The Final Journey of the Soul
by Swami Kriyananda
Chapter One: At the Graveside
The mourners had left. The coffin had been lowered to its final resting place; it was now decently covered with dirt. I stood there alone in the darkening twilight, weeping.
My anguished cry rang out into the gathering night, and in my own heart.
“My beloved wife! Only two days ago I saw your face: smiling, radiant, fresh! I held your hand; it was warm. Now it is cold—dark; beyond my despairing reach!
Intensely I felt her loss. But I wasn’t asking, “Why did I lose her?” I knew the answer to that question: The end of life is death. My anguish arose from the thought, rather, “Why do we have to live at all?”
We are born, I reflected, without our conscious consent. We are driven helplessly onto a stage and forced to play our parts. Whether we play them well or badly seems equally pointless: their ending, in any case, is death. Why even play the game? We can never win it.
Role after role! Game after game! Fresh, exuberant life—then the final sinking into death! Is anything real?
And yet—I thought again—life persists! Is life, and not the countless forms it assumes, the reality?
I thought of life rising up out of the ground, as if with eternal impulse. And then the further thought came: Surely that life contains intelligence, even if it is a different kind of knowing from our own. Is such an awareness possible?
Perhaps we come on earth as exiles from another reality. A higher one?
Ah! Suddenly I felt myself here on earth a stranger—a foreigner, and alone. What could I do? Where could I go? I raised my gaze questioningly above that lonely grave, and looked beyond it.
There, all of a sudden: Lo! I beheld before me a beautiful young girl.
“Why are you here at this lonely site?” I asked her. “Did you know my wife? Have you, too, come to mourn her death?”
She answered me with a smile, “I knew her. I still know her. And I know you!”
“But how is that possible? I have never seen you before! Surely you couldn’t know me!”
“My child,” she said—and she seemed hardly half my age!—“you have known Me in countless forms. You knew not that it was I, smiling at you behind every happy experience, and weeping with you behind every pain. It was I in the comfort of your mother’s arms, holding you when your friends turned away from you. It was I in them also, telling you silently through their disdain: ‘Not here will you find the balm you seek.’
"It was I now, also, who took from you your beloved wife in order that you might know a higher love.”
“Then . . . ?” I queried, not daring to pursue the question further in words.
“Yes, I am that life for which you are longing. I am that ‘intelligence,’ which is much more than arid reasoning: I am absolute Knowledge. And I am absolute Peace, Love, and Bliss!”
My heart burst then, like a broken dam. Waters of pure love gushed out from it in a mighty torrent. “Then You must be that Being whom all men worship! You must be . . .”
“I am your Lady of Guadalupe,” She finished for me. It was an unexpected reply. Where was Guadalupe? Who was the Lady there? Why would She come to me?
“I am the Divine in its aspect of Mother,” She explained further. “In this form I particularly watch over God’s children in the Americas. I am your Divine Mother. And you are My divine child.”
“Oh, can I be with You always? Always!”
“My son, that is your destiny. But you must first undergo purification. If you would be with Me, you will have to travel. Go as a pilgrim to My shrine in Mexico. Go, as a penitent, by foot.”
“Gladly!” I cried. “Shall I then leave everything behind me?”
“Everything, My child. Has anything ever been yours, anyway? Your work, possessions, friends—all these, in the sense that they were yours at all, were yours only on loan. Lo! all things are but gossamer—blowing lightly on the wind.”
“Oh, I will leave today! I will leave at this very moment. The thought that You will be waiting there to receive me!”
“Go, then, by narrow roads, avoiding the congested highways. Solicit no rides, but if people offer you a ride, you may accept. Through them you will learn what you need to know.”
She smiled kindly, then vanished. I turned away from the grave.
And there before me lay the first stretch of my long journey.