In my early forties, quite unexpectedly, I felt propelled to have my Dutch university degree recognized here in Italy. I immediately acted upon this unforeseen objective and fearlessly challenged the labyrinth of this country’s bureaucracy. Finally I was told that, in order to get what I wanted, I had to pay a year’s university fee, take three additional exams, and rewrite my thesis.
The exam subjects were Latin, human geography, and poetry. My heart was filled with an inexplicable enthusiasm.
To be sure, enthusiasm is by its very nature inexplicable. It is a deity (theos) that enters the human heart and gives us wings to fly.
While fulfilling my duties as a husband and a father of two children, I made use of the nighttime to withdraw from my family so as to dive deeply into the literary heritage of the ages and to explore the human landscape. Enthusiasm gave me energy, clarity, and strength of memory. I rewrote my thesis, passed all the exams with flying colors, and … that was the end of it! I never got to make any practical use of my newly gained certificate, which was thus reduced to a mere piece of paper.
Still, what a wonderful power enthusiasm is! Lifting us up from the mud of body-bound needs and desires, enthusiasm leads to a freedom that allows us to focus on something different from and greater than ourselves.
A little light relieves the dark heart, at last.
In the beginning, the visiting deity may be of a lesser kind, giving us creative ideas that reinforce, rather than transcend, the constrictive ego. That, too, is a step forward for the suffering heart.
Generally, society looks upon worldly ambition much more favorably than upon mere sense pleasures, which often carry an element of shame. Ambition, on the other hand, gives rise to the myths of success and of money and fame.
But more importantly, an evolutionary power underlies ambition. In order to fulfill an ambition, we need to put out some form of creative energy. This creates magnetism, and the magnetism makes us grow.
Eventually we become strong enough to respond creatively to the pain of disillusion that, sooner or later, follows the fulfillment of each ambition. During an interview, the highly successful movie director Roman Polanski said with candid hindsight: My career is OK, but it hasn’t given me bliss.
The greatest blessing is to become enthusiastic, not about academics or other worldly quests, but about true spiritual teachings that guide us to seek happiness within, rather than in the world. The pursuit of happiness, then, becomes the pursuit of wisdom. In the process, Sri Yukteswar can be our guide if we think him near. It still requires a lot of energy. The great Gyanavatar writes: “his (her) heart then becomes propelled to learn the real nature of the universe and, struggling to clear his doubts, (he/she) seeks for evidence to determine what is truth.”
He then writes that, once this struggle has become our natural duty, we are on our way to finding permanent fulfillment.
Poetry then becomes the mystic sound of Aum, and the inner landscape is likened to a river that, through absorption or baptism, takes us back to the highest of all gods, our own reflection of Divinity, which never leaves us.
Can we realize all this in the turmoil of modern life? Sure, why not? Our unfolding spirituality will allow us to fulfill our duties creatively and lovingly, and our inner struggle brings us to a point where we can sit down every day, straighten our backbones, breathy deeply and calmly, meditate and gratefully affirm: I am free now, I have life more abundantly, like a mighty river, within.
- The Holy Science, Swami Sri Yukteswar, Self-Realization Fellowship