Meditations on The Journey Home – Lesson from Chapter 1
Inspirations from ‘The Journey Home ‐ Autobiography of an American Swami’
In Rome, one day Gary and Richard entered a monastery and meditated in the underground cemetery. These rooms were filled with human skulls and skeletons, and many were artistically arranged to make furniture and chandeliers. The monks there meditated on the impermanence of the body, and the ravaging power of time. One sign above the skeletons read, “As you are now, we used to be. As we are now, you will be.”
Later they hitched to Pompeii. Pompeii was destroyed and completely buried during a long catastrophic eruption of the volcano Mount Vesuvius spanning two days in 79 AD. The volcano collapsed higher roof‐lines and buried Pompeii under 20 m (66 ft) of ash and pumice, and it was lost for nearly 1,600 years before its accidental rediscovery in 1592. Since then, its excavation has provided an extraordinarily detailed insight into the life of a city at the height of the Roman Empire. Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is one of the most popular tourist attractions of Italy, with approximately 2,500,000 visitors every year.
Now walking through the ruins of this ancient civilization, Richard was lost in the thought of the impermanence of material life:
“What could we learn from the tragedy of Pompeii? At any moment disaster can come upon anyone. In our complacency, we fail to grasp the impermanence of all that is material. I thought of the bubonic plague that had ravaged Europe, the atomic bomb that levelled Hiroshima, the earthquakes and fires that had destroyed cities in America. Through the history of mankind, the powers of nature take everything away from us. Why put off seeking the eternal jewel of enlightenment? Now is the time. “
Time is a powerful energy of God that brings an end to all our material hopes and dreams. If we confine our ambitions to the temporal pursuits of this ephemeral world, we too are lost. As huge waves of time toss us insignificant pebbles around, we desperately seek to hold ground. History is filled with names that are worthless to us. Our exploits too are no big deal to successive generations. Yet we long to etch our names in the pages of history, and to be loved and adored forever.
During one class, Radhanath Swami drew the attention of the audience to the huge wall clock hanging at the rear of the hall. He graphically described the havoc caused by time in our lives, “Just see this clock. Both a young teenager and old man look at the same clock differently. The teenager laments ‘why is the clock going slow. C’mon speed up. I want to grow to be independent and enjoy all the pleasures of this world.’ An old man looks at the same clock and laments ‘Oh clock, why are you going so fast. Please slow down.’”
A spiritual seeker therefore searches for eternity that transcends barriers imposed by time and space. The term of human bodily existence is a rare chance for self‐realization, a chance to be reunited with the Lord of our heart. For a spiritual aspirant, life in this world is a springboard to enter the Lord’s eternal abode. Thus a truly intelligent person searches for transcendental happiness. Radhanath Swami practises and teaches the process of bhakti‐yoga, Devotional service to God in which the spiritualist realizes his or her personal relationship with God.
Although all designations pertaining to the body are fleeting, the eternal soul dwelling within the body is special. God cares for all souls and eagerly awaits their taking the initiative to turn to Him. Through daily chanting of holy names of God, the original dormant love for God within us starts flowering. As our relationship with the Supreme Lord blossoms, it also lends freshness and excitement to our lives.