As you look at your life, you wonder, what are the biggest takeaways of your life? Is it what you achieve? Is success the yardstick? Perhaps. Although, you may need to define the parameters of success for that. When you are young, it is a pretty normal thing to ambitious. One aims to achieve something. Make something of one’s life.
Chasing a material goalpost is a pretty common thing. To be on top of one’s career, if you do achieve it through hard work and a heavy dose of luck, is a great feeling. The feeling of being on top of the world feels great. It stays with you for a while, this feeling of elation. But then, you get used to it. You find the feeling of euphoria dims and after a while, it is over. And then, you are off chasing the next goalpost.
Time and again, if you achieve whatever you are after, then of course, it is that feeling of elation, followed by a feeling of emptiness. So, why does the feeling of buoyancy not stay? Why is it fleeting? Where does it slip away? You may say a good question. Bit like, “catch a falling star”.
What does stay then? Chances are that it is that feeling of emptiness that stays after your ego is gratified. Why is it that even if you spend an entire life filled with achievements, you are not on a high for eternity — on a bubble, so to speak? It is then that you find yourself asking, what puts you on an eternal high or a sense of completeness or fulfilment? The answer is likely to be spiritualism, although it may be apparent immediately.
Eckhart Tolle says in his book, The Power of Now, “… people will often enter into a compulsive pursuit of ego-gratification and things to identify with in order to fill this hole they feel within. So, they strive after possessions, money, success, power, recognition, or a special relationship, basically so that they can feel better about themselves, feel more complete.” But as we find in due course of time, the sense of being whole lasts for a while and then it is back to finding that the feeling of a “bottomless hole within” has come back to haunt you.
Some of us fall back on our old ways and search for something new to occupy us in order to have that ego satisfaction while some of us wonder if there is a way out of these cycles of ups and downs — the highs and lows. That is when the search or quest begins, to seek answers to some fundamental questions that arise in you: is there something like eternal peace or eternal joy or eternal steadiness? If so, what is the path? The search makes you look at alternatives to the only way of life you have always known — of wants, desires and endless needs; the fear of future that drives your actions. You seek a way out of an anxiety-ridden life.
Most spiritual gurus exhort you to live in the present moment in order to escape fear, anxiety or the need for ego-satisfaction; to give up all that is false that gives you fleeting satisfaction or pleasure. The idea then is to get away from the unreal, illusory world that appears to be real. Indeed, that is sage Vashisha’s advice to Lord Rama. It is only when you get away from the mind, intellect and egotism that self-knowledge arises. You find the true you and enjoy the present moment, away from the disquiet that has been a part and parcel of our lives.