Shaila Press, Halifax, Canada, 2000
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(also published in India by the Theosophical Publishing House, Adyar, Chennai)
Beginning of the essay on
The Spiritual Quest
The struggle to know who I am, in truth and spirit is the spiritual quest. The movement in myself from the mask to the face, from the personality to the person, from the performing actor to the ruler of the inner chamber, is the spiritual journey. To live, work, and suffer on this shore in faithfulness to the whispers from the other shore is spiritual life. To keep the flame of spiritual yearning alive is to be radically open to the present and to refuse to settle for comforting religious dogma, philosophic certainties, and social sanctions.
Who am I? Am I Judas, am I Jesus? Out of fear and out of desire, I betray myself. I am who I am not. I cover my face with many masks, and even become the masks. I am too busy performing who I think I am to know who I really am. I am afraid: I may be nothing other than what I appear to be. There may be no face behind the mask, so I decorate and protect my mask preferring a fanciful something over a real nothing.
I cling to the herd for comfort. Together we weave varied garments to cover our nakedness. We guard the secret of our nothingness with anxious agility lest we should be discovered.
Occasionally, I hear a voice uttered in some dark recess of myself. Sometimes it is the soft sobbing of a lonely child. At other times, it is the anguished cry of a witnessing conscience. At yet other times, it is the thundering command of a king. “Who are you?” I ask. I AM.
What am I asking when I ask ‘Who am I?’? What sort of answer would be acceptable? Do I want a chart of my genealogical and social relations? A list of my racial and biological characteristics? A catalogue of my psychological features‑-my likes and dislikes, desires and fears? These are all the things that shape my personality. But whose personality is it? Who wears this mask? In response to a little knock at the door of my consciousness, I ask ‘Who is it?’ No naming is sufficient. What I seek is to see and touch the face of the one who calls.
‘Who am I?’ does not ask for an enumeration of scientific facts: it expresses a certain restlessness, groping, and exploration. It is the beginning of a movement towards light, towards seeing things clearly, as a whole. It is the refusal to remain in the dark‑-fragmented and on the surface of myself. It is a state of searching for meaning, comprehensiveness, and depth. It is the desire to wake up.
Soon I betray this impulse and am lulled back to sleep by comforting caresses and fairy tales. I sleep, dreaming of great adventures and of quests for hidden treasures. I dream of many journeys, many peaks, and of lions guarding the mountain passes. Sometimes for a moment I wake up to find myself a prisoner of what I know and what I am. Even finding the door of my little prison open, I stay in it, afraid to leave, counting and recounting my possessions and my testimonials.
I share many walls with others. With vigour and imagination, I collaborate with others in building castles of science, art, philosophy, and religion in which we may rest secure, unmindful of our ignorance of who we are, why we are here, and why we do what we do. But the silent witness inside me asks ‘What do you seek?’
“Whispers from the Other Shore is an excellent book, full of insights for those who are willing to take up the task of discovering who they are.” Deborah Willoughby, Editor, Yoga International.
“This delightful book is a prolonged meditation on the seminal question ‘Who am I?’ The author here explores spiritual wisdom from the perspectives of the Judeo-Christian heritage on the one side and the Hindu-Buddhist tradition on the other. He is looking for commonalties that will shed light on the spiritual quest as it has stirred the aspirations and imagination of countless individuals in the past, and as it continues to do so today – at least for those who are neither sound asleep nor fully awake but strangely troubled by the human condition. This is a lucid and sensitive introduction to the perennial philosophy that at times soars to poetical heights.” Georg Feuerstein, author of Yoga and Beyond and other books.
“‘All religions, like all philosophies, are ultimately lies’. The reader pauses for thought at this arresting statement, which Ravi goes on to justify by explaining that formalising (the letter) betrays the spontaneity of the experience (spirit), commenting that the words tradition and betrayal come from the same root. The important thing is presence, the flame of the Spirit. It is also refreshing to read a definition of faith as ‘radical openness to the plenitude of being’, which makes it integral to an experiential approach. Ravi speaks for the prophet rather than the priest, but the burgeoning spirituality of our time (indeed of any time) is essentially prophetic rather than priestly. What we need, asserts Ravi, is a path of spiritual becoming rather than a system of theological talking.” --Reviewed by David Lorimer in Scientific and Medical Network Review.