By Suma Varughese
'It is but few who hear about the Self. Fewer still dedicate their lives to its Realization. Wonderful is the one Who speaks about the Self; rare are they Who make it the supreme goal of their lives. Blessed are they who, through an illumined Teacher, attain to Self-realization
- Katha Upanishad
(Eknath Easwaran, The Upanishads)
Since the beginning of time and space and the creation of duality, there has always been the rare person who, turning her back on societal codes and goals - success, money, fame, family - is driven by soul thirst into unplumbed depths and unscaled heights. Such a person is not content with anything other than absolutes: the truths she looks for must be absolute, certitudes in a world governed by uncertainty. The questions she asks are huge, fundamental. What is life? Why is she here? Who is she? How does she resolve the essential canker of life, the gnawing unease generated by a life that terminates in death? A strange pursuit indeed, but she is a strange creature. Suspended somewhere between heaven and earth, between being human and divine. The goal she sets herself is to straddle these domains, to synthesize polarities, to integrate contradictions, and thereby achieve absolute freedom from the human condition.
The first of this kind that legend brings to our notice is the great god Shiva. Dissatisfied with Brahma's design of worldly life with its fleeting joys, intense misery and the ever- advancing specter of death, he set out to discover the way out of this unsatisfactory condition. In the fires of deep meditation he realized the practice of yoga, that profound method of integration. Yoga means to yoke and indeed yoga yokes the individual with the Universe, the atman with Brahman.
Since then, anywhere on the planet, this quest has been kindling the hearts of a minute minority. It has appeared disguised in myths and fairytales as heroic adventures of great daring and wit, waged for a prized treasure, maybe gold, maybe the hand of the beautiful princess. It has been the moving force of every creative artist who has pitted his head against the human condition and responded in anger, confusion, compassion and despair. 'Life is a tale told by an idiot, full of sound and fury, signifying nothing,' mourned Shakespeare.
Above all, it has been the lodestar of the seeker. Under its inspiration, mystic after mystic has wrenched loose from every worldly tie and set off to conquer the hidden continents of the mind and heart. A mighty enterprise, perilous in the extreme, calling for almost inhuman strength and determination. The very gods themselves applaud those who hearken to the call, for it is the sole purpose of human existence, the reason we are on this earth.
All the greatest treasures known to mankind have been yielded by this quest. The accumulated wisdom of the holy books, and the great lives of its realized sages, radiant with love, wisdom and life force. Their compassion, dedicated service and inspiration have transformed society time and again and nurtured its growth and evolution. They are the guardians of civilization, keepers of the flame.
Every seeker who enters the path is part of this mission of human transformation. Through the conquest of his own negativity, he reduces the sum total of negativity in society. He works not just for himself but for all of us. And so it is that we dedicate this issue to: all seekers who were, are and will be. We offer you our deepest respects and reverence. God speed you on your journey!
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