Meditations on The Journey Home – Lesson from Chapter 1
God has his own ways of testing His devotees, and also revealing to the world their glories. Richard had the deepest spiritual experience of his life so far at the cathedral in Florence. That night as he played on his harmonica alone in the forest, he was approached by a young, beautiful Swiss girl. Irene was attracted to Richard and he too found her charming. As Richard felt deep affection and attraction for her, he realized that once again he was being tested; a choice of a partner with whom he could continue his spiritual search, or pursue a life of exclusive dedication to God.
“…Once again, I found myself at a confluence. There were two streams that could lead me to enlightenment; one that offered the pleasure of a beautiful companion and the other a path I would take alone, offering my whole energy for the Divine. I walked and walked that night in contemplation and prayer. Could I really give up such a chance at earthly love? Gazing into a sky full of stars, I considered Catholic saints, Tibetan Lamas, and yogis of India, who all chose lives of renunciation in their passion for enlightenment. They forsook life’s pleasures to answer the call of exclusive dedication. I longed to follow in their footsteps. I knew it would be difficult, but with God’s help, I decided to try, at least for now.”
Spiritual experiences don’t come for free- there’s a test and a price to pay for spiritual success. Temptations and obstacles come in the life of a seeker and he has to make a conscious preference for God. However God’s tests and plans are for the ultimate good of His faithful devotee. As Radhanath Swami shares, “God’s plans are inconceivable; when he tests a beginner, it’s for his purification; and when he tests an advanced seeker, it’s for his glorification.” Richard was beginning his search, and he passed the test by opting for no distractions in his quest.
While Radhanath Swami personally preferred to follow the footsteps of catholic saints, and yogis of India, and remain alone in his search for enlightenment, he acknowledges family life as a valid path for spiritual accomplishment. Radhanath Swami holds marriage as a sacred principle and encourages his married students to lead a responsible life, centered on service to God. He mentions that in all religions marriage is held as a sacred institution, where the husband and wife help each other in their spiritual lives, and set an example for the society to lead a God centered life. In the Vedic history, some of the devout and celebrated spiritual seekers have also been grahasthas, married householders. While a renounced life offers the facility for exclusive service to God, householder life too is honored if the goal of marriage is to be united to help each other seek God. It’s a life of responsibility. On the other hand, renunciation is also praiseworthy, for it allows one to serve God and humanity with no distractions. But Radhanath Swami is emphatic that the real renunciation is the giving up of our false egos, and of our false conceptions arising out of egoistic desires. One in the renounced order must live by exemplary standards of humility and service; only then he can be called truly renounced.
One opting to pursue a spiritual life within marriage and a family depends on the examples and counsel of those in the renounced order of life. The renounced class seeks to maintain high integrity of their spiritual consciousness, and this inspires those in family life to maintain pure standards of devotion to God. Radhanath Swami instructs on the basis of Vedic scriptural teachings, “To the degree families honor, respect and adore those who are dedicating everything in the compassionate mission of God, to that very degree they too advance in their spiritual consciousness.”