There’s a gag about a person who wants to find his way to a place called Hometown, and he thinks he knows the way and he is driving along, and then he realizes everything suddenly become unfamiliar. He realizes he’s lost; and he sees a pedestrian, so he pulls over, winds down his window and he says: “Excuse me, can you tell me the way to Hometown?”
And the pedestrian looks at him and says: “Well, I would start from here.”
Now, this little story illustrates something that’s quite significant about the spiritual life. I’m a religious teacher and just recently my activities have picked up. This makes a certain sense, you know, we’re in a middle of a big crisis. There’s the danger of a disease and there’s the economic problem, that comes with it. So suddenly everything has become uncertain. We thought we knew where we were going. We thought we were on the way to Hometown and we knew the route and suddenly everything has become unfamiliar. We can’t do what we used to do. And it’s just at a time like this that we suddenly decide to ask for help. In other words: we turn to the spiritual life. We realize that the materialist life - the consumerist life we’ve been living - maybe isn’t going to get us there. We thought it would but maybe it’s not.
So, at a time like this, many people do turn to spirituality one way or another, but, of course, there’s a very real sense in which I wouldn’t start from here! It’s not the time! If you want the benefit of spirituality, if you want the equanimity, the peace of heart, the freedom from worry and anxiety that spirituality will bring you, then you should have got it established well before the crisis came along. This is fairly logical.
Now, actually, this crisis that we are in goes through a series of phases. At the beginning of the lockdown I made a podcast in which I said “Let’s use this time to consider what is really essential.” If we can only make essential journeys and essential purchases, we need to think about what really is essential. And, in a way, this is the recipe of the spiritual life: what is really essential, what really matters to you? What matters to your heart? Not just how do you make an extra few dollars, but what matters to your heart? What matters really? You know - things like love, things like peace, things like beauty and so on. These things really matter.
Well, this crisis goes through phases and the phase we are at the moment, is one when a lot of countries are thinking about opening up, reducing the quarantine and so on. Some people will now think: “Ho! Rush back to things as they were before. Now I see, I’ve got the way to Hometown. I do it the old way.”
Actually, this letting up is probably temporary. As soon as we let up, the virus will get going again. So, what shall we do with this time? Well, this is the time to prepare for the next wave. This is the time to get yourself organized into a simpler life, a more self-sustaining life, both materially and spiritually. And this is how life is generally: we go through crises and we go through periods when more is possible. It’s possible to do things on our own terms, as it were. That’s the time to get your spiritual practice going. That’s the time to prepare yourself. Then, when the crisis comes along, you have the peace of heart; you have the solid basis; you have the faith that will carry you through the difficulty, that will give you equanimity at the time of crisis.
Thank you very much
Namo Amida Bu