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- A Quest for Enlightenment -
It was early morning and Zahir had boarded the train destined for the northern plains of India, where he would then change trains and catch another train that would take him as close as he could get to the foothills of the Himalayas. From there, he planned to travel by local bus, or any other transport he could find, and then he would have to walk the rest of the way, which was fine with him, because he wanted a chance to take in the sights of these legendary mountains. He wanted time to reflect on his life before he settled into deep meditation and the serious journey of spiritual advancement.
Although he loved his family very much, he had already put them to the back of his mind, because now it was time to focus intently on his spiritual practice. He knew he would be seeing his family again in just one year, and knowing that, he would comfortably be able to devote all his attention to his training in the Himalayas.
Zahir knew exactly what level of spiritual advancement he was at, and he knew how much work he needed to do to reach the higher level that he aspired to. One year would be a good amount of time in which a lot of progress could be made, if the correct level of intention and focus was present each and every day. First though, before beginning his training, he would have to complete the journey from his home town, all the way to the Himalayas.
After completing the first leg of the journey, he disembarked the train, stepping down onto the platform, where hundreds of people were milling around, some sitting with their luggage waiting for their train to carry them onwards to their destination. There were also many food sellers hawking their culinary delights for just a few rupees. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the train station, Zahir noticed an old man with dark skin sitting on the ground, wearing nothing but a cotton loincloth wrapped around his waist. He had long hair and a long beard, with white paint smeared in lines across his face, giving him a ghostly, otherworldly appearance. It was clear that he was some kind of spiritual man, most likely a sadhu. He was different from the other street beggars in the fact that he held himself with great poise and excellent posture, as if he were a king, legs crossed beneath him, and a spine as straight as a yardstick. There was a look in his eyes that conveyed great wisdom and sacred knowledge. The sadhu was not in meditation, but he was just sitting and observing the other people as they went about their busy lives walking this way and that way, their minds seemingly caught up in the future, or the past, or anywhere except the present moment in which they existed.
Zahir watched the old wise man for a few minutes, trying to gauge and estimate the level of spiritual advancement that this man may have attained. It was clear that he had given up his ego a long time ago, and cared not for his physical appearance, although he did not appear dirty and unwashed, there was a certain self-respect that emanated from this man’s aura, along with an air of quiet confidence, but at the same time a sense of great humility. This, Zahir thought, was a man full of wisdom, and perhaps ready to share a few nuggets of that wisdom with anyone who had the courage to approach him and ask.
These types of men, these sadhus were not uncommon sights around India, but usually they frequented the Holy places such as temples and other places of pilgrimage. Zahir had always found these deeply spiritual men very fascinating, not just for the fact that they had renounced their egoic identities, but because of the mystery and power that surrounded them. They seemed to be truly liberated and free of the heavy shackles of society that weigh most people down. Deep down, Zahir knew that this was what he desired too, but he also knew that he was so far from achieving that kind of level of spiritual attainment. Although he knew that it was possible to attain spiritual enlightenment in just one second, in a flash, just like that, however, for most people it was a gradual process of slowly stripping away layer by layer the conditioning and programming that had built up over the years since their very birth into the world.
Whenever Zahir thought along these lines of shedding his ego and living a pure spiritual life, he would always get intense feelings of excitement even just at the idea of attempting such a thing. Most people in the world would consider it foolish to surrender the ego, but Zahir understood that it was only through this act of seeming foolishness that one could reach a place free of the insanity that was part and parcel of modern life and modern society.
Zahir had a family to take care of, which was not such a problem, but more of an obstacle. Yes, he had a family, but he also had to think about himself and his own happiness and satisfaction, as he was not born into this world to be a slave to other people’s wants and desires. If he was to really achieve full enlightenment and liberation in the future, then he would need to be a real man about it, and even if his family would not understand him, he would still follow what he considered to be his destiny, his one and only path in life that would lead to his happiness and bliss.
The fact of the matter was that Zahir wanted to be just like the sadhu who sat on the floor of the train station, but rather than hang around busy public areas in the towns and cities, Zahir preferred to live his enlightened days surrounded by nature, and breathe in pure air to cleanse his body and energize his soul. The Himalayas would be a perfect place for this. If he could ever achieve this seemingly unreachable goal, the goal of being totally and utterly free, in a world that sought to control and suppress people, then he was sure that he could reach levels of spiritual attainment that went well beyond the average yogi.
