As long as we have the power to choose, it is never too late to open doors to channels we haven’t travelled before, says Kishore Asthana
Imagine a vast hall in our minds. We spend our lives in this hall. There are many doors here and one corridor leading off, with no door at all. In the final stages of our lives, we go into this door-less corridor and, at its end, fall off this plane of existence. This note is not about what happens when we fall off at the end. It is about what happens as we spend our time in this Central Hall.
The doors in the Hall are of different colours. Behind these doors we can find creativity, laughter, adventure, love, serenity and fulfillment. There are some doors behind which we find negativity, too, in the form of addiction, disease, enmity, vileness, bigotry and such things. When we open a door, we spend time behind it experiencing whatever that room contains. We then come out into the Hall and have the choice to do nothing, open another door or go into the same one again. Inside these doors, there are other doors leading to different rooms.
All the doors are unlocked and open smoothly when we are born. Those we choose to ignore become harder to open, as their hinges rust. Those doors we keep opening frequently remain smooth. In the nature of things, it is possible to be behind more than one door at the same time, but the time spent behind any additional door takes away the time from other doors.
As we age, we make our choices. We open certain doors and ignore others. We are guided in our choices by a variety of factors — our genes shape these to a certain extent. Our family and friends are another influence, for we usually prefer to open those doors behind which we are likely to find those we like or which are recommended by them. That is why the wise recommend good company, satsang.
When we spend too much time behind a particular door, the hinges start rusting and it becomes increasingly difficult to come out. Most of our politicians are examples of this. They have spent so much time behind the door marked Vote-Bank-Politics that they find it difficult to come out of this sorry room even at the time of a crisis such as therecent terrorist strike in Mumbai. Similarly, most of our bureaucrats appear to spend most of their time behind the door marked, Pass The Blame.
Sometimes we spend too much time behind a door because we find happiness there - this may be a ‘good’ happiness or a negative one such as that caused by drugs or visions of paradise through religious extremism. Often we spend too much time behind a specific door because we feel helpless. This can happen because of things like prolonged illness, addiction or the wrong company, such as that of religious zealots. It can also happen because of laziness and lack of daring. Sometimes it happens because of belief in our own importance – “what will happen to all this if I leave?” is a question often asked and then replied in a way which enforces the sense of ones indispensability.
At all times, we must remember that, in the final analysis, the choice is entirely ours. We are the Openers of The Doors. The Hall belongs to us and it is not the other way around. Whoever thinks that she belongs to the Hall is powerless to do anything worthwhile and prematurely awaits her end near the entrance of the open corridor. Ennui and a sense of worthlessness are the major experiences if one tarries at this point too long. Some people mistake this inaction for spiritual detachment but such people do not find the bliss they are looking for.
In this connection, I would like to particularly mention two doors which are often mistaken for each other, though they are quite different. One is marked Religion and the other Spirituality. Though the two doors are independent, the rooms behind them are interlinked and the room behind the door marked Religion also has a portal to go into the room marked Spirituality. Unfortunately, Religion has other doors, too and one of them is marked Jihad, or its equivalent in other faiths. Some religious leaders inveigle impressionable young men and women into opening this door. Once inside this, the only way out appears to be death – their own and that of many others who they take with them through misguided notions of vengeance. The recent events in Mumbai highlight what can happen when this door is entered.
Most people enter the door marked Religion under the mistaken notion that this will take them automatically to Spirituality. Unfortunately, in most cases people entering the door marked Religion are unable to reach the spiritual, as they get engrossed in the many diversions offered by religion. An impression has been conveyed by religious leaders that we must enter the room of religion for the Creator to listen to us because He does not do so in other places. This misunderstanding also tends to make the seeker unwilling to leave the varied attractions of this room by opening the interconnected door of Spirituality.
The door marked Spirituality leads to a wondrous corridor whose hallmarks are inclusiveness, empathy and compassion. If travelled till the end, this takes one outside this construct altogether and permits the adept to view it from the perspective of the one who created it all. The adept realizes what has been called moksha, satori, enlightenment and baqa. At the end of her life, the realised one might experience a change of form but not a change of focus. She finds herself at the place she already was. This state has to be experienced and cannot be learned through words. One must see for oneself what colour is and it is not possible to describe it in words to a blind person. So it is with this state.
We should review the choices we have made till now. We should also evaluate if we have been behind a particular door too long. If need be, we should make fresh choices before the hinges of the as yet unopened doors get too rusted to open. Remember, till we have the power to choose, it is not too late to open any new door. It may be increasingly difficult to do so, but, with a strong will, it is still possible to do so. All we have to do is exercise our will in channels it has not travelled before, but would like to. The alternative is travelling through the door-less corridor to our end, carrying with us the regret at what could have been.
At the end of our lives all the doors will open themselves, but by then it would be too late. At that time the doors only allow us to go out into the hall, where the door-less corridor awaits.
(The writer is a management consultant and a social activist)