The spiritual path could be described as a wandering search for perfection, but what makes the journey so frustratingly difficult for us is that we live in the world of duality, where nothing is as it seems, where bright appearance conceals emptiness and false hope gives way to disappointment, – or where, if for a moment we glimpse perfection, it swiftly disappears.
To know perfection, we have to be ready to leave behind all the forms and concepts of this world, and that includes all that we think we are. We know that the pilgrim has to leave the world behind, but at some point the pilgrim her- or him-self also must be abandoned.
We all have good qualities, and in our honest moments we will also admit that we have limitations. Religion teaches us to improve the picture, to be better, and it is common to begin the journey by battling our weaknesses and improving our fulfilment of various teachings. This is kind to those around us, and it is also good training, for discipline is needed for this work. What is more, it helps us to awaken to an ideal. Paradoxically though, sooner or later the seeker will realise that the further we go, the more evident do our shortcomings become, and no amount of effort can ever be enough. It is like the worldly game of applying for employment: no matter how much we re-write our CV, striving to appear adequate for a visit to Heaven, and concealing by editorial sleight of hand our feet of clay, we can never win that interview on merit – it can only be granted by Grace. For those who have the burning desire to know the One, no career path is sufficient and no references are relevant. As Shaikh Abul Hassan said,
Most of us try to take something There from here,
and there is nothing here that deserves to be There.
Then, what are we to do? Give up? Never. If we have a longing in our heart, it is because we are longed for. We must persist, for the One who gave us faith is faithful. As Abul Hassan says in another verse :
Sit at this gate and cry, a year, two, ten,
twenty or thirty years. Finally, you’ll be asked,
“What is it with you? What’s ailing you?!”