Two talismans

Two mental talismans protect my life. These are two questions that keep me from making the wrong choices. They are two questions that offer a way out of existential dilemma’s and spiritual impasses. For to know which questions you should ask can be worth a lot when you feel caught in the vagueness of life.

The first Talisman seems simple. When my searching soul finds itself in a dilemma, when I can’t see the choices I should make, then the impasse is circumvented by asking myself the question: “What focuses most on God?”

The apparent simplicity of the question hides the strength of it. The force of the talisman resides in the fact that its question immediately pulls one back to the very core of spiritual life, for in spiritual life not searching but finding is the center. The one who seeks, will find. So the one who hasn’t found anything actually never was really looking. And the one who has, always has something to return to.

The question makes me reflect on the contrast between my own acts and the all-encompassing Love of God. It makes me wonder how much a certain choice will be unified with the deepest truth of existence. The question puts God in one side of the weighing scale and my actions in the other.

When I once again confuse myself with illusions and doubts, when I loose track in the abundance of things,it helps to return to this starting point, to what I had found before and to ask myself what will deviate me from love, truth, justice and forgiveness – from God in other words – and what will bring me closer.

Yet sometimes this question does not solve an impasse or dilemma because sometimes several options seem to lead closer to God or seem to deviate just as much.

At those moments I turn to the second talisman. That one I borrowed form Gandhi.

“I will give you a talisman.” he wrote at the end of his life, “Whenever you’re in doubt, or when the self becomes too much with you, apply the following test. Recall the face of the poorest and the weakest man whom you may have seen, and ask yourself, if the step you contemplate is going to be of any use to him. Will he gain anything by it? Will it restore him to a control over his own life and destiny? In other words, will it lead to swaraj [freedom and independence] for the hungry and spiritually starving millions? Then you will find your doubts and your self melt away.”

This question places the poor and the suffering of the world in one side of the weighing scale and your own life in the other. It forces you to choose which of the two you will give more weight and importance. Both talismans simply work at a different times. The first talisman breaks through doubts when you’re turning too much in the circles of the world. Gandhi’s talisman breaks through doubts when you’re turning too much in your own circles.

When you’re stuck in institutional structures, social patterns, widespread ideologies, societal expectancies or peer pressure. Or when you ponder about the same things again and again because one after the other personal attachment manifests itself. Or when you don’t seem to see the spiritual value in anything because your desires and expectancies at the same time drive you on but also paralyse. Or when you simply don’t know what you really want. Every time one of the talismans will make your doubts melt like snow for the sun.

Of course, when you have no problem, you have no problem. There is no need to endlessly and strenuously keep yourself asking those two questions. The talismans aren’t meant to suffocate yourself, but only to wear them close to your heart.

The talismans also aren’t that extremely new. The one who spontaneously thinks about what Christ called the first and second commandment – “Love God above all else and your neighbour like yourself” – obviously hits the spot.