeting, a thought, a sudden effulgence of grace, who knows how or when the call comes?
And when the seeking begins, our uniqueness and individuality continue to demand custom-made paths that work for us alone. For even if we do take a tried and tested flavour, we add our own temperament and experience to spice and ice it. A dash of bhakti with karma and a large dollop of affirmation, too. A blend of jnana with yoga and a bit of seva on the side. Reiki and Art of Living and an occasional taste of Vipassana. And so it goes. No seeker’s route is exactly like another’s, no matter how identical it may seem from the outside; for we live in a subjective world and our experiences are ours alone.
This conclusion has been confirmed by the variety and range of the experiences that you have so generously and spontaneously shared with us.
We were overwhelmed by your response to our call for spiritual experiences and we wish to thank you fervently. This issue in a very special way belongs to you, for what could easily have been an academic dissertation of different paths has been brought to pulsating life by the vibrancy and depth of your personal revelations. We’ve always known that the Life Positive reader is a highly evolved being, but quite frankly, we are humbled and impressed.
Forty one of the 100 paths belong to you, for we believe that any individual journey is a potential path. Besides, there is nothing as inspiring or frankly as interesting as a seeker’s individual quest for the glittering prize of enlightenment and liberation.
So what then is this thing that we chase so ardently? What is liberation?
After going through the 100 paths we still don’t have one single answer. The Advaitins say that liberation is the total merger into the Ultimate reality and the disappearance of the individual self. Dualists are okay with being separate from God as long as they submerge their will in His, and live in harmony with life. Depending on our path, we emphasise one or more of the many attributes of that hallowed state. For some it is living in the moment, for others, it is absolute happiness, for a third segment it is freedom from thought, while a fourth supports simple freedom and so on. Ultimately though, as the Buddha stated, it is wiser to refrain from metaphysical hair-splitting and get down to the task on hand—to actually get there.
For there’s no doubt that liberation is the most difficult and challenging adventure of life. It demands us to strain every moral and mental sinew and muscle we possess in order to attain that complete transformation which comes from freedom of desires and wants and the dissolution of our conditioned selves. No task in the world, not even climbing Mount Everest or going to the moon or inventing the computer, comes anywhere close to this one for sheer magnitude.
But when we embark on this precious and staggering undertaking, we are blessed with meaning and purpose in our lives. And the further we go down the road, the more our lives expand, putting us in touch with our potentialities, giving us strength, courage, generosity, tenacity, competence, humility, compassion, love and joy. We live at a depth and intensity unbelievable to the outsider and we comprehend the real magnificence of life. There is no turning back for the seeker, there is only going forward.
We have compiled some 60 paths that mankind has envisaged through the ages to help us on this momentous journey. They include the hallowed paths of tradition: jnana, bhakti, karma, as well as the modern meditation and pranayam packages devised by gurus like Sri Sri Ravishankar.
Any path that has the potential to take us to enlightenment that we knew about, we have included. We have not included religions, though we have taken their mystical strains such as preksha dhyan in Jainism, or Sufism in Islam. We have not included many new age pre-occupations such as reiki, pranic healing, channeling, creative visualisation, affirmation, etc, because we are unsure of their reach. However, they have their value as adjuncts on the path. We have steered clear of the occult, for its means and ends are often questionable. We make no claim to be comprehensive.
There are, we are sure, hundreds of other paths that have simply eluded our grasp. If any of them happens to be dear to your heart, we are sorry! As we scrolled through the paths, what stood out was the paradoxical nature of the search. Path after path exhorts us to do the very thing we chase.
The means fuse with the end. Whether it is J. Krishnamurti’s choiceless awareness, Eckhart Tolle’s being in the now, Kashmir Shaivism’s absolute consciousness, the concepts are all aspects of the liberated mind. It is this paradox that the seeker has to resolve by keeping one foot in theaspired-for state and one foot in his present state of being and using the tremendous tension between the two to drive himself forward.
Even if we have demarcated separate paths, in actuality there are few rigid classifications. Each path flows into the other even as they all flow into the One. Bhakti leads to karma and jnana as easily as jnana leads to the other two. Love of God can fire us with the zeal to serve our fellow human beings even as it gives us insights into our true nature. Insights too can radiate our lives with meaning and purpose, which manifest as selfless action performed out of love for God. Our own journeys are a composite of many paths, for as we grow in wisdom and purity we expand our nature in several directions.
Compiling the paths was a daunting exercise, but help was on hand in the form of Amodini Bagwe, writer extraordinaire and Life Positive enthusiast. Her prolific pen turned out the maximum paths even as her profound knowledge and creative mind nosed out several arcane trails.
Finally, here it is. Our hope for this issue is that the reader who is still bereft of a path may find in this plenitude of options something that beckons him to step on it, and thus uncover his life’s purpose.