Decades ago when one was traversing the road to perdition I encountered a sadhu at a tea shop. He wore an orange lungi but no tilak on his forehead nor Tears of Shiva (Rudrākṣa beads). We sat in silence sipping the hot tea sweetened with jaggery. I offered him a plate of samosas, which he gladly accepted. I asked him if he was a Shiva bhakt. This was his reply.
‘I am a seeker of truth, a truth that resides in all of us. To find this truth I have to live my life without the crutches of religiosity; the holy books, the rituals and places of worship and even the festivals; for these are but distractions from the singular path to understanding the meaning of life. I must live without hurting others, without sacrificing animals, without eating them, without touching the wondrous life in the oceans. I must exist on plants and sometimes no food at all, just water. For this is the perennial philosophy of the Sanathan Dharma that I know, what the ancients spoke about. It continually absorbs the elemental wisdom of civilizations through the ages. It is not finite nor is it judgmental, it simply shows one the pathway to oneself, to the truth within. But this journey is like walking on shattered pieces of glass, on red hot coals. The physical discomfort one has to endure is unimaginable. But at night when I lay my piece of cloth on the earth and lie down, I can see the stars, the moon through the pain and I am comforted. Sometimes the pain remains all night. Other times it goes away immediately and in its place I feel the hand of God on my burning forehead. It has been many years now travelling to the truth within. And I am hopeful that someday I will find it within and then my life would be complete and I won’t have to breathe no more. How wonderful. But I feel deep anguish for what I see around me. How people rush around destroying this beautiful planet and themselves. The self-destruct element is now embedded in their life, a powerful force. I fear, perhaps, one day it would consume them and the earth itself. What a terrible tragedy.’
He suddenly stopped talking and heaved a sigh of resignation. The sadhu then gulped down the last of the tea in his cup, put the uneaten samosas in his small cloth bag and stood up, waved his hand over my head as if in blessing and walked away.
I revisited the tea shop many times hoping to meet him again, until one day the chai walla told me with folded hands to go home for he has just heard that the sadhu had found his truth. I felt an embracing joy, knowing that the truth had liberated the sadhu. Now if only we could surmount the agony of the physical world like the sadhu, reject materialism and find our peace in the truth perhaps we too may be liberated from the confines of this Time.
Om Shanti Shanti Shanti Om
© Mark Ulyseas