A monk asked:
« What is the true path on earth? »
« Not a single path on earth is true. »
~ Fayan Wenyi
I’d like to tell you a story, a parabolic tale I wrote long ago. It’s a story that has already been posted here on its own. It is called ‘The Truth Seeker’, but could have been called ‘The Path’, as it exposes, describes some of the stages we find along the spiritual path. This expression has been used, overused in spiritual circles. There seems to be so many paths, so many avenues of understanding. The Christian path, the Sufi path, the Advaita path, the tantric path, the direct path, the progressive path. The story that I’m about to tell you was written in Madras, on the grounds of the Theosophical Society, where the young Krishnamurti was ‘discovered’. Twenty years later, he rejected all organisations built around him and pronounced these famous words: “I maintain that Truth is a pathless land, and you cannot approach it by any path whatsoever, by any religion, by any sect.” So what is this path we so often hear about? What is its reality? The title ‘The Truth Seeker’ gives us a clue. It would be reasonable to say that a path, spiritually speaking, is everything that results from the activity of seeking truth. That’s one way of seeing it, but in that case, as seeking can be endless and so often leading nowhere, such a path is really not a path at all. Let’s see what our story has to say:
« A man, Admita, was living in a harsh and hostile desert. Surrounded by sand and swirling winds, he led a life of wandering without help or hope. He has well heard of stories that described places of lush greenery and great beauty, where valleys, forests, meadows, rushing streams and great rivers were home for countless animals, where mountains stood above deep blue seas, where the sun was warm and the air filled with a gentle breeze. He did not believe that such places really existed, but in front of so much loneliness and adversity, he could not help thinking about it and hoping to discover this wonderful land. » …
“Man is indeed abroad to satisfy needs which are more to him than food and clothing. He is out to find himself. Man’s history is the history of his journey to the unknown in quest of the realisation of his immortal self – his soul. Through the rise and fall of empires; through the building up gigantic piles of wealth and the ruthless scattering of them upon the dust; through the creation of vast bodies of symbols that give shape to his dreams and aspirations, and the casting of them away like the playthings of an outworn infancy; through his forging of magic keys with which to unlock the mysteries of creation, and through his throwing away of this labour of ages to go back to his workshop and work up afresh some new form; yes, through it all man is marching from epoch to epoch towards the fullest realisation of his soul, – the soul which is greater than the things man accumulates, the deeds he accomplishes, the theories he builds; the soul whose onward course is never checked by death or dissolution.
Man’s mistakes and failures have by no means been trifling or small, they have strewn his path with colossal ruins; his sufferings have been immense, like birth-pangs for a giant child; they are the prelude of a fulfilment whose scope is infinite. Man has gone through and is still undergoing martyrdoms in various ways, and his institutions are the altars he has built whereto he brings his daily sacrifices, marvellous in kind and stupendous in quantity. All this would be absolutely unmeaning and unbearable if all along he did not feel that deepest joy of the soul within him, which tries its divine strength by suffering and proves its exhaustless riches by renunciation.
Yes, they are coming, the pilgrims, one and all – coming to their true inheritance of the world; they are ever broadening their consciousness, ever seeking a higher and higher unity, ever approaching nearer to the one central Truth which is all-comprehensive.”
~ Rabindranath Tagore (1861 – 1941)
Painting by Edward Burne-Jones (1833 – 1898)
– ‘Sadhana’: The Realization of Life – by Rabindranath Tagore – (CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform)
Rabindranath Tagore, ‘The Poet’, as he is affectionately known in India, is the author of some delicate, lyrical poems, often with devotional accents. This gem comes from the lesser known ‘A Flight of Swans’:
I know you hear night and day.
Blooms in the purple of Autumn’s dawn,
Sparkles in the springtime shower of blossoms.
The nearer I come to you on your path,
The livelier dances the sea.
Like lotus-petals my life unfolds
From birth to birth,
And your crowding suns and stars
Circle me in wonder.
The blossom of the world woven of light
Fills your offering hands,
And your shy heaven
Unfolds its love,
Petal by petal,
In my sky.
~ Rabindranath Tagore
From ‘A Flight of Swans’ (Poems from Balākā) – Translated by Aurobindo Bose,
John Murray Publishers