Meditations on The Journey Home – Lesson from Chapter 1
A spiritual quest almost ended even before it began. On the first night at Luxembourg, Frank, the only one amongst the three travelers who had money for the trip, was robbed. Frank was distraught and immediately resolved to go back to the comforts of his home. Richard and Gary however were determined to push on. As Frank bid goodbye, Richard pondered over the mysteries that awaited them on this journey.
I often remember Radhanath Swami’s journey, and can’t help wondering how one could travel with no money or a planned destination. My few travels within or outside India are always well-planned, and the trip is always preceded by some important phone calls to ensure there’s someone to pick me up at the destination. Money is undoubtedly the most important factor for travel. If I have no cash, then a traveler’s cheque or a credit card is a must; and then the clothes, food, and plenty of other concerns.
Was Richard a happy-go-lucky teenager, with no qualms about responsibilities? After all, that’s what drove most of the youth whom he met during his travels. But Richard was clearly different. He was making friends from the world over, but felt distracted. He related to museums, spiritual books, and canals more than the hundreds of hippies he met during his travels. Unlike many others of his generation who travelled with no fixed goal, and enjoyed recklessly, he mused over where his life was heading, and prayed for a direction. While most were out on a pleasure-seeking trip, Richard felt a misfit; he was seeking solitude while in the midst of the American and European counterculture.
A spiritual-philosophical perspective helps us make sense of Richard’s unusual feelings. A fish out of water wouldn’t be enticed with the best I-pod, succulent cakes or designer outfits. He’s desperate to be back in water. Likewise, a soul trapped in the human body and its related complexities maybe lured by exciting relationships, attractive cinemas, and promising career growths. However the soul always hankers for more than all that this world can offer. The soul’s water is the spiritual realm where he reunites with his loving Lord, and renders uninterrupted service to Him. This loving service and remembrance of God is the most natural position of freedom for the soul. Richard felt like a fish out of water, and longed to be in the sea of divine union with the Lord of his heart.
It is this desperation that helped Richard march forward in his journey and find the lost love of his life. Today Richard is Radhanath Swami, and he makes the same appeal to spiritual aspirants; call out to God desperately and seek spiritual happiness, rather than be content with the momentary pleasures, that this world has to offer. He often explains from the Bhagavad Gita, the ancient Indian book of wisdom, that the human mind is fickle, and if let loose, knows no peace. As we unleash our passion to acquire different pleasures, the mind points out the as yet unacquired delights. And the more elusive they are, the greater the passion to possess them. The enjoyment of all things material follows the law of ‘diminishing marginal returns’- with each successive pleasure derived from an object or person, the taste reduces in greater proportion. A drastic gap occurs in the expectation of pleasure, and the actual enjoyment experienced. To fill the gap then, the mind desperately urges us to spend more, buy more, and go wild. In the ensuing race for happiness, the mind’s demands remain eternally unfulfilled. It’s like scratching an itch- the minute relief is accompanied by a greater itch, and the more you scratch, more the itch. Repeated scratching only causes agonizing pain, and bleeding.
Richard desired to be free from the dualities of hankering and lamentation, and desired to be reinstated in his natural position of happiness, by loving and serving God.