Higher Than Heaven

The word spiritual is commonly used these days and conjures up the image of a person seated in an erect posture on a patch of grass in loose, preferably white clothes. This sort of person usually speaks about the benefits of yoga, drinks green tea and talks about ‘positivity.’ ‘Think positive’ and ‘be grateful’ are modern day catchphrases promoted to such an extent that one expects to be transported to a state of bliss by their usage. I fully endorse the psychological benefits of focusing on gratitude and using one’s imagination to create a harmonious environment but I would like to think that a spiritual experience transcends these mental activities. Moreover, it can’t be mimicked or taught. Is the pursuit of spirituality an exercise to manifest happiness (because happiness implies an emotion related to the world) or to attain bliss because bliss is a feeling beyond it?

It’s important to undertake a task we love in order to feel a sense of satisfaction in our daily lives. I reach a near trance like state when I write. It is when we are not able to align ourselves with our work and our environment that we become restless. The duality of everything we do, even if we love what we do is the reason for most of our troubles. As much as I love writing, I dread the process of publishing. Similarly, someone who loves to cook may burn a dish or a doctor falter in his diagnosis. We cherish our families and feel loved by them but at times (when we feel a gap in communication) they leave us with gaping holes in our hearts. The anguish that comes from a feeling of loss when things don’t work out as we expect them to makes us yearn for a feeling of completion away from it all.

It has become common to recommend meditation to bring about a sense of calm. Yet, all of us may not be able to focus on an abyss. The mind jumps from one subject to another, especially teasing us if we want it to be quiet. If nothing, the bridge of our nose will itch and break a minute of relative stillness. So, if something doesn’t work as we like, it is imperative to make practical changes for its smooth functioning. Worldly tasks need worldly actions. What lies within is disconnected from the daily rigmarole of our lives. It is an exercise in futility to sit in a meditative posture to forget the harsh words of an angry boss or to expect a belligerent family member to exude warmth. Be it career or relationships, snatching moments of connectedness while working at them makes more sense than retreating into oneself like a hermit to find solutions. Brainstorming, therapy, workshops and heart to heart chats may yield better results than blanking out everyone and everything. Building towards a better future through action is more gainful than expecting to feel differently about the same situation simply by closing one’s eyes for brief periods. Ultimately, we have to return to our homes, our desks and to the choices we have made.

A verse from the Kaivalyopanishad explains that meditation is a method to reach a realm outside of one’s existence,

‘Not by work, nor by birth, nor by wealth, but by renunciation alone, immortality is attained.

Higher than heaven, seated in the cave of the intellect, it shines which the seekers attain.’

Swami Chinmayananda’s interpretation says, ‘Direct effort, indirect help and purchase by wealth are the three avenues with which we come to our worldly success and happiness but none of these methods of transaction, which are available in the world-of-objects can bring us to spiritual solace.’ Renunciation here does not mean to renounce the world and leave all ties to it. It means that we leave all the stimuli of the body, emotions of our heart and thoughts and ideas of our intellect to reach that knowledge of the reality. Peace tends to elude us because we are trying to gain something beyond this world to rectify problems within it. One can practice yoga, sit still amidst nature and chant the mantra of positivity and gratitude in order to benefit one’s temperament. However, the seeking of a feeling beyond the scope of the human body, mind and intellect; one that only the spirit can recognize, is spirituality in its truest sense.

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