“How can you look at the galaxy and not feel insignificant”
– Ridley Scott
I was sitting under an almond tree and gazing at the open sky. As birds gracefully flew back to their homes, the orange ebb made way to the stars and moon taking their places on a clear night sky. Were they telling me something? I saw an occasional plane twinkle with red and yellow lights smoothly glide through till it appeared swallowed by the heavens. Weren’t the plane and its passengers so tiny in comparison to the expansive world outside that jet? I too felt small and humbled.
The next morning I was on a plane to Perth, flying seven thousand miles from home. As the plane finally began its descent, I saw through the window, the city below and its skyscrapers appearing no bigger than dots on a paper. I wondered about the people who lived there and identified with this huge continent; people who had their own share of worries and needs. But at 30,000 feet, looking at the huge stretch of land below I felt their tragedies evaporate; their issues were nonexistent.
When I was on land, the plane on the sky appeared small. And when I was on a plane, the building below seemed to be a tiny matchbox. Basically it’s obvious; I am insignificant and if I could see myself from a vision ‘outside’ of myself, I would appreciate it. And feeling small is a beautiful experience. It helps us realize all our worries and insecurities too are nothing. That’s when we access the sense of self or the ‘I’ also popularly referred to as the being. At this state of awareness we connect to the pure spiritual aspect of our selves that’s an abundantly joyful state, an eternal existence beyond the fleeting and perishable material things of this world.
Even in our dealings with others when we chose to be small and humble, we attract bountiful grace and happiness.
Recently I was at Bath Spa University, England for an academic conference and had the opportunity to hear some of the leading scholars on religion. As each presentation highlighted many details about my own spiritual path, I was impressed but also skeptical, “How can a mere academician analyze so much about our religion and practices without being fully involved himself?” I thought they were presumptuous. As I struggled internally, I couldn’t accept they really knew their stuff; they had researched and studied the subject deeply. I saw cynicism flood my consciousness, and I wasn’t happy at all. I sat through the sessions politely, but internally I was upset and critical.
After some time, I asked myself if this kind of thinking was healthy for my own growth, and I made the tough choice to be positive and appreciate the speakers. No sooner did I make this choice, I saw an immediate change in my inner world. I began to feel good and being receptive also learnt many facets of religion and spirituality that I hadn’t been aware of. Besides they were sincere, although apparently not spiritually inclined. But didn’t Khalil Gibran say, “the person you consider ignorant and insignificant is the one who came from God, that he might learn bliss from grief and knowledge from gloom” How then could I claim to be better or more enlightened?
One eighty two year old professor in particular had spent more than sixty years studying the branch of Bhakti yoga that I practice and he knew much more than what I had read or known all these years. As I met each one of them and appreciated their work, they were gracious; they even apologized if their ‘dry’ academic presentations were offensive to my spiritual sentiments. I assured them they were doing a good job, and they too felt nice.
At the end there was so much positive appreciation and I did feel blessed by these scholars.
It was a memorable day for me because I felt tiny amidst such giant scholars, yet I felt happy and grateful. I connected to the students and scholars and William Ward’s words made so much sense to me that evening, “Blessed is he who has learned to admire but not envy, to follow but not imitate, to praise but not flatter, and to lead but not manipulate”
And what an amazing irony; in choosing to be small, I felt loved!