Let’s face it. There’s a ton of big questions about life that we want answers to. Why are we here? What are we supposed to do? Why is there suffering? Why are they called apartments if they’re stuck together?
They say that when the student is ready, the master appears. We’re hungry to learn. We yearn for answers. We have desires we want to fulfil, but besides that, we’re just plain curious.
Centuries ago, in various civilizations throughout the world, there were people who were either designated or had the birthright to give us spiritual insight. These were priests, gurus, mystics, shamans and sages. They were tasked with the awesome task to convey the deity’s messages to the people, explain phenomena and dispel spiritual, health and even societal problems.
We still have these people today performing in religious, scientific, psychological, philosophical and esoteric domains. We rely on these people to come up with answers to our problems. Each type listed above largely has their own lane, but as it is an interconnected world, things overlap.
But which of these has been proven right? Who can we rely on?
Half of the world is still religious and, in my opinion, suffer from confirmation bias. Scientists have clearly gifted us with technology that has made life easier and concurrently created different problems. Psychology is still a somewhat young science and it isn’t an exact science. Philosophers are not taken as seriously as they once were, largely because of all the schools of thought, none really solved the human dilemma — maybe for some but not others. As for the esoteric, they’re largely dismissed and labelled as quacks.
But there is one thing you can be certain of: people are searching for answers, and I would say that it is the spiritual individual who is seeking the most. They tend not to limit where the information is coming from, as best as they can help to quench any biases. They just want the answers.
“A good teacher is clear that their role is ultimately to shine light on the path for others to find their way back to God.” ― Michael Mirdad
I consider myself a spiritual person but very often I hear a little voice inside asking, “What do you think?” It doesn’t come out very often. Maybe once or twice a year, but after four years of hearing it, I had to stop in my tracks once again and really ponder, “What do I think?”
What came out was this:
What makes sense to me is not to live for myself in accruing the symbols of success, but in living for and giving to others.
Now, this isn’t new to me at all. I’ve heard similar sentiments to this, I’ve written about it and I’ve shared it based on personal experiences. When I’ve asked myself what I think, I often write something like this. Having said that, there is something different when it emerged from within, and this is something all seekers have to do in order to know truth, rather than accumulate aphorisms: You have to think for yourself! You have to go within and ask what do you think?
So many of us were on the religious path, whether voluntarily or via indoctrination. But what is perhaps the biggest critique of those who remain religious? They don’t think for themselves and they just accept their holy book as literal truth. They don’t check the veracity of Muhammad’s claim to have gone to heaven on a winged donkey. They don’t argue against Noah’s ability to get two of every animal on earth in a boat that claimed to brave waters that were higher than the highest mountains.
Spiritual truths sometimes have that air of authenticity, and yet the words of a teacher are misappropriated and misunderstood all the time.
Don’t get me wrong. Teachers are definitely important, but as writer and politician Edward G. Bulwer-Lytton once said, “The best teacher is the one who suggests rather than dogmatizes, and inspires his listener with the wish to teach himself.”
Teachers, Sufis, shamans and even clergy-people are there to point something out to you that you may have missed. They do not tell you what to think or what to believe. Their messages, proverbs, parables, signs and symbols are to illustrate, not to inculcate. Dogma is not their goal.
This sentiment is brilliantly expressed by neuroscientist Abhijit Naskar,
“There is nothing wrong in following a teacher in the path of self-awareness, but the moment one begins to see that teacher as the authority of one’s life, immediately one goes astray from the path of self-realization and indeed from the path of truth, and eventually ends up in the same kind of trap of doctrines and laws that one wanted to be free from in the first place. That’s how all religions have been born. Loyalty to a teacher or messiah, inadvertently leads to psychological slavery, and in often cases, the enslaved is not even aware of the enslavement.”
The words of wise men have illuminated our lives for millennia and will continue to light the path for future generations. Nevertheless, it is can never replace good old self-inquiry and it was never the intention.
Maybe I’m not being symbolic enough or shining a light on the path when I say this but, I suggest you think for yourself, as I believe your spiritual practise will thank you as mine has thanked me.