A Quest for Happiness
The spiritual life is a quest for happiness. From early childhood on, I was convinced that happiness is the meaning and purpose of life. Over the years that deep-rooted conviction has remained my raison d’être. To be happy or not to be happy, that is the question.
One day, when I was nineteen years old, I discovered that I was no longer happy. It was a revealing and somewhat shocking discovery. The childhood that was behind me had been full of happiness. I had been a lucky kid: plenty of friends, loving parents, a happy childhood. And even in my later teen years, you could say I was fortunate. I studied theatre sciences, which was something I loved, and I lived in Amsterdam, an exciting and 'happening' place. All the ingredients for a happy life were there, you might say. Yet I was not really happy.
There was a persistent superficiality about my life, which I was dreading more with every passing day. Conversations were always about the same kind of topics. Life revolved around studying, going to the theatre and hanging out in bars to talk and drink. I felt like a record playing the same tune over and over again. I was definitely missing something, although I couldn’t really put my finger on it. I guess I hungered for more profundity – a richer satisfaction than could be scraped from the daily grind of student life.
But what it was and how it could be found I had no idea. To quote Hamlet, I felt there was 'more between Heaven and earth' than most people cared for. I guess you could say I was spiritually hungry. At the time I was already meditating, just by myself. It was nice, but nothing special. My meditation practice was very separate from my daily dealings at the university.
It was during this period that I attended a lecture given by the Sri Chinmoy Centre in Amsterdam. How I got to the lecture in the first place is a funny story. At the university I had heard about an Indian guru who was supposed to give a lecture in a wellknown church. It triggered some inner response in me. I decided to go. The lecture started at 7 p.m., but for some reason I could not find the intended church, which was really weird because I was sure I had seen it many times.
It was already past seven, when a tiny poster caught my attention. The poster was hanging at the gate of a city park. On it was a small picture of a friendly Indian man and an aphorism about inner peace. The name underneath the picture read 'Sri Chinmoy'. It advertised a meditation lecture, but not the one I had planned to go to. I looked at the information underneath. This other lecture was starting that very evening at 7:30 p.m. The venue was nearby. 'All right, then let me just go there', I thought. I jumped on my bike and arrived well in time for the lecture to start. Bull’s eye – really one of life’s 'planned coincidences'. I sat there and drank it all in. That lecture changed my life.
The speaker was a man of about 40 years old, exuding some inner poise. He talked about an inner, spiritual life, about peace, love and happiness and how to bring these inner realities in ourselves to the fore through meditation. He was very inspired and very nice. His voice had a lot of kindness and love to it. What he said was like music to my ears. I left the lecture feeling a deep sense of peace and a joyful, exuberant feeling in my heart. I had found what I had really been looking for! It was as if a curtain was drawn from my eyes and suddenly there was this beautiful and greater view of life. It had somehow been waiting for me. It felt totally natural and 'right'.
For a couple of months I followed the meditation class offered by the Sri Chinmoy Centre. Gradually I became more inspired and enthusiastic about Sri Chinmoy’s philosophy. What really appealed to me was the combination of a profound and soulful inner life with a dynamic and versatile outer life.
But I also had my doubts. Becoming Sri Chinmoy’s disciple also meant giving up some of life’s pleasures. I was 20 years old at the time. Was I ready to become a spiritual person, a modern monk so to speak? The largest part of me was telling me to jump into the spiritual life, but a more conservative part was still holding me back.
It took me a long time to decide – I think I followed the beginner’s course for four months. And I would have lingered on even longer if it weren’t for two dreams I had that featured Guru. In the first dream, Guru was teaching songs to a group of his disciples, and I was also among them. In the second dream, Guru was in a Dutch town called Leiden, but in my dream it was spelled 'Lijden', which is the Dutch word for suffering. It was totally symbolic. Guru was there, and I remember he shook my hand and smiled at me, as if to say, 'I can take all of your suffering away.' When I woke up I felt a very spiritual energy and I knew I had to become Guru’s disciple. So I did. It turned out to be the best decision of my life. I have not regretted it for a moment.
I am extremely grateful to Sri Chinmoy for giving me the opportunity to discover the spiritual life. His loving inner and outer guidance have brought me many treasures and have given my life a purpose that colours my days with joy and satisfaction.