That is when identity becomes a serious matter. What you were born with and what you have achieved with it so far in life becomes a vital reference for evaluation. That you are a Hindu becomes significant. That you are born a brahmin or vaiśya becomes important. The language you speak, the town you hail from, become significant identifiers. That your abilities earn a lot of wealth or erect a stainless reputation becomes very valuable. You strive to reap your identity, openly assert it, and seek self-respect and regard, don’t you? It feels wrong and even lame to let go of someone who speaks ill of your community, or caste, or language, or nation, your achievements, your life journey, your struggles; anything that lends you identity. You are that identity and you do react strongly to defend yourself, don’t you? You even find it manly to do so!
Some may have begun with respect and esteem early on in life, through coveted university degrees, jobs, and early access to immense wealth and top positions. As they age, they merely tend to relax, get used to what they have, and enjoy themselves more. They just interchanged the sequence, that is all.
As you age further, your health aggrandises most of the focus. Concerns about whether you will even be cared for by somebody, or whether you will have a dignified death, become a nagging worry. You suspect everyone and lament about the worth of all the investment you made over 60 or 70 years, which didn’t even yield one person’s assurance of love and care when you age. Right?
Seek pleasure, seek esteem, seek health, seek a painless death! Is that all to your life? And, you pledge your entire life for this? And you panic so much for this? Shouldn’t we reset something here fundamentally? Shouldn’t we re-begin life on a completely different note? Even if that life were to be uncertain, shouldn’t you strive to get off this rut—this predictable template of life that everyone seems so committed to? Though it appears as commitment, in truth, it is actually a helpless compulsion from within.
One doesn’t know anything else of life. And, for much of life, one doesn’t even care to know, because one has resigned to this template and taken comfort in its mediocrity.
This is just apathy. Not ignorance, but abject disregard! You don’t have the luxury of throwing up your hands, saying, ‘I didn’t know; no one told me’! You didn’t care to find out for yourself. It doesn’t matter whether you are capable or not, whether you got the right breaks in life or not, whether life was kind to you or not; what matters most from your side, is that you’ve continued with utter carelessness about life.
God never designed the universe and life here this way. But he didn’t object to this template of yours, where you felt safe, repetitive, predictable, and you kept betting on the same thing, over and over again. You felt good, you felt happy, you felt predictable, you felt secure, you experienced a high now and then, and God had no objection.
Real spiritual life begins by you consciously stepping out of this entire template. Not that you won’t age, not that you won’t find pleasure, not that you won’t have comfort, not that you won’t find esteem, but that is not your look-out. Ever. Not for a moment! But, what is it that you seek? That is difficult to point out. Because, this is not merely an open rebellion against the commonly accepted template of life, but it is a far deeper search. It can be described as a shift of your manliness to something really manly, or a discarding of manliness itself as silly.
It is a quest for meaning, truth, reality, love, something of substance, true order, so on and so forth. You could describe with the most exquisite of words, but until you step out of the mechanical nature of the template, you won’t even know what it is all about. Simple detachment won’t take you anywhere. The cleverness of holding on to security, pleasure, and esteem here, but seeking something more meaningful in meditation is just self-deceit, a way of fooling yourself. When your brain and heart step out, won’t your body also follow suit? Are you fundamentally so disintegrated that one part of you believes in something of the beyond, while the rest of you still clings to the template?
You must be free of such hypocrisy. You must reject the commonly loved template of life. Utterly. Not out of disgust, not out of rebellion. Not out of disillusionment. But, because you seek real alternatives to that template. And, not mere tweaking! Substantively different alternatives! Not cheat yourself with fancies and imaginations. You won’t indulge in mere symbolism or good intent, if you are really serious about this, would you?
If you want to test your independent spirit in any manner, if you seek to be genuinely entrepreneurial about life, begin a new beginning. If you care to discover sanctity to existence, real gravity to life, then take the path of Śreyas.
Be it pleasure, security, esteem, or worry of death—it is the same! The path of Preyas! Even if you pursue these not for yourself but for someone else dear to you, do not consider you are out of this rut. You are very much in it! Because you are so sure of this template of life, you are gifting it to someone else now; what you think is wanted by all.
Step out of the entire thing, once for all. That is renunciation. That is adventure. That is the spirit of spiritual life. That is the sense of abandon you bring to love and life. Therein, you discover true passion.
A journey where you bloom fully. Where, even when you are formed, you haven’t become this or that. You are still forming, and yet, you don’t know the big picture that moves. You don’t see the hand that shapes you; yet, you know it exists, and that it works every moment. You only know that something is constantly moving, but you leave it as a mystery, allowing it to unfold. Therefore, the bloom is eternal; you never become this or that ever, but you are continually forming.
Having chosen the beaten path, at the end of life, don’t philosophise emptily. Simply accept that you have taken the easy path. Have the humility to apologise to life itself. Pray to God that you should be given another chance to re-begin afresh.
And, this time, promise God that you won’t take the beaten path, even if it is filled with pleasure, security, esteem, and even if everyone around you continues on the same path.
Care to step out. Don’t remain careless, and wedded to the template, complaining, adjusting, compromising, feeling burdened, and finding artificial ways to relieve yourself.
Step out of this self-created and self-subscribed mediocrity. End this life membership to the mechanical template forthwith, no matter what you stand to lose.
Wake up to God’s world, and grope for light and existence. Grope for real feeling. Struggle for meaning. Even a little harvest there is far more worth than a million sincere lives led according to the template.
Grab this gift from God. And keep at it. Wake up more and more to its possibility first, and to its eventuality eventually.