During my stay at a beautiful Ashram in America long years ago, I was consumed with worry about my future. You see, I had jumped out of the mainstream by quitting a great job in Manhattan, sold my lovely apartment, left good friends behind, and landed in the Himalayas without a parachute in the middle of a grueling winter. From there, still restless and seeking, I had moved around in both East and West, on a quest for that perfect refuge where I could focus on my creative and spiritual goals. But nothing seemed to work out and by now I was truly sunk in misery.
A friend saw my sad face; impulsively, she tore a page out of the book she was reading and handed it to me. The title said: Do Not Be Serious About Anything: it was a message from the guru of that Ashram, who advised his students not to take mundane life too seriously, but instead to dive beneath the surface and find the constant peace and joy that is our true nature.
The message begins like this: “We cannot really save the world. We cannot even destroy the world. It is not in our hands. If that Supreme Power wanted to save the world, it wouldn’t even take a second. All of us could be saints and sages overnight. Instead the Divine is allowing us to be a little ignorant. That is His fun. But we forget this and take life too seriously.”
That tattered yellowing page now sits on my computer desk and continues to remind me to make peace my priority. Since then I have returned to my original practice of Advaita. Ramana Maharshi’s definition of the ‘unreal’ is simple: that which comes and goes is not real. What does he mean by real? That which is permanent and lasting. And so again and again I return to what is real within me, to pure consciousness and bliss—and because I persist, the process works fabulously.
Those who have not plunged into the nuances of eastern philosophy might have problems with this message—but to someone steeped in these ancient truths, it becomes clear that nothing happens by accident—which is no reason to ignore the intense suffering of the millions surrounding us. This wisdom should actually lead us to being more and more compassionate, and to do whatever we can, without destroying our own equanimity and personal practice, to bring light and joy into as many lives as we can.
Getting back to the present with a bang, this morning I got a call from my downstairs guest who said we had a plumbing problem—this after having the plumbers here yesterday! Damn! I calmed down and did what I had to do, and right now it looks like everything is settling down again.
Later I sat down at my computer and my eyes fell on this message and an even deeper calm descended upon me. When I first read these simple words in that Ashram so long ago, peace was a dream, a flickering fantasy that came in flashes. Today it is a living current that keeps growing in sweetness and intensity—this despite external appearances! I owe this progress to Ramana’s brilliant Direct Path, and also to all the gurus (negative and positive) who have guided me along the often thorny road that leads to bliss.
Greetings from Arunachala, considered to be the living emanation of the Great God Shiva, Destroyer in the Indian pantheon, who reduces our egoic selves to ashes—so we can know ourselves as the blissful and immortal Self!