ONE of the reasons the word ‘spirituality’ arouses such suspicion in our world today is the fact that it is pursued by several who have little or no control over their imaginations. Unfortunately, these unbridled flights of fancy have given rise to the view that the spiritual process is intended only for those who can boast of past-life experiences or visions of angels and celestial lights.
Imagination is strictly a faculty of the mind. It has nothing to do with the existential. It does not matter how wild or fertile your imagination is, it is still very firmly rooted in your past experience of life. Most people do not know where memory stops and imagination begins. The lines of demarcation are very blurred. If you try to recall an incident that occurred in your life thirty years ago, you would find that half of it is pure imagination.
If you imagine God is always with you, it could bring you comfort, or imbue you with confidence, but no more. People believe that imagining God is better than imagining the Devil. On the contrary, the Devil might be preferable, because there is a strong likelihood you would want to be liberated from this hallucination real quick!
For those on a tantric path seeking mastery over a particular aspect of life or nature, imagination can be a powerful tool. But for those seeking mukti or liberation, it is of no consequence whatsoever. In fact, if you are seeking liberation, you must first liberate yourself from imagination and memory, because these are very deep traps. When people try to meditate, their biggest problem is that they are either thinking about the past or dreaming about the future. Once you release yourself from these two traps, you find meditation is just natural.
Spirituality has been grossly misunderstood by those who have sought to blindly imitate certain legendary devotees. A very small number of people in the world are truly devout; the rest are conditional devotees.
The legend of Poosalar is well known in southern India. Poosalar was a poor man, but determined to build a magnificent temple for his beloved Shiva. Every day he diligently went about building this temple, brick by brick, entirely in his mind. This inner exercise took him years. The king of the country was also planning to inaugurate a huge Shiva temple that he had built. The night before the grand opening, the king had a dream in which Lord Shiva appeared and told him that he could not come for his temple opening because his most faithful devotee, Poosalar, had invited him to his temple instead.
The king was dumbfounded. He wondered who had been able to build a temple grander than his own. He set out in search of Poosalar and finally found him in a ramshackle hut in the poorest district in town. “Where is your temple?” demanded the king. “The only temple I have,” replied Poosalar, “is in my heart.”
Now, that is a devotee. His consciousness is so crystallised that he has, in a sense, become one with the Creator. The distinction between what is real and what is not real is obliterated. If such a person believes in a certain form, that form just comes alive for him. This is not imagination anymore. This is creation.
Looking at the lives of a few devotees of such calibre, others have tried to use the imagination to emulate them. But it will not work because Poosalar’s inner temple was not built of the imagination; it was built of flawless, unwavering, single-minded devotion.
The bhakta or devotee is not seeking to be special. He is content to be ordinary – ‘extra-ordinary’, in fact. He is not aspiring to become powerful: that is his power.
Sadhguru, a yogi, is a visionary, humanitarian and a prominent spiritual leader (www.ishafoundation.org)