This article is a chapter from the book The Divine Destination.
Gurudev says, “There is no royal road in spirituality. Adversity develops the power of endurance and will-force. Adversity develops fortitude and forbearance. All the prophets, saints, Bhaktas and Yogins of yore had to struggle hard against adverse circumstances. God puts His devotees under severe tests and rigorous trials.”
Nothing that is worthwhile is to be achieved without undergoing a corresponding amount of pain and suffering. No enduring ideal can be attained without toil and sweat. The seed splits and perishes to put forth the plant. The flower lays its life to give place to the sweet fruit. It is in the furnace that gold emerges from the ore. Even so, the spiritual path demands a rigorous Tapas and heroic endurance at one time or other. A grim endurance of all vicissitudes and a dogged resolution to persevere to the end are essential if one has to realise the Ideal.
Gurudev cautioned a group of aspirants by saying, “Man is sybarite by nature. You may be very zealous in your austerity and vows in the beginning. But if you are not on the guard, slowly will the vigour be relaxed; comforts will creep in and you will be caught hopelessly. If the body is allowed to relapse into softness and luxury, you will find it well nigh impossible to discipline it again.” Mind immediately takes advantage of even the least sign of weakness in the aspirant. It is like a tiger crouching on its haunches about to spring.
Swamiji exemplifies in his life the ceaseless and ever-alert vigilance against the sudden onslaught of Samskaras. He is a model to all, even to highly advanced aspirants–in his avoidance of the proximity of women. The woman herself may be spotless, but the Lord’s mighty power of Maya may work through her unawares. The hidden power of lust in the heart of men begins to manifest in feminine presence and proximity.
Once a wandering saint of Madurai was accosted by an irreverent and arrogant merchant who jocosely asked the saint which was the superior of the two; namely the beard of the saint’s chin or the tuft of hair on the tail of a donkey! The saint looked up silently at the questioner for a few moments and quietly resumed his wanderings.
Several years had passed away when the merchant was one day summoned urgently to the saint’s presence. The waggish merchant, having long forgotten all about his sacrilegious humour of bygone years, went wondering what the matter might be. He found the venerable saint on his death-bed and at his approach, the dying one raised himself slowly, and whispered to the merchant thus, “My good man! You asked me a question several years ago. Well, my beard is superior to the donkey’s tuft; so you have your answer and forgive me for my delay.”
The merchant asked why, after years of silence, the saint chose to give an answer to the impertinent query now, during his last moments. The saint, with great humility replied, “Precisely because these are my last moments. Doubtless I might have even then answered you as I do now, but I dared not; for my dear brother, so very mysterious, so incomprehensible, is the Lord’s illusive power that I knew not what I would do or be the next moment. Man’s achievements are of no avail before Maya’s charms. She reigns supreme on the stage of the divine play. None can dogmatically say that he is beyond all temptation. It is the Lord’s grace alone that not only makes a man pure but also keeps him pure to the end. Man on his part is but to exercise a constant humility and an active vigilance. All these several years I have striven to keep myself spotless and devout, putting faith on His love and mercy to maintain my purity. I have now but a few moments more to live and there is no chance of a slip; therefore with my last breath I answered you confidently.” And the saint sank back and gave up his body.
Thus, spiritual life is for eternity and realisation is infinite. The same high pitch of purity and discipline has to be maintained if life is to mean anything at all. No relaxation of vigour and caution can be afforded. The great lessons of genuine humility and an unremitting caution have to be firmly grasped and borne in mind by everyone who would make any headway on the slippery path that leads from “darkness to Light,” from “the unreal to the Real,” and from “mortality to Immortality.”