“…Still, like a man on the verge of death may struggle for one last chance to survive, I was about to dive into the excesses of my generation like never before.”
One part of Richard was retreating and questioning the basis of leading an indulgent lifestyle, yet another part of him felt a desperate need to prove to himself that he could enjoy like the others. He enjoyed but felt miserable, and saw himself fighting an inner force that was pulling him away from a life of sense gratification.
“… A force within me was dragging me away from it all. Battling against that inner force, I was determined to be victorious, to experience firsthand the unrestricted pleasures glorified by society. Was it the Lord in my heart I was fighting? Yes, I silently boasted, and I’m winning the battle. But late at night, when I came back to the river, gazing down into the current, I felt ashamed. I was winning but I felt lost.
During this period it was a tug of war-God was pulling Richard away from the life he knew to a life of spirituality, while his mind refused to let go the attachments to this world. For many pursuing a hedonistic goal, there is apparently no struggle of choice. For sincere seekers of truth however, the struggle with the mind is worth the effort because rich spiritual realizations come when we say ‘no’ to the lower urges and ‘yes’ to the call of conscience and prayer. Richard’s sincerity of purpose gave him a feeling of emptiness, amidst the abundant pleasures that lay before him.
One evening he sat in silent meditation and felt an oceanic peace, in comparison to which all earlier attempts at sense pleasure seemed irrelevant. Then with sincere reverence he entered a church and was struck by a particular Biblical passage where Jesus instructed his followers, “Come out from among men and be separate.” Richard felt a substantial realization awakening in his heart, “Why should I waste my life trying to fit in with the social fashions of my peers? Why not try to live on my own terms? And hopefully, someday, on God’s terms?”
It is this aspiration to live our lives on God’s terms that surcharges the soul with a volcanic eruption of ecstasy. Then everything else pales into insignificance. When a spiritual aspirant endeavors to dovetail his consciousness with that of the Supreme, he lets off binding inhibitions, and instead experiences a life of unrestricted freedom. Radhanath Swami explains that a prisoner within the prison walls has restricted freedom, whereas one freed from the jail has the whole world to explore. Similarly the mind traps us with the chains of dualities- desire and hate; happiness and misery; likes and aversions. When we respond to the call of God within, we are freed from the chains imposed by the uneducated mind, and experience spiritual love. If a seeker tolerates the mind’s ramblings during this intense period, he shall soon see the mind cooperating in his spiritual quest.
The Vedic scriptures reveal that God resides in the heart of every living entity as the super soul, a silent observer of our activities and desires. When we cultivate a desire to turn to Him, He immediately arranges situations to facilitate a loving relationship. Cultivating a spiritual desire removes the multiple layers of dirt from the heart, and helps us see God’s hand clearly in our lives. Amidst the thousands of confusing and contradictory voices of the mind, the call of Lord in the heart becomes clearly audible to one who seeks to serve rather than exploit. Radhanath Swami uses an analogy to make this point: A radio may simultaneously catch transmissions from many stations and as a result, the broadcast may be inaudible. As we attentively fine tune the radio, the sound is clearer. Similarly the many voices of mind make it impossible to hear the Lord’s voice in the heart. However, by cultivating the right desires and aspirations, we clear disturbances and make our heart a fit receptacle to catch God’s message of love.