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The story of Shabari and the many paths to the Lord

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Shabari, an elderly tribal woman and ascetic, did not perform yagnas or read the Vedas. Yet she found her way to the Lord. How? Through love and devotion. She had one-pointed devotion for the Lord. A feeling of belongingness, intimacy and love with the Lord; all of this!

That is why in India there are so many of these stories. There is not just one path but there are many ways and many paths. Many paths means through knowledge or through service or through love (devotion). These three paths are there. You can go in all the three paths and arrive at the same place.

This is what people sometimes don’t understand. Especially in the West, this is a concept which is new, this essence is not there.

Once a top leader from Iran came here who was Ayatollah Khomeini’s right hand man. This was about fifteen to twenty years ago when I was in the old kutir. This man is a great Islamic scholar who is very well known. He was around 83 or 84 years old.

See the seeking in that gentleman; he came all the way from Tehran. Somebody had told him there is a saint here and so had come in search of knowledge. When he came he asked me, ‘Please tell me, if truth is one, there can be only one way to that truth, how can there be many ways? So if there is only one way to truth, then all other ways have to be false.’ This is what his contention was.

He said, ‘I have studied from my childhood that this is the truth, then how can everything else be truth? There can only be one right answer to a question, one right path. So there can be only one way to God. What is the correct way?’

I just smiled at him and told him, ‘Okay, you came here from north. So someone gave you directions.’ In those days there was no bus here and the Kanakpura road was almost empty. There was nothing.

So I asked, ‘What directions did they give you?’ and he said, ‘There is one Banashankari, and from Banashankari they told me to go straight and turn right.’

I said, ‘Yes, this is the correct path.

Go straight and turn to the right. This is the correct direction. But suppose if you are coming from Kanakpura, the direction to this same place would be to go straight and turn left. Do you think this is wrong?’ He remained silent.

I said, ‘to go to Tehran from India, I would say go north-west and this is correct. But from Germany I would tell you to go south-west. This is completely opposite but it is also correct. And from Pakistan I would tell you to go west and that is also correct. So, all these instructions are correct or are they wrong?’

He said, ‘They are correct. Though truth is one there are many paths and all the paths are correct.’ He said, ‘Salaam! You opened my eyes. This is what I wanted. Today I feel I am born again.’

For a seeker when the question becomes so deep, he goes around looking for an answer. So though truth is one, the paths are many.

This is the specialty in India. Kabir went through knowledge and meditation, Shabari only through love and longing. There was so much longing in Shabari, there was a yearning in her to meet her Lord. That yearning leads you to the Lord.

Meera reached through singing. Shabari never used to even sing. There was only the yearning in her heart.

A knowledgeable person can also reach and so can a karma yogi. All these different paths lead to the same truth and all these paths are correct.

Now if you ask me, then I would tell you that if you choose one, the rest will come along. That is the specialty of the Art of Living, where everything is there together; feelings, devotion, knowledge, play and a little bit of mischief as well!

    — Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

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