One of my favorite translations of the Bhagavad Gita is Eknath Easwaran's (student of Gandhi, spiritual teacher). I read the passage below first there, and then in other translated texts by Easwaran (the words are his own). Always, I'm reminded of how grateful I am that the bottom fell out, that I was nailed to the wall, that my hand was forced. What luck.
This thing we call sobriety, this path that we initially believe to be about abstaining from a substance, is, as it turns out, not really about that at all. It is the wake up call, the invitation, the way back home and the way beyond the prison each of us humans have made for ourselves here on earth. We are not more special than anyone else, but oh, we are so special. Because here, on this path, we are pushed and prodded and cajoled to do something we never thought we could do, would actually have to do, so that we can do the thing we have always longed to do: See what lies beyond.
With endless honor for your path to all that lies beyond, wherever you may be. xoH
Imagine a vast hall in Anglo-Saxon England, not long after the passing of King Arthur. It is the dead of winter and a fierce snowstorm rages outside, but a great fire fills the space within the hall with warmth and light. Now and then, a sparrow darts in for refuge from the weather. It appears as if from nowhere, flits about joyfully in the light, and then disappears again, and where it comes from and where it goes next in that stormy darkness, we do not know.
Our lives are like that…we spend our days in the familiar world of our five senses, but what lies beyond that, if anything, we have no idea. Those sparrows are hints of something more outside - a vast world, perhaps, waiting to be explored. But most of us are happy to stay where we are. WE may even be a bit afraid to venture into the unknown. What would be the point, we ask. Why should we leave the world we know?
Yet there are always a few who are not content to spend their lives indoors. Simply knowing there is something unknown beyond their reach makes them acutely restless. They have to see what lies outside - if only, as George Mallory said of Everest, "because it's there."
This is true of adventurers of every kind, but especially of those who seek to explore not mountains or jungles but consciousness itself: whose real drive, we might say, is not so much to know the unknown as to know the knower. Such men and women can be found in every age and every culture. While the rest of us stay put, they quietly slip out to see what lies beyond.
Then, so far as we can tell, they disappear. We have no idea where they have gone; we cant' even imagine. But every now and then, life friends who have run off to some exotic land, they send back reports: breathless messages describing fantastic adventures, rambling letters about a world beyond ordinary experience, urgent telegrams begging us to come and see. "Look at this view! Isn't it breathtaking? Wish you could see this. Wish you were here."
- Eknath Easwaran, The Bhagavad Gita.