There are countless paths to God. Imagine God as a lamp, suspended in air, and each ray being emitted from it, a path. One could reach the lamp, from any point in space, by traversing the nearest ray, back to the lamp. Sri Ramakrishna used to say “As many faiths, so many paths”
However, there are three standard paths. The path of love, the path of wisdom, and the path of action, conveniently remembered as the three ‘h’s’, the heart, the head and the hand.
The path of love is considered the easiest path, but it is said to be slower than the others. It does not require anything else as a pre- requisite, except the love for God. But it is no ordinary love. It has to be intense yearning for God. It should be a complete obsession. There is a story to illustrate it. Once a disciple asked his teacher about the longing for God that is needed for God –realization. The teacher took the disciple to a river, and immersed his head under water. The disciple panted and struggled. When he reached near drowning, the guru took him out. “How did you feel?” the guru asked. “I thought I was going to die”. “That is how you should feel about God”
Is love of God enough for God-realization? The answer is that I do not know. I am not a God-realized person to answer it with certainty. On one hand I know that the love of God, once developed, never goes away, but is it enough? It only assures that the person will continue pursuing his objective, till death. But God-realization is not in the hands of the seeker. Ultimately it is God’s decision to give him, His Grace. The grace of God is absolutely necessary to realize God. Does God, always reward a person who has pursued Him with single-mindedness? It is often said, that God never allows one’s efforts to go waste, and always rewards one’s efforts. But what is the reward in this case? Full or only partial God-realization? Does anybody really know the mind of God?
On the other hand the person may still have significant attachment to the world (for instance, family, wealth, name, fame, ego, craving for power, etc). God –realization only occurs when one’s heart is empty of all other attachments, and exclusively loves God.
Another factor to consider is that how much time is available to the person to attain his objective. Although, he may be making reasonable progress, he may die before he has reached his destination. According to Hindu philosophy, one has multiple lives. In his next life, such a person will start from the point he had reached in his previous life. But, other religions do not believe in multiple lives.
How much average time is needed to realize God? This question was asked by Brunton to Maharishee Ramana (see the sidebar, “A search in secret India"). The saint replied that there was no ‘average’. It depended upon the seeker’s mind; gunpowder lights up in a flash, whereas considerable time is needed to kindle a fire from wet wood
Whatever path one is following, two traits are a necessity for success; patience and perseverance. Progress is often slow and imperceptible. The seeker is unable to discern the progress, just as an ant climbing a hill does not know her progress. Therefore, patience is taxed to the limit. Perseverance is not at all a problem for true lovers, as I mentioned previously (25. Why do they travel, continued), they just cannot abandon.
To be continued