I ask the question: What decisions did I take as a youth that have most radically directed the course of my life? My decision to study Sanskrit, my decision to become involved in Hindu spirituality, and my decision to move to the United States are certainly ones that have powerfully impacted my life. But these decisions, although important, are not primary. They flow from something much deeper. The decision that I took as a youth, without consciously realizing it, was to have the courage, or perhaps the obstinacy of character, to listen to my inner voice of passion and to act upon that passion in spite of social convention, practicality and comfort.
Social convention told me that I should study something useful–medicine, law, engineering, but my heart said Sanskrit, theology and philosophy. Practical wisdom told me not to be spiritual at so young an age, but my heart said, “Search now for meaning.” Comfort told me to stay in the motherland, but my yearning for adventure pulled me south to the American giant.
Has listening to my inner voice made my life easier? No. Should my path be the path of others? No. Do I advise others to listen to and to follow their own inner voice? My answer is decidedly yes.
Muslims have a word that has become notorious in recent years, jihad, holy war. But I take the meaning as personal struggle. When you reach deep into your soul and hear that inner voice, which may at first be weak and muffled, when you tap into your soul’s passion and allow it to burst forth into your life, you undertake a great struggle, the struggle between mediocrity and fulfillment. Most certainly the world will try to silence that voice and extinguish your passion, but having once tasted this way of life you will find it impossible to give in to mediocrity. You will lose battles, you will have fallen times, perhaps for months or years at a stretch, but as long as a single ember of your soul’s inner fire remains alive, you will extricably be drawn back into the struggle. Listening to that inner voice and feeling that passion, generates your life’s goals and directs your decisions.
I am told that if I fly from New York to London, I will be off course much of the time! But I arrive just the same because I constantly make corrections along the way. Life’s path is the same. Once you have heard that inner voice and set your goals you must be prepared to make adjustments along the way. And driven by your passion you will likely achieve your goals. But there is a deeper virtue to this endeavor. The attainment of your goals is not the purpose, it is the struggle to achieve the goal; it is the growth and the deepening of your character that takes place as a result of your struggle, that is more important. Even if you fail to achieve your goals you will have at least deepened your being. Life takes place within the journey, and the more focused that journey, the better.
*Image taken from: http://vluhd.deviantart.com/art/Burning-Inside-75058018?q=gallery%3Avluhd%2F11908493&qo=22