Finding the Sacred in the Mundane
Life Lessons from an Indian Holy Man
Lesson number 1
She sat watching the sun’s dappled rays of light filter through the leaves of the ancient tree. The tree sat squarely in the middle of the village. Dusty, barefooted children ran around the tree shouting and laughing. The Village’s main water source, a rusty pump, lay to her right. She was in constant awe and amazement of the brightly clad Indian women in their vibrant saris and glittering bangles and earrings going about their daily business. To her, they were Beauty, Grace and Acceptance in motion. To her left, she could see a flutter of orange material settle gracefully under the tree. The orange robe belonged to the Sadhu that she was following from village to village. She remembered the weekly letter that she had just written home to her parents describing her latest adventure of wandering through the Indian countryside listening and absorbing his messages. She had explained that a Sadhu was a religious ascetic, a holy man, a Yogi who has renounced the material world. This particular Sadhu only owned one bowl that was happily filled by grateful villagers with rice and dahl and bread. He lived on this charity and slept under trees and in barns. He had made it his mission to spread spiritual messages and teach meditation to the far flung and remote villages throughout India. He simply wandered from village to village and she wandered with him eating what she could find and sleeping where she could. A far cry from her comfy, luxurious Western life. She flinched at the thought of her parent’s reaction and gently closed her eyes to practice the Sadhu’s teachings. A wave of calm came over her and she opened her eyes to the life flowing about her. She was 28 years old and had left everything to find this flow, this simplicity. She had wanted to explore and find whatever it was that lay out in the world for her. She had nothing but a small backpack, a sleeping bag and a bowl. But in truth, she had everything here. Her life was so rich here. She had this experience, this adventure, this high. She dreaded losing this, forgetting this.
A soft bell rang. Villagers lay down their clay pots of water and their bundles. Children were shushed. People came to the tree and sat cross legged or haunched down in that special Asian way that defied Westerners. The quiet and anticipation was palatable. She could almost see and hear and feel it in the air. No one and nothing stirred. The Sadhu smiled and began his talk. He spoke in the local language and she did not understand a word but felt his energy. When he finished, every villager was smiling and nodding. Almost as one, they clasped their hands together, chanted Namaste, bowed and went back to their daily routine. The Sadhu then repeated in English the same message to the 5 or 6 young people who followed him. After the Sadhu finished his daily message, he asked if anyone wanted to make a comment or ask a question.
Peter raised his hand. Peter was a tall, lanky good looking young Australian who was leaving the group tonight.
“So, you all know that I am leaving tonight to go back to Sydney. I have learned so much here with you but honestly, I am scared. How will I bring and live this knowledge that I have learned here back with me? How do I live in materialistic, crazy, busy Sydney? How do I maintain my Spirituality or my connection there in the West?
The Sadhu smiled and was silent for a moment. The village sounds flowed all around the small group but all she heard was the rustle of wind through the leaves of the tree. The sun shone. The day sparkled with life. She needed to hear this. She too, would have to leave this all behind one day and go back to “real” life.
Then he spoke.
“Excellent question Peter. Truly excellent. One that will surely affect all of you soon. I think of it often. It is so easy for me to be Spiritual here in India. We are geared to it. Our reality allows it. My life is normal and accepted here. I walk about with my bowl and everyone knows what and who I am. People feed me. People allow me to sleep in their barns or on their property. I am allowed to walk around in Orange robes proclaiming my vocation, proclaiming my Spirituality. No one asks anything of me, no one thinks it odd that I spend my days talking about energy, spirit or connection to the divine. I do not have to worry about money or bills, or what I will eat, or the dishwasher breaking, or my boss yelling at me or my children’s education or any of the things that will plague you. It is easy for me to be Spiritual here. But, and this is the question I ask myself, could I be Spiritual in the West? Could I be me there, with all the pressure and stimuli? I fear that the answer is No. I am not that strong or special or Spiritual. It is quite difficult to be Spiritual in the West.”
The Sadhu paused and the group sat in utter stillness. She knew that this was the core of his teachings, that this message was what she needed to hear. He continued speaking.
“But, perhaps I could have Spiritual moments by finding the Sacred in the Mundane. In the everyday. In that way, is it any different than life here in India? Look at the villagers rushing about taking care of the details of their lives. Life is life. Wherever you are. Enjoy it, for it is yours. Find the beauty in each moment no matter what it is. Your dishwasher breaks. Until it is fixed enjoy the warm water on your hands as you manually wash your dish. Perhaps be grateful that you have warm running water at your command! Feel the pleasure of a task accomplished. Connect with your hands, the flowing warmth, the pleasure of being alive as you wash that dish. Why waste a perfectly good moment of life? Elevate each mundane task to a divine and holy experience, simply because you are alive and this is your life right now. How beautiful! What a Spiritual experience that would be! I am almost jealous of you for having that. Let me go back with you Peter, I long for that moment, that elevation!”
She sat stunned. She had never heard anything like this. So simple, so true. So perfect.
She knew that when the time came to leave this experience, she would just be trading one experience for another. Not better, not worse. Just one experience after another that makes up a life. A life filled with Mundane yet Divine moments.