Suma Varughese considers transformation to be the sole goal of the spiritual game
Why enter spirituality? For me, this question has always had a one-word answer: Transformation. Nothing else, in any way, is relevant.
I am happy that the Buddha too is on the same page. When his followers would choose to split hairs or lock horns in lengthy doctrinal debates, the Tathagata would warn them that, to a person dying of an arrow wound, it was healing that was primary and not the place, name, or provenance of the healing herb.
So truly said. We are all dying of the arrow wound caused by the ego. In millions of ways, small and large, the ego is shooting slings and arrows at us. Every last bit of suffering can be attributed to the ego. Enmeshed and entrapped, should we not focus single-mindedly on crafting our escape? From suffering to bliss incarnate. With a tagline like this, why should we ever waste our time tarrying on the path?
I was lucky in that my suffering in the initial years was so acute that I literally panted for release. I had left my earlier life and worldview behind and had submitted to my inner sadguru to take me forward on my transformational journey, but the other shore was so far away and the person I was and the one I aspired to be were so far apart that I could hardly bear it. And so, I strove mightily to change myself.
My suffering has muted to almost a whisper these days, but I still march on. When and where my final transformation will happen is the Almighty’s province, but when I look back and see how much I have changed and grown, I am grateful that I kept my eye on the ball.
Among the distractions that most lead us astray—created by the wily ego itself which is fighting for its very survival—are some of these:
• Converting spirituality into an intellectual pursuit. Inner work is the crux of the spiritual journey, for without it, no change is forthcoming. But the ego converts the journey into a thought exercise. The aspirant reads endlessly about every philosophy and spiritual tradition under the sun. But because he fails to implement any teaching in his life, he remains as stuck as before.
• Unwillingness to face one’s shadow self. Confronting oneself is probably the hardest task on Planet Earth. To be willing to take off one’s blinkers and face one’s greed, lust, vanity, and need for power is not easy, for it is very hard to be uncomfortable with ourselves. The aspirant will do anything to fob off this task and will run for cover each time he is confronted with the imperative to change.
• A fascination with powers (siddhis). Even those who should know better, find themselves drawn to this quest, hoping to become clairvoyant or clairaudient, to be able to levitate or walk on water. The mature seeker knows that this too is the ego’s ploy to keep us in its thrall and continues his strife for freedom.
• A fascination for metaphysical exploration. Are there aliens? Can we live forever? Who are the ascended masters? These explorations may once again come in the way of our inner work.
So, forge on. As the Buddha said: Gate, gate, para gate, parasamgate bodhi svaha. Keep on going until Buddhahood is won.
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