My First Responsibility
For those of you who have read some of my previous blogs, the fact that I love a good analogy probably comes as no surprise. Today, I will treat you to an analogy told by someone I greatly admire, someone whose talks and insights have inspired me since I first met him in the early summer of 1971. His name is Prem Rawat.
Mr. Rawat's message, throughout his life, since early childhood, has never changed. The focus of all his talks is about understanding the need to appreciate what you, as a human being, really are. When I first heard about him, while roaming India in search of "answers," I had passed my limit of gurus and saddhus a long time ago, and therefore was not remotely interested in one more guru giving me some kind of spiel.
As coincidence would have it, however, I again heard someone talk about this kid (he was 13 at the time) a couple of days after arriving back home in Holland. This time, I was unable to avoid listening to what this individual had experienced after spending some time with Prem Rawat. I noticed that this person kept mentioning that Prem Rawat, once he felt you understood the value and depth of his message, would give you "knowledge;" a kind of initiation -- or so I thought -- that allowed one to experience the essence of his or her being. It slowly dawned on me that, this time, I would actually be able to test -- mark as true or false -- whatever that message was. If the "initiation" (a word he never used, but I will go ahead and call it that) wasn't all it was cracked up to be, I could simply call it a day and go on my merry way. No harm done. Being an impulsive guy (and there was the added bonus that the girl who told me about him in Holland was very pretty), I decided to travel with her and two other friends to London to check it out. Long story short, the girl had no interest in me whatsoever, but I did receive "knowledge" about ten days after Prem Rawat arrived in London. I probably heard him speak every day for about a week, and what he said made sense and touched me to my core. But so had certain stories in the Bible, the writings of Lao, the musings of Jean Paul Sartre, the books by Herman Hesse, and many others. So the proof was going to have to be in the pudding. I remember having a bit of attitude, thinking that this better be good or I would be pretty bloody angry for having wasted my time … again!
Prem Rawat's knowledge has been the center of my life ever since, going on 39 years and counting. Every day, I sit for an hour or so to be in the place he showed me, inside, where it always was and where I am at home and at peace in a way nothing else can give me. He introduced me to a part of me that was both the most important and powerful part of me, and the most subtle and difficult to comprehend or recognize.
It is not meditation, since meditation requires one to focus on a mantra or a candle or the sound of Om. It is not prayer, since prayer requires words, nor is it the silent contemplation that many of us enjoy while watching a beautiful sunset or sitting at a creek. What it does, to anyone who practices this "knowledge," is make you aware of that part of you that exists now, always has, and always will exist. As he puts it, it is the place where the mortal and the immortal meet. It is in that context that he gave this analogy:
If a single light bulb, the large kind used to lighten up a football field at night, lights exactly one square foot of a football field, how many broken bulbs does it take to light the entire field?
Broken light bulbs, of course, don't light anything.
And that is exactly the point. Before I was shown this place inside of me, I was like a broken light bulb; I had no direction, no foundation, no real understanding. I lived from day to day, following some kind of vague plan that was an illusion, nothing more. There were happy days, and there were sad days. I had no control, it seemed someone else was driving the bus. Today, and for many years now, instead of living from day to day, I live from breath to breath; conscious that I am, conscious that I have all I need, conscious of a happiness, a contentment, that will be with me to my very last breath. I know that finding the essence of me was the first and foremost responsibility in my life; the reason I was born, the reason anyone is born.
Not too long ago, I wrote another blog, called The Weather in Your Head, that touched upon this subject from a somewhat different angle. It was about the potential and ease with which happiness can be attained, once you know where to look. It received quite a few comments, one of them I will quote here:
"What a challenge then for all the millions of people in the world who are deteriorating and/or dying from lack of water and food -- basic needs not just for survival but for some degree of feeling good, happy?"
The woman who made the comment has a point. It is an undeniable reality that many, many people suffer, for all kinds of reasons -- from hunger, war, illness, poverty, depression and so forth. And yet, this should not be an excuse to deny yourself the one thing we all need: peace, contentment, fulfillment. Not for any reason other than your appreciation of what you are, the essence of your being, the thing we call life. By all means, do what you can to alleviate the suffering of others. Your reward will be a thousand fold the measure of your generosity. But also, pay attention to what you need.
For me, Prem Rawat gave me the experience and the path that suits me. For you, it might be another path, another teacher. It is your responsibility to find that, not mine. But find it you should. Because if your generosity today helps lighten the suffering of others, imagine how much more you would have to give if your happiness were a constant -- independent from anything else.