Many people would have had the experience of being lost at least once in their lives, especially those of us who have visited a foreign country. It’s usually not a problem though because we can easily consult a map. Even better than that though – if we can get the help of a person who is familiar with that foreign place (a local resident, for example) then our anxiety can be immediately relieved. Whether we get it from a map, or a person, or perhaps a combination of these, the point is that we need a vision of the territory if we are ever going to get ‘un-lost’/ found.
Not so long ago I saw a movie where some people were lost in an Amazonian jungle. Although they were hopelessly lost, they got out of their predicament simply by climbing a tall tree and thus they were able to get their bearings. The movie reminded me of an almost identical experience I had many years ago, when I was lost in a rainforest in north Queensland. I had somehow wandered off a walking track in a remote area, and I had no idea where I was. The sun was of no use because it couldn’t be seen through the thick canopy of foliage, and so in that perpetual semi-darkness, I had absolutely no way of knowing which way to go. I may have been lucky enough to head in the right direction, but maybe not. I could have just as easily proceeded deeper and deeper into the forest. My panic was somewhat mitigated however, when I happened to come upon a huge tree, because attached to it, was a natural ladder made from some thick vines which, (after what must have taken many many years) had gradually grown and encircled the tree from the ground all the way to the top. Amazingly, I was able to climb this ladder without much difficulty, to a point where I was able to penetrate the forest canopy.
Wow!! Daylight!! Not only did I get to experience some absolutely spectacular views in every direction, but my experience was heightened by a more practical consideration – I could see the beach which ran in a line from north to south. It was the key landmark which gave me my bearings, and thus my elation was complete. So it is with those of us who want to make the spiritual journey. We need to have a map, so that we will not just be charging about without really knowing what we are doing, or where we are heading.
Of course there are those people who refuse to accept that they are lost. They may build elaborate and seemingly secure lives for themselves somewhere in the forest, but the fact remains that they have no real vision of where they are. They refuse to seriously consider that beyond the dark world that they inhabit under the forest (material) canopy – beyond the limited vision of their eyes, there exists a world of great splendor and brilliance.
Yoga teaching should be seen in this context. It’s not only a map, but it’s the most wonderful map, replete with all kinds of guidelines and instructions for the spiritual seeker. Only the most unfortunate people will fail to take advantage of the opportunity to study this map, and embark on the ultimate quest, the quest which will lead them far beyond the dark places of material existence and material so called ‘happiness’.