The passage of soul described in Upanishads is the passage through two paths viz., Devayana path (the path of liberation of soul ) and dhuma marga (southern path of return). These paths containing the realms that the soul travels on it's way are vividly described. It appears to me that these realms which the Upanishads describe are experienced by the spiritual seekers here and now in their spiritual sadhana. These musings that connect the realms of the passage of soul to our daily sadhana are more in the nature of an amateurish contemplation arising out of a curiosity to grasp the essence of Upanishads in such a way that they become meaningful for daily life.

A brief description of both the paths may be in order before explaining how the paths appear to be relevant to the spiritual practice of an aspirant.

While passing through the Devayana path or the path of liberation of the soul, the soul first enters the realm of the Deity of Fire, then successively to the realms of the Diety of Day, Deity of the six months, Deity of the year and then to the realm of sun. After the realm of sun, the realm which the Upanishads call the flash of lightening which is the dawning of knowledge of reality. After this it is said that individuality drops gradually and the soul reaches the realm of creator Himself.

The path of liberation is tread only by those who are endowed by great faith and through sincere spiritual practice. Those people who are unable to do the sadhana (spiritual practice) to such an extent but basically try to be good and do good will go along with southern path of return. They travel along the same path with those going to the realm of no return until some distance i.e. they also travel through the realms of deities of fire, of day, of six months and of year. However, without proceeding to the realm of sun they deviate and go to the realm of ancestors. From there the soul travels to the realm of space and then to that of moon. There he enjoys the fruits of his good deeds and then returns to the world of bondage.

Both these paths appear to exist in spiritual life of an aspirant. The Deity of fire seems to symbolize the purity that is required, the sincerity and urge within that makes a person to think that there is a greater truth beyond the work-a-day world filled with distress, unhappiness, disease and ignorance. The mere realization or understanding of the existence of higher reality may not help unless somebody has a sincere urge to search for it along with patience, faith and hope to go forward on the path. All these urge an aspirant to purify his thought, word and deed and to sublimate his life. This symbolizes the realm of the Deity of fire. With this understanding the aspirant has to cross the realms of the deities of day, of six months and of the year. All the three realms seem to represent the time zone in varying degrees. Those of the aspirants who try to meditate on God and increasingly feel His presence come to realize the impermanence of things of world. Only those who internalize the fact that time is the destroyer of everything they possess and seek, will be willing to sacrifice their desires and ego at the feet of the Lord and they seek nothing but God. Those of us who might have understood the above fact but who were unable to internalize and implement in day to day life will have to go towards the southern path of return. This basically seems to signify the aspirant's unfulfilled desires and expectations for himself and for others without whose fulfilment he will be unable to proceed on the spiritual path and in a way it appears good for the aspirant to take another birth to fulfil those desires and continue his sadhana further. Thus these souls enter the realms of ancestors, of space and of moon. After enjoying the fruits of their good deeds, they return to the world of bondage to continue their journey to eternity.

Thus the realms until that of the deity of the year are the same for spiritual aspirants who have a desire for fruits of their actions and those who desire not. The differentiation springs from the aspirations and motives of their actions including their sadhana.

Those aspirants whose lives and actions are a sacrifice at altar of the Lord done for the sake of sacrifice with the realization that it is the highest and only worthwhile pursuit of life here, experience the love of God and the happiness in being with him and gradually this experience of bliss pervades their life with greater intensity and it envelops their personality, attitudes and their relationship with everything and everybody around them. For them, being good and doing good does not anymore remain a duty to be performed and a virtue to be cultivated. While the virtues naturally get reflected in their thoughts, words and deeds, their lives become a garland offered to God with love and therein they appear to enter the realm of the lightning of knowledge in which the supreme reality dawns upon them. This reality being a subjective reality the aspirant begins to experience his oneness with the creation and the lack of differentiation in terms of objects. His individuality gradually drops and he enters the realm of creation and he never returns to the world of bondage. This state is reflected even in this world in those saints who are called Jeevanmuktas.

The musings may not acquire a completeness unless a word is said about the aspirants like us who returned to the world through the southern path but seem to crave to travel the path of no return. Though we may take solace in the fact that every soul has to enter the realms of no return and eternal bliss how quickly an aspirant succeeds in his sadhana depends on his clear understanding of his own intentions and motives of his actions including his sadhana life. It is in this context, our intentions in life, and the way we interpret the intentions of people around us become important for spiritual practice because the former pervades and influences the latter also. What intentions we have and what understanding we possess often determine our world view. There may be some people/aspirants who are good, sensitive and sincere and who would like to be good. However they often encounter difficulties in doing good because they perceive that their good nature is being exploited by some which is unreasonable; not only from their point of view but also from the stand point of the virtue to be good. Though tit-for-tat is not something an aspirant in supposed to indulge in, at least a compulsion to avoid such of those who seem to be uncaring emanates, and often that seems to be psychological need that arises due to the super sensitive nature of many aspirants.

It is an irony of spiritual life that many seekers become seekers because of their sensitivity that make them react deeply to the ills and difficulties pervading the world and it is this sensitivity that make them search for reality and decide to take upon the spiritual practices. However it is this sensitivity that makes alignment with the world a difficult proposition, and thereby a hindrance to rise to higher realms of reality. Here it may be mentioned that alignment or adjustment with the world is not an end in itself but it helps an aspirant's progress by giving him positive attitude so that his love for higher reality do not spring from a negative sense of rejection by the world but from a positive realization about the transitory nature of the world around however appalling the world and its relationships may be. In essence it means that the spiritual path should be tread for love of it rather than out of any negative attachment to the world.

This adjustment or alignment with the so called bad elements of the world is a challenge and a daunting task for a seeker and the efficiency with which this task can be performed appears to come with the degree of an aspirant's love and devotion to God and Guru and complete surrender to them. Each aspirant's psychology is different and each one has unique needs which seem to be unknown even to him sometimes. It is in this context our religion emphasizes the need of a satguru who knows the psychology and peculiar needs of each disciple and leads him forward on the spiritual path. It is God and Guru who bestows a discriminative understanding and necessary detachment coupled with the right attitude that is required to perform actions in the world through which the aspirant goes beyond the pairs of opposites and objectified world and reaches the realms of eternal bliss.

Back to Poems