Essay Poem: Seeking God: Advice from Three Teachers

Denny JA
Karya Denny JA Kategori Cerpen/Novel
dipublikasikan 06 September 2017
Essay Poem: Seeking God: Advice from Three Teachers

Essay Poem: Seeking God: Advice from Three Teachers 

Translated by Nate Lukinsky

 

 

In the still of the night

In total solitude and silence

Darta is still submersed in deep meditation

Contemplating the full meaning of his teacher’s message:

 

“A righteous man keeps planting rice

Those who bestow wisdom hoe their rice paddy each day”

 

He has been sitting and fasting for three days

Resisting the need to satisfy his hunger and thirst

Engaging in self-purification

Completing his journey of self-discovery

 

Darta is 55 years old

He took an early pension 5 years ago

And went trekking to various valleys

Seeking God, in search of wisdom

 

He had already achieved world-class recognition

But dissatisfied, he left everything behind

“You only live once,” he said

“I must find the highest form of wisdom”

 

He had accumulated substantial assets since

He was able to run multiple businesses

When he woke up each morning

His assets had grown steadily

 

He had already reached the peak of power

The highest position in a certain province

Many people worked as his subordinates

To achieve common objectives and dreams

 

He also had a happy family

A healthy and faithful wife

His son and daughter were diligent students

They were a contented family

 

He was also respected in society

He had a prestigious reputation as a scientist

In pursuing advanced concepts in mathematics

His contributions were not meager

 

However, when he reached his fifties

His soul was thirsty

The material world no longer satisfied him

Prestige and honors no longer quenched the thirst of his inner being

 

His soul howled and asked,

“Could the contents of life hold any more than this?”

It requested more meaning

To add zest and vigor to his life

 

In that moment Darta decided

To seek out and understand God

To find the essential purpose of life

Before he died

 

He took leave and retired from his businesses

He took leave and retired from his affiliations with organizations

He took leave from his connections with society

He even took leave from his own family

 

Over and over again he sought

To persuade his wife and children

To permit him to wander and roam

Far away from home for only five years

 

From the start, his family contested him

“Your desire to just disappear is too strange”

But Darta’s life spirit became tense

Oh… Poor, miserable Darta…

 

His older brother interceded on his behalf

He helped to convince Darta’s wife and children

Five years was not a long time

To allow Darta to seek the meaning of his life

 

His family at last relented

They embraced passionately

His two children cried in their hearts

Not knowing if their father would ever return

 

Both outwardly and inwardly Darta readied himself for his pilgrimage

Leaving behind his old life

Beginning a special journey

To seek the supreme meaning of life

 

“God, please open my mind’s eye

I wish to comprehend Thee

For what purpose was I born into this world?

I have been living on Earth.. Please tell me why…”

 

 

As an experienced scientist

He was used to working in stages

 

He decided to begin his expedition

By studying each religion

What particular message did God impart in each one?

This would be an expedient and noble strategy…

 

He began by studying Hinduism in India [1]

This was the oldest religion

He bathed in the waters of the Ganges River

He learned to read the Bhagavad Gita and Vedas

 

He practiced ahimsa, an abstinent lifestyle

His diet was completely vegetarian

He was diligent in praying at the temple

In deep contemplation of the Mahabharata

 

God appeared in many visages

He was manifested in the forms of gods and goddesses

Darta sometimes asked

If perhaps these demigods fought amongst each other

 

It did not even feel like a whole year had elapsed

Hinduism had become his world

But now it was time to resume his wandering

To become immersed in another religion

 

Darta moved to Jerusalem

There he learned the Christian religion [2]

This religion had the largest number of followers

News of His servant had spread throughout the world

 

He learned the concept of original sin

He also led a celibate life

What meaning lay behind the holy cross?

What was the significance of reincarnation?

 

He avidly absorbed himself in Christianity

He went to church every Sunday morning

But there was no pantheon of diverse deities there

Everything pointed to the concept of the Trinity

 

He contemplated the differences between these understandings of God

In Hinduism, he had learned about polytheism

And in Christianity, he learned about the Trinity

He became bewildered

Which of these paths he must follow…

 

After spending a year in Jerusalem,

Darta proceeded to Mecca

Islam was the world’s second largest religion [3]

Again he opened his eyes and his ears

 

During the month of Ramadhan, Darta fasted

He learned the Sira and recited from the Koran

He didn’t neglect going on umrah pilgrimages

He prayed five times each day and gave alms

 

At the Ka’abah, he was amazed to see

Hundreds of thousands of people ceaselessly encircling

And fussing over kissing the holy rock

On his pilgrimage to the burial place of the prophet

 

The concept of God was also different in Islam

The concept of Tauhid expressed a monotheistic principle

There were no demigods in the mosques

The concept of the Trinity was also absent

 

Darta became more confused

“How could the manifestations of God be so varied?”

 

Following his one-year stay in Mecca

Darta traveled to Burma

The landscape was dotted with pagodas

Buddhism represented a collectivist religion [4]

 

Deep within it was the concept of nirvana

What did they mean by reincarnation?

