In our earthly incarnation, we aren’t given an option if we wish to be born or are willing to die. Our destiny predetermines that. And while some people may use this as a reason to run away from life’s challenges, there is a better way to deal with that.
It’s true that we don’t get to choose anything related to our birth or death; but we all get to choose our soul’s mission. It’s true that our destination is fixed at death, but our journey is not. It’s solely us, who get to determine our journey between life and death. The journey that takes us towards our soul mission is completely in our hands. And that’s what awakens and enlightens our soul and shapes us into who we are.
But still, in our rush to reach the destination, we sometimes miss out on the most important part of our soul mission—The Journey.
Life happens between birth and death. Life happens between origin and destination. Life happens within the journey. Reaching the destination is a one-time thing; it’s short-time happiness—you achieve what you wanted, feel happy and then move on. It’s the journey you undertake that will stay in your memory; it’s the experience you gain during the journey that helps you grow. And if you just wait for your destination to arrive and don’t live in the journey itself, you don’t live at all.
See how you cook for hours but finish eating in minutes. If you don’t enjoy the act of cooking itself, it would all seem a boring process to you. Similarly, think of how you rehearse a song for months to give a five-minute performance. If you don’t enjoy the countless rehearsals that take place before performance day, the show will be over before you know it and you won’t feel a thing. You won’t live the song. You won’t live the journey…
I find this essence of journey in the tales of author Dipa Sanatani. She doesn’t go on trips seeking just the destination; she travels for the love of travelling. And the same is true for her journey through life as well. Her book The Merchant of Stories brings this aspect of journey to life.
So, we had a little conversation dwelling on her outlook of travel and journey. And the words she weaved in this interview left a deep imprint upon my heart…
Sanchari: I have a feeling that more than a traveller of the world you are an explorer of the journey called life. No matter where you go, you find yourself diving deeper into your human experience. Is that true?
Dipa: Both my books—The Little Light and The Merchant of Stories—are centred around the impermanence of life and the inevitability of death. In The Little Light, I narrate the story of a soul in between life and death. Although we do not consciously remember this journey, we have all encountered lives in between lives.
In The Merchant of Stories, I narrate my own personal story of rebirth in this present earthly incarnation. I went from being an educator to an entrepreneur. I went from living far away from home for twelve years to becoming the bearer of my family legacy. I never, for once, expected that I would be ‘next in line’.
For a long time, I was searching outside of myself for something that I was seeking within. Some think that the spiritual journey is far more ‘important’ than material existence. Others think the opposite—that material wealth is all that matters. I think the two are deeply intertwined with one another. The human body is the vessel that are our soul chose to learn what it needed to learn. By writing these books and starting this business, I am honouring the thin veil that separates the physical world from the ones that are beyond our ordinary senses.
From ancestors to descendants, from Celestial Beings to Deities; there is more to this world than what we will ever know, understand or ever comprehend. We are all part of an interconnected tapestry whose workings are beyond our wildest imagination.
Sanchari: As a child, you dreamt to be a travelling storyteller of myths. And now you weave tales of your travelling experiences. You gather mythological stories from different cultures around the world and retell them through your books. Both are rather different, but have a familiar aura attached to them. How do you feel about the connection?
Dipa: I think all great storytelling is born of a journey. ‘Exile’ is a strong theme in both the Mahabharata and Ramayana. The journey of leaving one’s home only to return wiser and stronger than ever before. I don’t think we are too different to the mythical heroes of ages gone by.
These myths are not just stories of yesteryear that no longer apply to us. Rather, they are powerful allegories and metaphors of the human experience.
The journey across the rainbow to that pot of gold is a treasure in itself. Who would those great heroes be if they never emerged from the womb or decided never to venture out of home? It was the journey that prepared them for the destination.
As a devotee of Kali Ma and a firm believer in reincarnation, I believe that whilst we leave our physical bodies and possessions behind when we depart this world—the knowledge that we have gained through each lifetime is imprinted in the psyche of our soul.
From one lifetime to the next, we embark on a cyclical journey to become the best version of our highest selves. The journey is not easy and fraught with dangers and perils. But each and every soul still decides to embark upon it at the moment of birth.
