A necessary thirst for understanding

“You are what your deep, driving desire is.

As your desire is, so is your will.

As your will is, so is your deed.

As your deed is, so is your destiny”

  • Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (iv.4.5)

“’Towards the midpoint of life’s way,’ as Dante says, I reached what proved a crisis. Everything I had lived for – literature, music, writing, good friends, the joys of teaching – had ceased to satisfy … I found myself thirsting for something more, much more, without knowing what or why.” So wrote Eknath Easwaran in his Introduction to his book The Upanishads.

I too had a thirst, but beginning at age 24. I needed to understand why I and my life-chances had been thoroughly destroyed by then. Having waved my fist in the direction of the sky, saying ‘To hell with you,’ I gave up my faith in God. Pilleyar (Ganesha) had let down a strong devotee. I also had a strange need to know about human-kind; about our place in the Cosmos; and what the Cosmos is all about. Why? I have no idea.

While studying psychology (including the scientific method) and economics, I also read some anthropology and related subjects, especially about religions. By sheer logic, I decided that there had to be a Creator (God) of all that is; and that we humans have a deep yearning to unite with the Divine – manifest as a religious feeling.

Progressively, through the ensuing decades, I accepted that: the major religions were equal in their intention and potential; that, at their core (devoid of dogma) there are only 2 teachings – which they share; that their founders could not have put up barriers (through divisive theology) to closer understandings between various tribes, wherever in the world we may all be; that only Hindu metaphysics offers a holistic vista of mankind in the universe (see Hindu cosmology). Like Easwaran, I found needed understanding in the Upanishads.

Unlike Easwaran, my basal activities (while seeking to satisfy this thirst for understanding) covered: producing and nurturing a small family in the land of my exile; furthering my career against some difficulties triggered by my skin colour and my religion; making a sufficient contribution to civil society; and enjoying music (Western classical and jazz), sport, art, and intelligent company (lubricated by good wine). That is, I lived in this world while I sought to glimpse a wider realm.

I keep my brain cells on the hop by reading widely. Living as a recluse in my ‘retirement cave’ in a quiet coastal region allows me to contemplate our ‘unknowable’ Creator with both mental and spiritual peace. I accept that ultimate reality may be shrouded in gossamer veil; and that an ego-less search may eventually (after many lifetimes) provide that understanding I seek.

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