“Control your thoughts,” they said

“Aimless thoughts are the source of suffering”

 

However, in the holy chambers of the pagodas

There was no mention of one all-seeing God

There was also no pantheon of gods and goddesses

There was no holy Trinity too

 

“Is the Buddhist religion possibly atheistic?”

He once asked impulsively

A Buddhist monk replied, “God does not need to be studied

Because of this, it is unnecessary to speak of God

Just understand the original source of suffering”

 

Darta became more and more distressed…

In other religions,

God was extremely dominant

But in the Buddhist religion

God was not even spoken of?

 

After a year’s sojourn in Burma

Darta traveled to other regions

“This era has inaugurated a new age,” they said

“It’s possible to recognize God’s existence without practicing a religion,” they said

 

Darta immersed himself in philosophy from Krishnamurti to Theosophy

He also studied the religious concepts of perennial wisdom

Which elaborated Subud’s spiritual beliefs

As well as the teachings of Ki Ageng Suryomentaram

 

“God and nature are indivisible,” they said

“We are part of God’s divinity,” said others

“God is the expression of the collected laws of physics,” another said

Each movement had a different philosophy

They also differed in their conceptualization of God

 

Darta roamed even farther now

“Why isn’t my understanding becoming more coherent?” he asked himself

He became more confused about God

 

Darta visited the Western world

England and America

He occupied himself in understanding the New Atheism

The “-ism” of Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris

Which entailed a non-religious spirituality

From Darwinian evolution to neuroscience

 

In this philosophy, God was even analyzed

They wrote that God was evolving

They chanted that the history of God’s dominion

Originated as man’s own creation

 

The more Darta learned

The more confused he became

The highest human insight into God’s divine essence

Was not as certain as mathematics

 

Every religion had devoted followers

Each concept of God had a foundation that underpinned it

Each claimed to be the ultimate truth

But they all differed from each other

 

“Oh, God… You are neither simple nor straightforward

The more I search for you, the more speechless and overwhelmed I become”

Darta decided to abandon his spiritual quest

He had already spent too much time in this fruitless pursuit

 

That night Darta cried and wept

“God, you know my heart

I left my family and everything else behind

What else should I do to seek Thee?”

 

“I have studied every religion

With the greatest devotion

I often meditate on Thee from dusk till dawn

What else should I do to seek Thee?”

 

He remembered his family

He recalled the people who worked at his office

He recalled his friends and acquaintances

He remembered everything that he had left behind

And he became totally drenched in tears

 

His zealous quest had not yielded the highest form of divine revelation

The variety of differences among religions had merely bred confusion in him

The myriad diverse beliefs

Had truly become a troublesome quandary for him

 

One night, however,

On a mystical enchanted evening

There was a magical knock on his door

A dove flew in and perched before him

Carrying a letter in its beak

 

“I wonder who sent this”

He had no idea

“Hello..? Hello?”

Nobody replied

 

Upon opening the letter

He only found three addresses in it

 

“What does this mean?”

Darta didn’t understand

Whom could he ask that might comprehend?

 

“What could these addresses conceivably mean?”

The trees, the breeze, and the dark of night

Sang together like a choir:

“Dum dum dum…

Find some wisdom

Dup dup dup…

Don’t give up…”

 

Darta decided

To just go and

Visit each address that was listed

One by one

After that he would “just go home and forget

This rather useless trip I’ve trod all these years,” he said

 

The first address he visited

Turned out to be a bird park

He was welcomed by a kindhearted man

It was as though they already understood each other

 

Several birds were able to speak

A white stork spoke to him

“All my feathers are white,

More beautiful than the feathers of the black crow“

 

In a corner of another cage, Darta saw a cockatoo

It laughed in a proud and cocky manner

“Look, I have two colors

I’m more beautiful than the white stork who has only one”

 

Far off in another cage, a colorful peacock was seen

He also quipped but more conceitedly

“Look at me; I’m multicolored…

I’m more beautiful than the cockatoo who sports only two colors”

 

Then the kindhearted teacher

Invited Darta to stroll outside the bird park

To the unconfined fields of nature

There they met a black crow

 

Now it was the black crow who began to speak

“It’s true; my feathers are not as beautiful as theirs

And this is why I’m not locked up in the bird park

But I’m more magnificent than any peacock

I’m able to live freely in the wild, open fields of nature”

 

Darta inquired: “So what is the meaning of all of this?”

The compassionate teacher merely smiled

He escorted Darta to the gate

So that Darta could go home

This great teacher uttered only one word

“Contemplate…”

 

On his way home,

Darta contemplated what he had experienced

What meaning was possibly conveyed by the boastful chatter of the talking birds?

What personal connection did this have to him,

An accomplished man who was busy seeking God?

 

The peacock felt he was more beautiful than the cockatoo

The cockatoo felt he was more beautiful than the stork

The stork felt he was more beautiful than the crow

The crow believed he was more splendid than the peacock

 

Each bird felt more spectacular… and Wow!

Each of them had contrived a rationale to prove that he was right!

