A compilation by Suma VarugheseIntroduction by Suma
Compilations of one’s columns can often seem like an exercise in vanity, of little interest to anyone save the writer, and perhaps a handful of loved ones. I feel a little bashful, therefore, to offer you these jottings of mine, written over a period of seven years starting from January 2001.
What emboldens me, though, is that Life Positive readers, where these writings first appeared, were good enough to often urge me to compile them into a book. It took me a while to take this seriously because I always thought these writings would not stand the test of time – after all, they were the products of an unliberated mind. I have come to believe, however, that this itself may be its special attraction. All of us need corroboration on the path, proof that that the dangerously slippery territory we tread is really the path to enlightenment. A fellow traveller can offer such reassurance and endorse one’s own experiences.
Indeed, I first started writing columns like these way back in 1991, when I was working for another magazine, because I was convinced that we have an obligation to pass on our experiences and insights to those behind us, just as we benefit by those before us, a passing on the torch, so to speak, from traveller to traveller.
Perhaps to put the pieces in context I should give you some details of my life, for mine has been a very upside-down journey. Unlike the average person who ripens into a seeker as she matures through life, I had a spiritual awakening after touching rock bottom. I had spent 16 years in depression, and was unhappy and confused, with almost zero self-esteem. In a wonderful act of grace, I was granted a powerful spiritual awakening that lasted close to a year.
During this period, the vast jigsaw puzzle of life fell into place and I understood everything. I understood that the universe was so designed as to enable us to derive our happiness from the happiness of others. This meant there was a designer, which meant that God existed. It also meant that the universe was one and we were all interconnected. Insights poured into me, the central one being that only when one goes beyond the ego can one focus unwaveringly on others and it is through their happiness that we attain true happiness.
This insight is often misunderstood when I try and explain it. It is often misconstrued as extreme self-effacement, a submission to the will of others. Very much to the contrary, I refer to the enlightened state when one acts out of an inner fullness and plenitude and a true generosity of spirit that enables detachment and an active preference for the other’s welfare. This is an act of deliberate choice and there is great joy in it. Perhaps I could explain it best by likening it to a mother who receives some sweets and saves them to give her children. The joy she derives from watching her children feast is surely far more profound than her joy at eating the sweets herself.
However, after that one year, I deliberately chose to let go of this state, which I would slip into each time I chanted the mantra, “It’s their happiness that counts and not mine.” I did it because I was tired of pumping myself into this state. I wanted to find a way to make this happen naturally. I suppose this is when I became a seeker, though at that point I had no idea that such a word existed, just as I did not know that spirituality did. Mine was an internal realisation and I had simply no reference point outside myself.
When I did let go the state, I was little prepared for the startling consequences. Like a rubber band snapping back to its original length, I was back to my pre-awakened state – touchy, reactive, unhappy, and with a deeply damaged mind, void of discipline, self-control, and energy. I knew then that the journey for me lay in eliminating the conditioning that stood between me and the enlightened state. The journey was one of letting go, not adding on, I recognised, for I already was ‘that’. This explains the title of the book, Travelling Light, for I like to think that I am shedding baggage along the way, until I become honed to my essential self.
What remained from my original experience, however, were the insights and a perspective that was shaped by the insights. I had seen the Truth, even knew the Truth, and I simply had no questions left.
Therefore, what you will read in these pages will be the perspective of someone who is still on the journey to liberation but at the same time, has a mature understanding.
I have divided the columns into roughly three sections: Self, Reflections and Society. Anchored in the holistic perspective which recognises the essential oneness of the Universe, I flit between these three sections, now sharing my own journey and insights, now pondering on the impact of these insights on society, now looking at new concepts.
I leave you here now to explore the book. It is my sincere wish that the book will be your friend – giving you consolation when the corners of your mouth are down and giving you the inspiration to change and even act. I cannot end without saying how profoundly I respect every last person who steps out of the fast track of conventional living and places a foot gingerly on the spiritual path. The journey that we have undertaken is difficult, and yet a crucial one, for it is the ultimate purpose of human existence. Godspeed every one of us.