I have been thinking about questions and answers. Way back when, there was a group of us young people who spent all our free time in the company of Swami Swananda, then head of the Vedanta Society of Berkeley. One of his many remarkable qualities was open-mindedness. Once somebody asked him”Swami, how did you become so open-minded?” He answered, “I didn’t ask questions.” Instead, he tried to work out the answers for himself. Fast forward about 25 years when Swami Swahananda said to me,“In all these years I have never answered any of your questions. Do you know why?” I rarely asked him questions anyway but he was correct; if I did ask a question he either replied “Figure it out yourself!” or supplied many answers, or a ridiculous answer.  He told me, “You see, you have to look at questions from many perspectives and try to work out an answer for yourself, especially because you will be talking to many people with different ways of approaching God.”

Fast forward another 15 years and I say there are NO answers in spiritual life, at least not of the intellectually based kind. The German poet Rainer Maria Rilke once asserted that questions are best LIVED with the hope of one day LIVING into the answers. Brahman,the Self, God, the Mother can never be intellectually understood, can never be captured in words or concepts. Realization is experience, not some kind of mind-based understanding. We ask questions to clarify our spiritual path, to strengthen our resolve to go forward with our intention to’ realize God.’  Like Swami Swananda and Swami Swahananda, we should deeply consider our questions before we ask them and be open-minded about answers, remembering that the same question can be answered from many perspectives. We should beware of seeking THE answers. We should not accept pat answers and glib statements about the nature of reality. We should strive to push our understanding out to its very boundaries, to live ‘on the edge’ as it were. What is that edge? Where mind can’t go and ultimately falls apart into realization. Our questions vanish and we LIVE our way into that Divine Consciousness that is the very basis of our existence.

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