Meditations on The Journey Home – Lesson from Chapter 1
Inspirations from ‘The Journey Home ‐ Autobiography of an American Swami’
Richard marvelled at the customs of Europe. Coming from the American Midwest, he found the varieties in culture mind expanding. He contemplated on how his whole life he had been conditioned to interpret reality in a certain way, according to the culture he was raised. This, he reflected leads to a parochial outlook towards life. He hoped his search would help him appreciate other human beings and their cultures. “Why was it that we humans seemed to have a deep-rooted proclivity to feel superior to others, particularly in regard to nationality, race, religion, or social position? We think that our condition is normal and others are strange or inferior. This judgmental pride degenerates us into bigotry or sectarianism, generating hatred, fear, exploitation, and even war. I prayed that my travels would open my mind and provide sympathy for how other cultures viewed life, the world, and God. “
I remember growing up in an environment where our love for our country was judged by how much we hated our neighbouring country. Even during the initial days of my spiritual life I was constantly taunted by my friends and relatives for choosing an American guru. “We are Indians and what can an American teach us about our religion and spirituality?” demanded my friends. I reasoned we should be open minded to learn from a self realized soul, and not be bogged down by national or sectarian pride.
It is this open mindedness that softened Richard’s heart and allowed the spark of spiritual craving that had kindled in his heart during his travels, to now become a blazing fire. He was consumed with the desire to know God like a man possessed. It was during this intense phase of prayer and meditation at the mountain top at the Isle of Crete that Richard heard a sweet but commanding voice urging him, “Go to India” His friend Gary however heard a voice that urged him to go to Israel. Bidding a tearful farewell to Gary, Richard took off his black vest and offered as a gift to Gary. The black vest had been an inseparable part of Richard’s identity but now he hoped a journey to India would help him reclaim his eternal identity.
Spiritual life begins with an attempt to rediscover our real identity as part of the divine whole. Radhanath Swami often quotes Jesus Christ who said, “What profiteth a man if he gains the whole world but loses his own soul?” Our basic identity is revealed in the Bhagavad Gita, the Indian classic, as separate from the body. Just as a car is manoeuvred by a driver, the body too has a spiritual spark that activates the body with consciousness. When we channelize this energy into serving the divine consciousness, our spiritual horizon expands. This requires us to grow beyond our narrow bodily identifications. We may be proud of being an Indian, American, white, Afro-Americans, rich, or a Christian but our essential identity is we are children of God, a spark of the divine. To the extent we cling on to our bodily identities to that extent spiritual life remains a mystery.
A life centred on humble service and prayer helps us see ourselves in a new spiritual light. Radhanath Swami compares spiritual growth with an inverse law of gravity. The law of gravity postulates that anything goes up has to come down. Similarly if we cultivate pride born out of different designations, our attempts at spiritual growth will be curtailed, and we shall come plummeting down. However if we cultivate the consciousness of servitude and take a low position, we rise in the eyes of God. Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit for theirs is the kingdom of God. Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.” A spiritualist bends low in humility and the Lord reciprocates by lifting him high in divine enlightenment.