Journey to School or Life? by Karl Mehta
A short story about conversation with my six year old son back in 2001, leading to a spiritual experience.
This summer, I had a wonderful spiritual experience arising from a routine chore of driving my six-year-old son, Arjun to school on my way to work. Arjun had begun going to a new school campus this summer, and ever since then my wife, Keyura had driven him to school. On July 11, since Keyura had a day off, I volunteered to drive Arjun to school on my way to work. Just to be sure, I asked Keyura for the directions to the campus, despite knowing it quite well. Before Keyura could respond back, Arjun chimed in "I know the directions, I'll tell you, don’t ask Mommy". I accepted his will readily, "Alright, buddy, I'll drive as per your instructions".
We got in the car, and this is where it started to get interesting... I wanted to test Arjun's knowledge since he was so confident about guiding me, so at the first turn, I asked him "Arjun, which road do I take?" He answered correctly, "Daddy, take the Almaden Expressway Exit." I replied " Good, but which Freeway, 85 or 101?" He paused for a while and then responded in a sad tone, " I don't know that. I never asked Mommy and didn’t notice it before". Knowing that we had to take freeway #85, I steered the car towards 85 and said, “ uh-oh, if you are not sure, then why did you stop me from taking directions from Mommy? Now, I will follow your directions as per your wish, and if we get late to school, you will be responsible for that”. Arjun replied, “ I’m sorry but now help me, call Mommy and get the directions.” I said, “ I can’t call Mommy. Since you stopped me from taking directions from Mommy, our opportunity to ask Mommy is over. We have to go with what you know and if we get lost, so be it. At least you will learn the lesson to get complete and correct directions next time.”
“Oh God! We are lost! Give me your cell phone!” he groaned. Arjun’s face looked worried and he stopped looking outside the window. I continued to drive thru #85 and remained a silent observer of his emotions. After some time, I said “ Arjun, look up, see where we are.” He noticed the Almaden Exit sign and immediately turned happy “ Wow, we are on the right track. See, I told you, I know it.” Realizing that he was taking the credit for my knowledge, I said, “ Alright, but now, where do I turn? Left or right from here?” Arjun replied “You have to turn right on Harry Street from Almaden, but I don’t know whether you turn left or right from here.”
I said “Okay, I’ve to take either left or right and since we don’t know which one is correct, I’ll turn left from here and look for Harry Street.” He agreed and I turned left, which I knew was the correct turn. After some few lights, I said “Arjun, I don’t see Harry Street, I think we are on the wrong track and looks like we are lost plus look at the watch it is already 8:30 am, your school time.” Arjun’s face turned extremely worried, and he actually started crying. I did not console him, knowing that we would be on Harry Street soon.
Just in a few moments we were on Harry Street and close to his school. I asked Arjun to look out of the window. He shouted gleefully “ Hey, Look we are on Harry and close to school. We were on the right track. See, I had correct directions, you were just tricking me”. He was excited and back to his usual self confident disposition. I said, “ Yes, I guess you were right, with just a little help from me, and I was tricking you, but next time remember to learn the right directions.”
After walking him to the door of his classroom, I had a strong déjà vu like feeling on my drive to work. My mind’s experience of happiness and grief are no different from Arjun’s constant alternation between excitement and despair, I felt. Why did I set my dear son through this distress on his drive to school? If God has created us and if he is all Good and Merciful, couldn’t this be the reason for the difficulties that he puts us through? I realized that I had remained a passive observer of Arjun’s anguish and his sincere pleading for help. Doesn’t this answer why sometimes God doesn’t answer my prayer for help in my difficulties and grief, despite my sincere prayers? Don’t I claim the superiority of my mind in my dealings, despite lacking full knowledge on most subjects just like my six-year-old? How my mind and ego with its false sense of control/fear had always obstructed my quest for surrendering to the real controller and mover of my life journey, I marveled. Arjun’s dialogues with me were no different than the constant chat that occurs between my Soul and God, I wondered.
For some time, I felt a keen sense of serenity and bliss in my heart. The constant chattering of worldly aspirations and frustrations in my mind halted. For a while I felt like The Supreme God was sitting next to me and smiling at me just the way I had been smiling at Arjun’s anxiety and excitements. Questions that I always wanted to ask God disappeared, and a tremendous sense of humility and acceptance of things as they are gripped me. A sense of peace and acceptance of the divine nature and purpose of the Universe, that I had never felt before.
I felt like stopping the car to sit in solitude and hold this moment. “I don’t want to go back to the worldly mind and its activities and its constant demands,” my heart cried. But before I could slow down and look for a suitable place to pull over, my cell phone rang. Against my heart’s desire, my hand involuntarily moved and my mind orchestrated the senses to get me into a conversation against my strongest inner craving. Once again, I was brought back to the world by my mind’s victory over my Soul.