After setbacks one after the other at a young age, Dhaval Sonsoil accidentally stumbles upon a glimpse of enlightenment. In his childhood dreams, he sees visions of what he calls the void, the place of nothingness but, conversely, all-knowing. Challenged by a domineering father and pulled by emotions for a young peasant girl he is forbidden to see, Dhaval quickly learns that, enlightened or not, we can’t always get what we want. Ever persevering, Dhaval embarks on a quest for illumination in the modern world. But in doing so, he embarks on something much more profound: a search for paradise on Earth with coming-of-age philosophy to celebrate life in every moment for everyone in this majestic world.
Read an Excerpt from Eden on Earth
I always thought enlightenment was no more than a fairy tale. I assumed that to achieve it, one had to grow old in a mountain cave, meditate under a Bodhi tree, or be delirious enough to hear the sound of one hand clapping. Now I have come to realize that it’s something much simpler. Enlightenment is just another word for love, true and selfless love that enables people to experience joy in all situations in every moment of their life.
And yet, love has become a dirty word. Many will tell you it’s complicated and messy, that it gets sticky, that it distracts you from purity, that it can be done right, and it can be done wrong. Others will tell you that love is a chemical process in the brain and nothing more. And if you search for it any more profound than that, you’ll be waiting for a long like a person waiting to hear the sound of a tree falling in a forest that makes no sound.
And, yet, if you ask any two random lovers—I’m talking about the true lovers, not the Hollywood or Bollywood version, but two lovers that eat at each other’s snot and scent each other’s breath, who want to be in each other’s skin, not just be with each other—about enlightenment. They’ll tell you they don’t care. As far as they’re concerned, they’ve already found the answer, and it’s this: all you need is true and selfless love. That kind of love makes lovers feel content to stay with each other in every moment of their life, run through deserts and sail oceans, and climb mountains, because what else is there worth finding? They’ve experienced what they’ve been looking for, the joy of living, experiencing the depth of love, the catalyst, the glue that binds all creation from time immemorial, now and forever.
If I sound like a guru, I’m not. I was confused not just by love, but by life itself for most of my life. Sure, I read about enlightenment in books and saw it mentioned in films. Sometimes it was called moksha, illumination, and other times an ecstasy pill. Some others called it living joyfully every day without any worries for tomorrow! But either way, it was always something cryptic, an abstract idea people threw about at meditation retreats, seminars, and in ‘spirituality’ or ‘austerity’ or ‘postmodern art’ workshops, but inevitably made at least one person feel uneasy because big words meant significant opinions.
Would enlightenment mean having an encyclopedia inside your head? Or was it more a case of being able to project the past and the future like a film reel of dinosaurs and nebulas upon the back of one’s mind? Or, then again, was it more an aesthetic thing? A glowing halo and a white tunic? Was that all it was? Just an image? A pretense? Or knowing and understanding how to live a joyful life at all times in all circumstances? Is it an idea of something that didn’t exist but people clung on to because of sheer fear, fear of being a conscious presence in a universe that is nothing more than a black vacuum of black holes and giant spinning orbs, one of which we found ourselves stuck to, thanks to that miraculous and very convenient force we call gravity?
But I was never interested in what others wanted to tell me about enlightenment. I wanted to see it for myself. You know, I’ve always only ever wanted the truth. Absolute, not relative truth. Black coffee, no sugar truth, truth beyond illusion. Release from insanity. Release from chaos. Freedom from daily pain, struggles, and disappointments of life—release from greed for power and wealth. Escape from intolerance, violence, and desires of the world.
Did I find it? I’ll let you be the judge. Because who am I to tell you what you should think anyway? Who am I to tell you what the meaning and purpose of your life are? Too many people in this world are convinced they have theanswers. The world has become too loud, too distorted to hear gentle and absolute truths. I don’t think you’ll believe what I have to say even if I do tell you. You have to see it for yourself. You have to experience it for yourself! And isn’t that the whole idea of the one hand clapping and the tree falling in the forest, making no sound?
The answer is simple. As soon as you try to explain enlightenment or the joyful living in every situation in every moment of life, you have lost it, just like you try to clap with one hand, but you will not make a sound.
All I can tell you is my story.