 

For many hours, Darta pondered this idea

Thinking here, musing there…

 

“Aha!” A bell rang in his head

“That community of birds

Is a reflection of the religious views of ordinary people…

It mirrors the viewpoint of many people who believe in God”

 

Each religious group advocates and champions

Its own unique concept of God

Its own essential philosophy of religion

And when each religious group voices its particular point of view

The diversity of their beliefs reverberates

 

This divisive discordant situation portrays the fundamental nature of religion

In the manner it has evolved throughout hisOne group feels it is better

Another feels it is better yet

Another group feels it is still better

Another feels it is the best by far

 

These differences are answered and settled by wars

Religious diversity is resolved by the sword

 

“Is this my first piece of wisdom, God?

My first lesson in my quest to seek Thee?”

 

The next day, he traveled

And arrived at the second address

Again, he met a kindhearted teacher

Who welcomed him at his doorway

They looked at each other.

It was as though they already understood each other.

 

At dusk, when evening was approaching

The teacher asked Darta to join him on the veranda

To enjoy the multicolored splendor of the rainbow

Red, orange, yellow, green, blue, violet

 

“What does this mean?” Darta inquired

But the teacher only smiled

Soon after, he helped escort Darta on his way home

During this walk, he uttered only one sentence:

“The colors of the rainbow all derive from the same substance”

 

Again Darta pondered

“What was the lesson of the rainbow?”

“From one substance...?”

Many hours went by lost in thought

 

He paced back and forth,

Thinking very hard about its meaning

 

“Aha!” A bell rang again in his head

He recalled that in physics

White light as one substance,

When it reaches the senses…

When it enters the human brain,

that substance bounces, like a prism,

And is thus dispersed into many colors

 

“If we look at the end of this process,

The colors are different…

Their hue

Is multicolored”

 

“However, if we look at the original source

They all derive from the same substance”

 

Darta was able to deduce:

“This analogy reflects the world of religion

Not from the social circles of the general public

But from the scope of the original source of illumination:

God who created Enlightenment”

 

“This energetic substance was originally uniform

But when it entered human history

In different eras

In different cultures

Through different senses

This substance was dispersed through a prism into diverse religions”

 

“Is this my second lesson?

That religion as mediated by the intense energy of divine Enlightenment

Is different from its perception by ordinary human societies?”

 

“Ordinary people focus on differences

They risk confronting these differences with violence

But enlightened people search for common ground

They seek mutual tolerance and tranquility”

 

Darta started to feel more calm

The meaning in these revelations had begun to quench his thirst

Was this the second piece of divine wisdom?

 

The next day, he went to the third address

This was the last address

What new symbol would he encounter this time?

Darta was very curious…

 

Once again, a kindhearted teacher

Welcomed him with great compassion

It seemed as though they both understood

Their purpose for meeting

 

He just invited Darta to accompany him to a rice paddy

And pointed to a righteous man

Who was working there

The teacher uttered only two sentences:

 

“Righteous people never stop tending their rice paddy”

“Those who bestow true wisdom hoe their fields every day”

 

“And what does that mean?” asked Darta, quite confused

The spiritual teacher only smiled

He escorted Darta on his way home

And said,

“Contemplate my words and you needn’t come back”

 

For three nights, Darta sat and contemplated

The lesson behind the teacher’s message

He now felt connected to his mission of seeking God

He had also become connected to the purpose of his own life

 

The third message

Required the longest amount of time to comprehend

At times he just wanted to give up

And not care anymore

 

But a spark of revelation descended and penetrated his mind

“Aha!” A bell rang once again in Darta’s head

He was able to deduce that

Even the most righteous people

Should always pursue a normal life

They should not isolate themselves from society

 

The righteous person he had seen in the field

Remained active in his work

Remained active with his family

Kept planting rice

Kept hoeing his rice paddy

 

Darta gradually absorbed this wisdom

He now felt that it was not in vain

That he had spent years in this quest

And that he had abandoned his old life for the sake of seeking God

 

That night,

Darta slept beneath the shelter of the sky

A bed of grass supported him

While he gazed at celestial constellations of stars

 

A din of voices was heard

As the sky, stars, and wind

Grass, moonlight, and trees

Sang together like a choir:

 

“Ordinary people

See stars as stars

While those who seek enlightenment

See stars no longer as stars

But those who are enlightened

Start seeing stars again as stars”

 

Darta began to think about his hometown

He would return to his work

As before

He would return to his family

As before

He would return to occupy his place in society

As before

 

He noticed that what had changed now

Was only his view of life

Only his manner of living

He had already completed his pilgrimage

 

The ultimate meaning of life

Was the realization that life serves a crucial purpose

Darta had acquired this understanding not by taking leave from society

Not by abandoning the routines of his daily life

Not by disposing of all his worldly possessions

 

But by understanding that he should live his life as before

Though with a new and different heart

He should lead a normal life

But with a heart that had blossomed

 

A heart that opens up new pastures

For God to dwell in

 

God, whom he had been fervently seeking

Turned out to be very close at hand

God was not far away in a distant land

He resides in everyone’s heart

 

 

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism

[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Christianity

[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Islam

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhism

 

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