The inner enquiry begins when we start to ask fundamental questions about the meaning and purpose of life, and, in particular, of one’s own life. There is a poem by Guru Nanak, and in every verse come the words: ‘Pause and consider’. First, pause: that is, consciously stand back from our activities, and then consider carefully: ‘What am I doing, and why am I doing it? Am I being carried along by outer forces and habits? Am I am doing what I really want to be doing? Is it that I seem to have no choice—but actually do have a choice?’ If we pause and consider, in many instances our freedom will be evident.
To consider is to act consciously, and is indispensable for those set on the ultimate goal of life, self-realisation. As regards life’s ultimate purpose, we find that there are broadly two ways forward. The first is to ‘go with the flow’. This means conforming to conventional values without subjecting these values to much critique, which could prove irksome and unsettling. It means to imbibe the habits and way of thinking of our family and social group, and allow ourselves to be moulded, unaware of the possibility of intelligent dissent and independence.
The other way, which may be the way of the minority, is to ask ourselves questions and take little for granted. This leads us to identify with a deeper phase of the mental life. Then we may find meaning and comfort in inner peace, and be open to the possibility of discovering a deeper truth behind the worldly values and appearances.
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