“You are all here tonight, because you are here,” began Adyashanti, a spiritual teacher speaking in St. Andrew’s church in downtown Vancouver last Tuesday.
“Why did you come? It doesn’t matter. What matters is you are here.”
Adyashanti sat behind a microphone, with close to two hundred faces watching him from the pews. I occupied a seat on the side, accompanied by a friend. Some of the attendees closed their eyes, attempting to focus more on the words than the man himself.
He appeared in his late 40’s, quiet and unassuming with a shaved head and piercing eyes. He proceeded to speak on the nature of the universe, the spiritual quest, and the problem with wanting to “know the unknowable.”
I appreciated his words and his occasional jokes. (At one point he compared the human body to a 1970’s Cadillac: we love to consume). If you’ve read any Eckhart Tolle then you understand much of Adyashanti’s philosophy on ego and awareness.
It wasn’t until the end of the talk and the beginning of the question period that the evening really felt alive.
The first attendee approached the mic, wasting no time in spilling her words. She confessed she’d spent 20 years as a Christian minister. But recently, she’d had an epiphany which caused her to abandon the church and seek our her own spiritual path.
“It’s just…I don’t know where to turn…or to look. I can’t stop thinking about it…” She barely managed to contain her tears, bordering on hysteria. “My mind… I can’t stop my mind from trying to know…”
Adyashanti addressed her concerns with a variety of questions about this desire. Moments of silence were punctuated by glimmers of clarity. After 10 minutes she had calmed, at least enough to whisper, “Thank you…” before sitting down.
The next speaker took the mic. “So this is what it feels like,” he remarked. “I… I don’t really have a question. I just felt I needed to come up here.”
Adyashanti waited patiently.
“I guess I feel like I’m on the right path, but can’t seem to stay there.”
And so it went. Question after question from attendees who desired an answer to their search. They practically dripped with craving; they were intoxicated with the possibilty of insight. They were like addicts to the truth.
It wasn’t long before it became obvious: Adyashanti could not give them the truth. He said as much. “I cannot give you the answer, I can only lead you to find the answer within yourself.”
It stuck me: where does this need to know come from?
Obviously, the very fact I was there meant that I’m a “seeker” – insofar as I’m not content with sitting back and coasting through life without attempting to answer the difficult questions.
But the irony was apparent. At least for these attendees, the “desire to know” appeared more important than the true aim of any spiritual journey: to simply enjoy the ride.