Recently I was in Trafalgar Square. There were crowds of tourists taking holiday snaps by the Olympic Countdown Clock. As I saw the digits slowly decreasing, it made me think that maybe up there in the heavens is a similar clock which is counting down my life span. At the age of thirty, I’m already beginning to feel the pains of old age! How long do I have left in this world? The Royal Advisor Canakya once said – “if you want material success, continue on thinking you’ll live forever, but if you want to succeed spiritually, then seriously consider that death may come tomorrow.” Throughout history we’ve seen numerous examples of individuals who had their spiritual journey spurred on by news of their imminent departure from this world. Thoughts of the end definitely shuffle up our life priorities.
At the same time, it’s clear that we can’t be gung-ho and over-zealous in our spiritual journey. We have to lead sustainable lives and make practical plans to survive in this world. We have to factor balance and maturity into the spiritual commitments we make. What if I don’t die tomorrow, but end up living another forty years? Could I still maintain the spiritual programme I have chalked out for myself? It seems contradictory. On one hand we have to feel incredible urgency and seek immediate transformation. On the other hand we have to plan our spiritual journey for a lifetime and be patient and measured in our approach. How do we reconcile these seemingly incompatible perspectives?
Think of the athletes training for the Olympics. If they over-do it, they may end up injured, debilitated and permanently restricted from the sport. Conversely, if they take the laid-back approach and fail to push themselves, they may not achieve the physical edge needed for victory and success. Thus, every good athlete engages a personal trainer. Spirituality is no different. We need the advice and guidance of gurus who are outside the box of our life. They can offer a mature perspective that bends you without breaking you. They remind you of the urgent need for complete spiritual dedication, yet simultaneously present practical solutions that progress you to that point.