In my novel, The Little Light, Rahu personifies the soul’s pre-birth quest to grow through the soul’s physical incarnation in human form. When we leave this world, we leave our bodies and our possessions behind. Regardless of who we are, the same destination is waiting for us all—it’s called death. It’s the journey we get to choose. Nothing more. The journey in between life and death represents our lifelong quest to awaken our soul to its true calling.
The knowledge, experience and sometimes even the relationships that we accumulate with each lifetime, is something that we take with us from each incarnation to the next.
Sanchari: When it comes to travelling, you aren’t just satisfied with hearing about other people’s adventures, but you wish to have your own. Is this something that holds true for your life as well?
Dipa: Would you rather watch a movie or act in it? Would you rather be a supporting actor or the lead actor? Would you rather be the director or would you rather write the screenplay?
Before we come into this world, the soul chooses which role it would like to play in the movie that is called ‘Life’. I believe each soul—over a continuum of lifetimes—has played each of these roles. Sometimes we are part of the supporting cast, sometimes we’re behind the camera and sometimes we’re the ones who wrote the story.
As an astrologer who has read hundreds of birth charts, I have seen the energy pattern of numerous souls over a continuum of lifetimes. What we do repeatedly gets entrenched into our karmic pattern. Breaking out of this pattern isn’t easy. It takes overcoming a deep fear of the unknown.
I think each soul will inevitably be called, pushed or even forced to do what its soul signed up to do before it was born. If it’s something that the soul hasn’t done before, the soul would naturally find this difficult. If you’ve directed a million movies, then the role of the leading lady or man would require a different skillset—one that the soul has not yet mastered in previous incarnations.
I was born with a Rahu—or North Node—in Aries. Aries is a pioneer, an entrepreneur and a rebel. In previous incarnations, I was perhaps caught up in being cast in a supporting role. It could be timing, it could be choice, or it could simply be karma.
In either case, I do believe in soul groups… For instance, if an individual has been a director in previous incarnations; in a subsequent lifetime, they may be cast as a supporting actor. Karma is ultimately about balance.
When we choose one road, we inevitably forsake its opposite – an uncharted course that must one day be walked upon, so the universe can regain the elusive balance that keeps it all together.The Little Light by Dipa Sanatani
If you get your roles confused, it’s going to be a painful journey for you. Even if you hit all the traditional hallmarks of success, you will continue to feel unhappy and unfulfilled. That’s why we hear stories of people leaving lucrative jobs to lead a simple life; or conversely, we also hear stories of people leading a simple existence who go on to become corporate titans.
Shakespeare once wrote that life is a play and we are all actors. It’s up to us to play our part well. If we don’t, we can count on Saturn to come down on us hard like a ton of bricks. A lot of people get angry and frustrated at Saturn for bringing hardship, but Saturn is just doing his job. He is making us face up to our karma. Like naughty children, we don’t want to do our homework or finish our studies at the School of Life.
But whether we like it or not, it’s our destiny, our dharma.
Sanchari: You say that you have a soft spot for places that looks like they are a page out of history book. You also tend to have a fascination for ancient places and antique items. Has it anything to do with your propensity to call yourself an old soul?
Dipa: I think in discovering the old, one discovers that nothing is new!
I have always viewed time as a cyclical, rather than a linear concept. For instance, we think we’re so technologically advanced for making sophisticated scuba-diving and swimming equipment. But the haenyeo—the female free divers of Jeju Island in South Korea—were able to dive underwater and hold their breath for close to a minute without any ‘sophisticated’ scuba-gear. So whilst we have ‘invented’ all these products to go underwater, we humans were actually doing perfectly fine without them!
Also, we think women as breadwinners is ‘new’ and reflective of ‘progress’ in a society; and yet the Haenyeo have been the sole breadwinners for their families since the 17th century.
My honest opinion is that humans of each age and generation should stop thinking of themselves as special and/or advanced compared to preceding generations. Humans have always been incredibly smart and amazingly foolish. It is all part of the human experience.
I am indeed an old soul… I am jaded by all the comings and goings I have seen. I also think that I am eternally young at heart. Perhaps that’s what old souls are—people who have seen everything there is to see but remain young at heart.