Mar 19, 2010

Spiritual Trekking

Last Sunday morning, a small group of us went for trekking in the hills near our residence. It is a short 30-45 minutes trek before you reach one of the peaks. Later on, I sat down to note some parallels between the trekking journey and spiritual seeking.

We are at the base of the mountain and we can climb up from anywhere. There are many paths and we can even create our own paths.  We did both as we started at one place only to lose our path. We kept on climbing by instinct, negotiating steep rocks and treacherous footholds on the steep gravel, encouraging each other always ensuring that we were going higher and higher.

In the spiritual field too, there are many paths. While some swear by I Ching, others extol the virtues of the Art of Living. Some go for Vipassana while others make the annual pilgrimage to Sabarimala. Some are regulars for the weekly prayer at the Church and others try to copy Ramdev Baba on TV.

The path that we were on was unusually steep and filled with detours. Sometimes, the stone on which we kept our foot gave away or the branches we relied upon got uprooted. Nevertheless, we clambered on until we suddenly came across a clearing. Some minutes later, we had reached the top. A gentleman who had been watching us from the top remarked that we seemed to have deliberately taken the most difficult route to the top. Later on, it occurred to me that we had not chosen our path.

The path had chosen us.

In spiritual circles too, though we think that we are choosing a particular path, the fact is that the path is chosen for us. We are attracted to a path depending on exactly what we need at that particular stage in life. Certain colorful personalities make it through the Osho path, some get disappointed and move to the Krishna bhakti path or the way of Advaita.  Many jostle on the highways of temples and rituals, fasts and feasts.

So, in effect there is no better path, higher path or lower path. In fact, for many, the right path today may be to just drift along without any path. Yet, the characteristic of many paths is that people become attached to the path claiming that theirs is the only path to ultimate freedom. On our way back from the climb, we came across an acquaintance who insisted that the way he came up was the right way for us to go down. We ignored him and went in search of our own path.

A corollary of the above is that people try to lure you into their path. On the mountain, a gentleman filled with a spirit of holiness shouted ‘Bole re Bole’. We were engaged in our own unholy chatter and thoroughly ignored him. Somewhat offended, he stopped us and smilingly insisted that unless we repeat after him ‘Bum bum bole’, he will not let us proceed. Without any trace of holiness, we heartily complied. Such small advertisements are fine and fun but when someone insists that unless we do the Part 1 Basic course, we and our grandchildren are doomed to hell, it is time to run in the opposite direction.

It is difficult to say which is the best part of trekking. The slow, tough climb towards the top with parched throat and weary limbs or the swift, careful climb down with strategic application of brakes. Yet, one of the highlights is when you are sitting at the top with vast open spaces around, a lake in the distance, a gentle breeze all around and cold water guzzling down your throat….

I don’t know if there is any parallel to this in the spiritual field as I am still on the journey.

The only thing I can say with certainty is that, with good company, the trekking journey itself becomes a spiritual journey.


  1. varsha panicker said...
    awesomely written!

    loved the way you found parallels between the 'bum bum bhole' gentleman and those who insist others follow their spiritual path.

    let's go trekking again this sunday. and see which path chooses us :)
    Jazzy said...
    Good one !
    Although, I see how some people may have good intentions; I still fail to understand what makes them think that anything that they could tell me will be better for me than my capability to make my own choice. I feel we need to have control of our life. We shouldn't let others to dictate the pathway we must follow. We should never let others' qualms limit our potential nor permit others' disenchantment to become ours and blind us to the power that lies within us to direct our life to true fulfillment. Coz at the end of the day, it is invigorating and empowering to know that I control my life.
    However, this doesn’t mean that we need to be cynical of any advice people may have to offer us coz we need to follow right suggestions & advices of experts before stepping on any unknown path. We need to understand that every person we meet is our superior in some way. So we should be both open-minded and cautious when it comes to taking advice. A life-long habit of following good advice leads us to the sure path of success.
    Suresh said...

    Thanks Varsha. With the uncertainty, more than seeing which path in trekking chooses us, it is to be seen whether it is the path of trekking or the path of sleeping that is going to choose us!


    Yes, Jasmine as you rightly said we need to keep a balance between trusting our intuition and being open to the experience and expertise of others. Choosing a path should never be out of pressure but out of openness and a free spirit
    Shekhar Veera said...
    What struck me as most insightful and almost startling was the idea that we don't chose, but are already chosen! There are interesting parallels here between your line of thought, and a philosopher I have studied for years (Charles Peirce), who basically has the same notion that intention is actually part of the larger scheme of making sense of things. Things, events, paths have a 'meaning' and 'pull' of their own, even if you don't immediately recognize it. You may chose, but not really know that it is already chosen for you!!! Great observation Suresh!!!

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