Are We There Yet?
Road trips in the ‘50s and ‘60s were often a time of great expectation and vacation fun. Plans for packing clothes, snacks, and maps to show the way became the magic formula to ensure the trip would go smoothly. Depending on the length of the trip and the destination there was always an air of excitement that the journey would end with great happiness and good times. However, there weren’t ever enough coloring books, games, or snacks to keep children amused as the trip was always longer than expected, and inevitably the chorus of “Are we there yet?” – sometimes accompanied by frustrated tears – became the opening line of all conversations.
Perhaps when we came to this path, we also had the perception that it would be a short journey to the enlightenment that we sought. We responded to some pull within us and followed that pull toward an unseen and unknown destination. When we first listened to that inner voice that called us, we probably had no real idea of the mysteries that lay ahead. Martin Buber wrote, “All journeys have secret destinations of which the traveler is unaware.”1 But our inner map, the master, is rooted in the innermost recesses of our soul, and he has given the promise that he will guide us on this journey.
Farid ud-din Attar, a contemporary of Rumi, wrote:
The Friend decides the when and the how.
Wherever you go, you are with me.
And for every step towards me
I cover both worlds to come to you…
Since separation from Me is not in your destiny.2
The Torah (Hebrew Bible) begins with a tale of a journey similar to the one that we have now embarked upon. It is the story of Avram and Sarai, who become later known as Abraham and Sarah. They were called upon to relocate not to just a new and unknown land but to cross over entirely to a new way of being. They had no road map, no games, and probably no snacks, but what they did have with them on their journey was the voice of God, the unknowable and unnamable mystery beyond our comprehension. In Genesis 12:1 the Lord speaks to them:
Go to yourself,
Leave your homeland
Your parent’s house
(and go) to the land that I will show you.
For this journey, they are not only asked to take a journey outward, but also to take the journey inward. “Go to yourself.” This is the first commandment of the Lord. This journey of theirs is a call to self-realization leading to God-realization. It is a message that is spoken to every one of us. What is unusual is that Abraham and Sarah listened to the voice they heard and acted upon it.
We too have been urged to embark on a journey to an unknown land. The journey is not to the land that is all too familiar to us here where we are born, we live, we get married, we have children, we seek wealth, and get more and more distracted from our spiritual priorities; it is a journey, as a seventeenth-century kabbalist writes, to “search and discover the root of your soul, so that you can fulfil it and restore it to its source, its essence.”3
In Yoga and the Bible it says:
No questions of greater importance confront a human being than those of discovering who and what he really is, what place he occupies in the universe, what his relationship is to the Supreme Creator… and what path he should follow to “do the Fathers’ will” and gain … salvation.4
Abraham and Sarah understood the immensity of this journey, which is really an allegory of the journey from an ego-centered life to a God-centered existence. In the nineteenth-century Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter’s Sefat Emet (“Language of Truth”), it says:
And the deepest truth is that we must listen in order to receive that which is beyond our comprehension, namely, the knowledge of God’s infinite nature. To this end, we must continually surrender our conceptual knowledge – that which we understand with our minds alone.5
That key, that guidance that makes our steps sturdy, is the gift of meditation. Through the deepening of our simran and bhajan and remembrance of him, our understanding of the path and the role that our karmas play in the purification of our consciousness will grow stronger, and we will experience without a doubt that he has always been with us and that this journey is leading us to the doorways of eternity.
The American Trappist monk Thomas Merton suggests:
Intellectual brilliance is never required [for meditation] … It does not have to feel itself enkindled with raptures of ardent love.6
But we must do it. Hazur seems to go out of his way to reassure us that even though the path to the infinite is not immediately known to us, our heavenly Father always keeps the promise we are given at our initiation, “that we have been chosen for eternal liberation.” He says:
The One who has created you is more anxious about you and takes much more care of you and is more concerned about you than you are about yourself…have faith in the Father.7
Maharaj Sawan Singh says in Spiritual Gems:
Those of you who remain faithful and go on working to the best of your ability must realize how great is the work you have done and how great the reward which awaits you.8
We are on a journey like Abraham and Sarah, with the voice of God, the Shabd, continually beckoning us. Sometimes loudly, sometimes softly, our beloved is continually lighting the way; we must listen to his voice and go forward step by step.
Hazur encourages us by saying:
When the Lord has chosen you for eternal liberation, then what other power can keep you back for long in this creation? … It will take a lot of time and effort and perseverance … But it will definitely be done one day. The Master will see you back home.… The Master is always with you and so is his love.9
We are on a road to union with him, and as Thomas Merton wrote, “No matter how distracted you may be…continue to centre your heart upon God … His presence does not depend on your thought of Him. He is unfailingly there.”10 On this journey we will discover that He and we were there together all along and separation was not in our destiny.
No more questions of: “Are we there yet?”
- Sweet Sorrows: Selected Poems of Sheikh Farideddin Attar Neyshaboori, Renditions by Vraje Abramian, p. 91
- Daniel Matt, The Essential Kabbalah: The Heart of Jewish Mysticism (San Francisco: Harper Collins, 1995), p. 127
- Yoga and the Bible, p. 2
- Sefat Emet, Rabbi Yehuda Aryeh Leib of Ger, in Estelle Frankel, The Wisdom of Not Knowing (Boulder: Shambhala, 2017), p.26
- Thomas Merton, Spiritual Direction and Meditation (Collegeville, MN:Liturgical Press), p. 67
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on St. Matthew, p. 77
- Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems, # 158
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Quest for Light, #451
- Thomas Merton, New Seeds of Contemplation (New York: New Directions Publishing), p. 224