Essence: Still Eluding the Enquirer

I wrote in my last article about how the Irish squander their hard-earned grace and inner connection, the essence, without a second thought, within five days. Not to criticise or be caustic about them; it’s just that I am living here amidst them, and their ways and celebrations are all new to me.

This phenomenal, negligent behaviour is not just specific to the Irish though. It is the ubiquitous human nature. It transgresses religions, geographic boundaries and cultures. It percolates into our very innate nature.

The wise men of yore, of every religion, gave us guidelines or directives to help us lead a life keeping the connection with the creator alive and strong. Vedas, which are known to have have come down to us as instructions ‘Shruti’; and are our oldest known scriptures, even before Hinduism, got its suffix of -ism and became a religion. They have given us a set of instructions on the ideal way to live and staying connected to the source. The etymology of the word Veda is: Vid- to see, or to know. What is there to see or to know is our next question. Once we read the Vedas, we realise that they are based on 3 founding principles; Sambandh: to know our relationship with God (the source or the creator), Abhideya: to revive our relationship with God, and Prayojana: to establish oneself in this relationship. These scriptures had a very definite goal for the readers: to know, see and maintain this relationship with the Essence or the creator. Acknowledge and experience that we are all a part of this ever-pervasive essence.

Christianity has the Ten Commandments, which, as we are all aware, are a set of biblical principles related to ethics and worship. They play a pivotal role in both Judaism and Christianity. The essence of these teaching is again the same. Worship the Lord. Honour your parents. Stay away from blasphemy, theft, dishonesty and other similar practices. It emphasises that we keep the Sabbath and keep it holy. After six days of work we asked to remember that the seventh day is exclusively for the Lord, in His remembrance. That is why we attend the church and offer our prayers, our way of re-establishing the connection with the creator, of communicating with the lord.

The five pillars of Islam, the core religious practices, are also in the same vein. They are declarations of faith, prayer, fasting, charity and pilgrimage. They unconditionally believe that ‘Allah is the only one worthy of Worship’. The way to connect with Allah is to offer prayers and gather spiritual strength and peace of mind. And, this is done five times a day, very assiduously. They recognise that wealth is a blessing from God, and it is their duty to spread it by giving it to the needy and poor, not hoard it. Ramadan is one month of fasting, a time spent in intense spiritual devotion. Lastly, in their lifetime, every Muslim strives to go on the Haj, a pilgrimage to Mecca, in Saudi Arabia.

Every religion has this common denominator. Live a life in constant remembrance. Do everything with awareness of the divine presence in the sub-conscious. Till the conscious mind does not learn to work with the sub-conscious mind we are likely to fumble, go off track, get engrossed in this myriad of illusory enchantments offered on a platter in our daily life. Pick any religion, we see the same advice or words of caution ingrained in the scriptures. The seers knew how forgetful we are. They had zero faith in our earnestness to pursue the true goal or to be able to retain the connection with our creator. I sincerely apologize for singling out the Irish in my last article, because the issue is all pervading.

Today, we have distanced ourselves from these places of worship. We used to go every day, then once a week, and it has trickled down to these big celebratory gathers, like Christmas and Easter. Hindus, even with their countless festivals, are unable to keep alive the inner connection. Most of our actions are mindless and automated. We have a severe paucity of time, too many distractions, and an inexorably long gestation period in getting answers from the Lord almighty. In this age of quick fixes and instant gratification, we had valid reasons for our straying further away from the essence.

The image of the boxing champion Muhammad Ali comes to mind. As he enters the arena, walking towards the boxing ring, he wears a huge hooded cloak, a very ornate one with his name emblazoned on it. Within the garment is the real man, who will unveil himself once he steps into the ring, fighting for the name and title inscribed on the cloak he cast-off. We also seem to be wearing this temporary cloak over ourselves when we enter our place of worship and try to communicate with Him, seeking moments of solace and inner strength, answers to unanswered questions and guidance. It is a small light showing the right way. Yet, the second we step out of the sanctuary the cloak is off, and we snap out of the forced reverie.

The cloak the boxing champion steps out of is temporary, and he does so with every intent of wearing the prized robe again as soon as possible. His goals are always aligned with the name and title inscribed on the cloak. All his battles are for that very inscription. We also cast off our cloak the minute we step out of our place of worship, divesting ourselves of the sheath of equanimity and grace those moments of introspection offered us. Actually, we would be better off, stitching it to our bodies. This very fabric is our protection, our connection to our inner self. This sliver is all we have, a hope for our re-union with the ultimate. This has our essence, the semblance we have with our creator. Today’s enquirer has a mere passing curiosity, a whim which ekes the spirit of inquiry, but lacks the steadfastness and sincerity of a true seeker. We are lured by mirages and caught in our self-created mires, and then we wonder why the essence still eludes us.