Confusion and Clarity on the Spiritual Path
Sadhguru addresses a very common issue for spiritual seekers – confusion on the spiritual path. He looks at why confusion is a constant companion and what it takes to use this mix-up productively.
Sadhguru: When we make an attempt to cross the threshold of where we are right now and move into other dimensions of experience, a few things get mixed up. If you do not develop the necessary discrimination and balance within yourself, handling this mix-up can lead to lots of confusion. You step into a spiritual process and suddenly you don’t know where you belong – you are always confused. It is good if you are confused. It means you are constantly stepping into new territory. If you live with the familiar forever, there will be certainty but there will be no progress.
No Backward Steps
It is like swinging on the trapeze. When you are swinging on your own trapeze, it is fine. When you let go and try to catch the other, that in-between space is terrible because you are neither here nor there. This is the predicament of people who want to explore, know, and experience other dimensions of life. They want to know the other side but they are unwilling to release themselves from the familiar even for a moment, so the struggle becomes unnecessarily long. If you let go of your trapeze and jump, the trapeze on the other side is always in place so you would catch it. But instead, if you just swing and swing, if you loosen the grip or hold it with your little finger but never let go, it is torturous.
When I talk about leaving the familiar to explore the other, it does not mean you have to leave your home or office and go somewhere. It is an internal process. Internally, leaving things that you have been attached to and identified with. You took the step of turning spiritual only because you felt insufficient. Suppose you were happy and absolutely fulfilled just eating your morning breakfast and drinking coffee, you would not have tried anything else. Somewhere, a realization came that this is not enough. You want to know and experience something else. This is not about demeaning your present existence. This is about seeing the limitation of where you are so that you can move to the next step of life.
So when this state of mix-up happens, you are neither here nor there; there will be confusion. You might have heard of the hippie movement during the 60’s in the US. People wanted to break everything that was familiar and try to live their life in some other way. All conventions of society became so suffocating, they wanted to break this and do something new. In many ways, they were very genuine people, but they did all the wrong things. They got so mixed up that it became the most confused and tortured generation for a long time. But the longing and their sincere effort to break away from what they know and step into something that they do not know was wonderful. That generation was a tremendous possibility, if only they had had the right kind of guidance. Not much of this movement happened in India, but especially in the United States, it really swept the country in a big way. When they did not know what to do and how to break their limitations, they got into alcohol, drugs, and all kinds of things. One of the reasons was, to take away distinctions. So probably for the first time, men and women started dressing in similar ways.
A hippie couple like this came to the Indian embassy in New York because India was one of the big destinations at that time. Because everybody was after mukti or nirvana, lots of people queued up to come to India because India was a promise of something else. So they came to the Indian Embassy where Shankaran Pillai was the concerned officer. He looked at this couple, couldn’t make out which is the man and which the woman. Then he asked, “Which one of you has a menstrual cycle?” The hippie said, “No man, I got a Honda.”
So stepping into a spiritual process is like that – things get mixed up. After having made the effort to step into the unfamiliar, there is no point in stepping back into the familiar. That’s a backward step. When things get mixed up, don’t step back. If you are stepping into unfamiliar territory on a daily basis, you will always be confused. This confusion needs to be handled properly and productively, rather than becoming a self-defeating process. You just need more vision to see things clearly. The ability to see life the way it is does not come free. You have to do the necessary things to get the discrimination. It won’t happen by accident.
Making the Process Joyful
If the spiritual process should not be painful, if it has to become a joyful process, one way is devotion. If you are a devotee, confusion is not a problem. But such a thing is not possible if your mind questions everything. If that is so, the next thing is to be able to clearly see what is true and what is not, not from past experiences and conditionings of life, but out of a very keen sense of discrimination. If you want to do this, first of all you should have developed a razor-like intellect so that you can cut things clean and see. If you have a blunt knife, you cannot do this. It will mess up everything. It won’t give you a vision of anything.
If you are unwilling to cut up what is familiar and see the basis of why you are inclined towards it, you will not step into the unfamiliar. Unless you begin to see the hollowness of where you are right now, you will not begin to seek something else strongly. If the longing is not strong, you will hang in between forever, in limbo. The longing will not become strong unless we open up our lives, dissect everything and see what it is; what it is worth, what it is not worth. It is not about making it meaningless. It is not about making it ridiculous. Not glorifying it, not making it filthy, just seeing everything the way it is. If you see everything the way it is, you will see there is no point in stopping in one place, you must move; this will become very clear.
If these two things are not possible, you must give yourself to activity. Simply serve whatever you see as meaningful. Or, the next possibility is you crank up your energy to such a pitch that your mind says something, your emotions say something else, but your energies are so cranked up it doesn’t matter. Your mind can be wrong, you know that. It has been wrong any number of times and it continues to be wrong, but your life energies cannot be wrong. Your life energies do not know any right and wrong. They know only life and life alone – whether it is low pitch or high pitch is the only question.
Editor’s Note: Find more of Sadhguru’s insights in the ebook “Of Mystics and Mistakes”, available on Isha Downloads.