“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” His holiness the Dalai Lama
I guess I got lost even before I found myself, or learned society’s way to happiness. While my contemporaries were striding into IITs and Ivy Leagues, I was crawling through the complexities of my daily existence; in a fog of chemicals and smoke. Others set stringent targets for themselves and lofty goals for measuring their success. I just had a fuzzy and hazy approach to life in general. Most of my dreams went up to my excitedly pounding brain, or beating heart, only to collapse inward soon after, when the distance between desire and reality became apparent. As my friends started to reach for the pinnacle of their career paths, I was still unable to find my North Star, amidst this quagmire of life’s varied choices.
My early contemporaries in Delhi had bright eyes and spoke of future conquests of new frontiers and scientific breakthroughs, while I struggled late into the black night, red eyed; still trying to decipher Joe Cocker’s rendering of ‘A little help from my friends’ at Woodstock, or Jimmy Hendrix or Bob Dylan’s twanging on his guitar. The Boston professor’s son, who visited; listened to Beethoven, Tchaikovski with his blonde girl friend, and he was very American in his upbringing and conservative in outlook, despite his clear Indian roots. My idea was of a different life style; more in the Haight Ashbury or Soho vein, and a lot loser in concept than his determined life. My offer to introduce them to Pink Floyd and some lazy smoke was harshly declined, and we spent the day studying at the Art Museum instead. Men made it to the moon and more, and I barely made it to Dalhousie; in time for my second Buddhist meditation course, with Goenka.
While others struggled against mighty and at times heroic odds, I dawdled and dithered. Their path seemed so illuminated, bright and straight; while mine was lost in the woods and I often had to backtrack and start again. Like the brilliant plan to do two years of college work in 15 days, for the final graduation in a burst of glory and imagination. Others would look at me earnestly, and define their plans for the next ten years; and then soon move on to even weightier subjects, and I would nod solemnly in agreement. My own struggles were still centered on how to find meaning in my everyday life, and every minute seemed uncertain, and the wind blew me here and there,. on the surface of this ocean of life. My mother, wife and daughter complained I lacked purpose and made great efforts to regulate, support and help to extend my life’s goals, as if I had lost it in the woods by mistake.
Now my contemporaries are happy in all that they have accomplished, while I scrutinize my financial statements hoping to find the clues; to a hidden treasure. My companion’s vacations are well planned and at prestigious locations. I believe a week end searching for that perfectly worthless afternoon; after a morning haze, is well spent. Their companions are social butterflies and gregarious beings, while I am often grumpy at best, and delirious at worst. They love their latest electronic gizmos and are globally connected, while I am still struggling to understand the opening verse of the Isa Upanishad.
They are full of passions, desires and so much more culturally aware, and have stuffed their homes with priceless collections; of their favorite toys. I only seek that emptiness within, wherein bliss blooms like a lotus. It is a different path I know, from the others around me; and moreover I know not where it leads. I seek out my cravings one by one, and examine each one at my leisure, and then cast it away. I become a naked stranger to myself, and find that happiness and fulfillment are my companions on this path. It is not that I have found a unique scientific method, gizmo or drug that is the elixir of desires for eternity. This path of renunciation and compassion is for the poor, depressed, hopeless, faithless fellow creatures of my modern universe. I look in the mirror and find that the more things change, the less lost I become. Happiness and fulfillment have always been here with me, and only when I am lost in this empty bliss, are they found. Wisdom rides my compassion, and my companion complains that I have drunk overmuch, from her fountain of eternity, and our contentment glows.
PS: the symbols on the top mean “I want to go to the cinema” in Blissymbols