Zahir did not just want to be another yogi or sadhu, sitting in a cave meditating for his whole life, or wandering the streets trying to compete with the other sadhus on who could look the strangest or the most enlightened. No, he felt he was destined for more than that. He was not sure why, but he could feel a very powerful energy ever so slowly but gradually beginning to wake up inside himself, and if Zahir could develop and control that energy, he knew he could become a powerful spiritual figure in the world, something that the world was desperately waiting for, and had been waiting for thousands of years. That is, a true avatar incarnated in the flesh here on planet Earth. That was something not just the people of India waited patiently for, but the people of the whole world. Figures of spiritual greatness were missing in the world today. Great beings who could not only talk about spiritual powers, but could actually demonstrate the siddhis that they spoke of, therein proving their true power.
But Zahir did not crave the spiritual powers in order to inflate his ego. He cared little about the ego. He wanted to be a demonstration of what human beings could actually achieve if they really dedicated themselves to the spiritual way of life.
These are things that Zahir had contemplated much in the past, things that he would turn over in his mind, and examine, and try to figure out a way he could follow such a path in his life. A path that would lead to spiritual greatness. But now an opportunity had presented itself, and Zahir had grasped it with both hands and run with it. He had received the blessings of his family to go away for a year to follow what he called his destiny, and now here he was, making his way to the foothills of the Himalayas, unburdened and free to dedicate himself to his spiritual practice for a whole twelve months, before having to return to his family.
As he stood in the train station, awaiting the connecting train, staring at the peaceful sadhu sitting on the ground, he made a solemn promise to himself that he would commit himself totally and fully to the opportunity that lay before him in the coming weeks and months. He knew he had been fortunate to have a family that had allowed him to go on this spiritual retreat, and that many wives would never have let their husbands go running off on such a crazy adventure. With this in mind, he wanted to make the most of his time in the Himalayas, and not just for himself, but for the benefit of his family also. He owed them that much.
The connecting train lumbered into the station and came to a stop, and the passengers stepped off the train and onto the platform, some with light luggage, some with heavy luggage, and some with no luggage at all. Zahir thought to himself that he wanted to go through life with no luggage at all, but to reach that stage, he knew, would take much training. When the passengers had finished disembarking the idle train, he made his way over and climbed aboard. He was luckily able to find a window seat, which was perfect, because he would be able to watch the scenery as it rolled by, while contemplating the nature of life and existence, as he often liked to do. It would be a ten-hour train ride, so there was plenty of time for contemplation.
Within a few minutes of the train leaving the station, Zahir had already drifted off into a very welcomed deep sleep. On the first leg of the journey, he had avoided falling asleep because he had been afraid to miss the connecting train, but now he was on the final leg of the train journey, he allowed himself the luxury of drifting off into a sweet and dreamless sleep, helped along by the gentle rhythmic rocking sensation of the train.
About ten hours later, Zahir was jolted awake by the lurching of the train as it terminated at the final station. To his pleasant surprise, he had slept the whole journey, without waking even once. Picking up his small backpack, energized and invigorated by the long sleep, he leapt off the train and onto the platform below. There was a sense of adventure in the air. Zahir was feeling both nervous and excited at the prospect of setting off by foot on this quest for spiritual enlightenment.
Walking out of the station, he looked up in wonderment at the rising snow-covered peaks of the Himalayas in the distance. What a magnificent sight he thought to himself. After purchasing a couple of bottles of water and some light healthy snacks, he set off in the direction of the mountains. There were taxi’s waiting outside the train station, and Zahir did have some money, but he had decided that travelling on foot from this point on would be good for his soul, and it would give him more time to contemplate the seriousness of the quest that lay before him. Yes, it was fun and adventurous to go off like this to the Himalayas with goals of advanced spiritual attainment, but he knew there was a time for seriousness and focus, and this was that time.
Zahir knew that he was at a very important junction in his life, with a great opportunity to really follow his dream and his destiny, and become the being that he knew was possible for him to become. He also knew that it would take a very high degree of commitment, focus, persistence, and determination, if he was going to succeed in this endeavor to become a fully enlightened being.