I am reminded of a lovely poem by the Indian poet, Harivansh Rai Bachan, the poem is Madhushala (The Tavern).[i] I had to journey through science and wisdom traditions to appreciate this poem. It is about a seeker who starts his search not knowing which path to take. Well-meaning friends point him to different paths, but the poet suggests that the path does not matter, all that matters is that he start his journey. There is no time to waste, he must be on his way.
In this poem, wine is a metaphor for Truth, the tavern for the destination.
Seeking wine, the drinker leaves home for the tavern.
Perplexed, he asks, “Which path will take me there?”
People show him different ways, but this is what I have to say,
“Pick a path and keep walking. You will find the tavern.”
He who has burnt all scriptures with his inner fire,
Has broken temples, mosques and churches with carefree abandon,
And has cut the nooses of pundits, mullahs and priests —
Only he is welcome in my tavern.
Alas, he that with eager lips, has not kissed this wine,
Alas, he that trembling with joy, has not touched a brimming goblet,
He that has not drawn close the coy wine-maiden by her hand,
Has wasted this honey-filled tavern of Life.
Life is short. How much love can I give and how much can I drink?
They say, “He departs,” at the very moment that he is born.
While he is being welcomed, I have seen his farewell being prepared.
They started closing the shutters of the tavern,
as soon as they were raised.
If anyone asks my name, say it was, “The Drunkard”.
My work? I drank and passed the goblet to everyone.
O Beloved, if they ask my caste, say only that I was mad.
Say my religion worshipped goblets and then chant with your rosary,
“The tavern, the tavern!”
An earnest seeker will find his truth. The truth hides in plain sight, it is Life itself. His religion is living life to the fullest, moment to moment, and his life’s work is to get other’s drunk on Life. The Buddhists call such persons Bodhisattva, someone who has become enlightened but stays around to help others through their “dark night of the soul”.
Those who have experienced “God”, like mystics and poets, report that Reality is indescribable. It is not a person, place or a thing. It is a truth within. One has to go on the journey of self-discovery to know Reality. Until then, all the intellectualizing, debating and discussing is meaningless and leads nowhere.