Take a Stand
SRI SWAMI CHIDANANDA
Beloved and blessed children of the Divine! Shining divinities, temporarily in the garb of human individuals in this world of birth and death–whatever the reason may be!
We shall not enter into different theories and opinions of philosophy and theology regarding the situation of the Immortal becoming caught up and encaged in a gross, mortal, material, physical vesture. Rather than take a stand as to the why and whereof, we have to rather face the fact and try to see how we can deal with it.
If a man is struck by a poisoned arrow and someone runs to him with an antidote, the wise person, in order to save himself, quickly drinks the antidote rather than enquire as to its source and what it is made of. Otherwise, by the time he has finished his enquiry, time may have run out!
So, our situation is a situation of being bound, and we should try to know how to liberate ourselves. That is the important thing. Therefore, let us all be wise. At least let us make a resolution of being more wise tomorrow than today, more wise in 1999 than in 1998. We should have wisdom in the mind.
Our brain functions with various biological and physiological activities, but the mind is beyond the brain. The mind uses the brain as its channel and a medium, as a framework to act and communicate its resolutions, desire, longings and ambitions through the five senses and the body. But beyond the mind is yourself.
No one has brought it out more beautifully than the great Adishankaracharya who in six verses describes what you are not, so that you may disabuse your mind of delusions, illusions, wrong thinking, and worst of all, topsy-turvy thinking where one thinks one knows but actually does not. In the last line of each verse he tells you what you are–the all-auspicious Consciousness-Bliss or transcendental Absolute.
What then should be one’s stand, one’s approach to the spiritual life, one’s attitude towards one’s sadhana and the goal? What is the position one should take to the phenomenon of our inner life, our real life, which, though hidden, though invisible, yet, nevertheless, is real? It has been summed up from one angle by the great sage Patanjali in his aphorisms on the yoga philosophy. In spite of, because of, all the deficiencies and imperfections of the human mind and knowing how it is subject to various moods, some positive, some negative, you must take a stand that these things do not affect you. These things do not rob you of the greatest ever chance given to the individual to rise up and ascend back into its universal abode of perfection, fearlessness, freedom and absolute completeness.
The great teacher says that you should take the stand of an elite being who is in the highest category. You have to be elite because it is a very specialised field. Only a microscopic minority of the human population of this world ever turns to the life spiritual, knowing it to be all-important and therefore worthwhile dedicating one’s entire life to. Whatever stage of life you are in, no matter how busy you are, you cannot afford to, you dare not, neglect it. Therefore, don’t opt for anything less than the highest category.
When we were in school we studied a little poem about a king of Scotland named Robert the Bruce. He lived around the beginning of the 14th century. Somewhat like King Suratha in the Devi Mahatmyam, he had been worsted by his enemies and had fled to the forest. There, exhausted and dejected, he entered a cave and threw himself down on the floor and tried to rest, his mind in a whiff of confusion.
In that state–exhausted, overcome by gloom–some movement attracts his attention. It is a spider. The spider is trying to climb up to the ceiling of the cave, but each time it gets near the top it falls down again. Eight times it tries and eight times it fails–the same number of times that Robert the Bruce has failed to regain his kingdom. Then on the ninth try–as Robert the Bruce watches fascinated–the spider succeeds in reaching his goal!
Suddenly Robert the Brace’s entire mood is transformed from the lowest negative to the highest positive. He says: “I, a scion of the royal family, a person who has sat on the throne, worn a crown, who has put on armour and led my armies into the battlefield–become victorious–I, in this abject condition? Nonsense! It can never be! Am I less than this spider? No!” His heart is filled with a new determination, an upsurge of courage, and he says, “I shall go gather my forces and once again lead them into battle. And I shall come out victorious! I shall regain my kingdom”. And the poet says, “He did it! He did it!”
That should be the attitude! The scriptures also tell us the type of person we should be. They say that people in the least category have no stuff in them. Even before launching into an undertaking they begin to think of all the obstacles and conclude that it is too much for them. People of the middling type undertake a project, but when some obstacles come in the way, they give up. But people of real stuff, who know that they are made in the image of an omnipotent God, once they have undertaken some venture–even if they are repeatedly assailed by obstacles and adverse circumstances–never turn back. Thus we must be of the highest category–the elite–with the right stuff in us. Like Napoleon, the word “impossible” should not be in our dictionary.
In British government times, we used to say “bulldog tenacity.” Sometimes they use another analogy for tenacity which is not quite so nice: leech-like tenacity. Once a leech catches hold of a person it won’t leave him. This is how you must be. Refuse to take defeat. Never say die and keep on. Make full use of this precious gift of a human birth which is the greatest gift of God.
To reject this gift or to throw it away–no matter for what reason–is like giving God a slap in the face. If a person commits suicide, he is the greatest offender against God. It is rejection of His gift, refusing to make use of a golden opportunity given. And from the point of view of Indian religious knowledge and concepts, suicide is no escape. You only make your problems worse. How? Due to the all-pervasive law of cause and effect, karma, and the necessity of undergoing the experiences resultant thereof, you create the added negative karma of having rejected God’s great gift. There is no easy way of escaping problems except by attaining God-experience and liberation.
Otherwise, whatever you try to escape from, whatever you imagine you are going to escape from, is all there waiting for you. Because it is only by experiencing, that karma becomes finished. And if you are wise, you will try to learn, to profit, from that experience. Otherwise, if you try to escape, you will find yourself in a greater mess.
Instead you can say: “Okay, these experiences are necessary, but instead of being made a plaything or a puppet in the hands of the Law of karma, I shall try to master it and make it serve my purpose. How? I am in charge of my life. Some law or other factor is not in charge. I am the centre-stage person here. I will not allow any other factor to come and occupy that place. It is my life.”
And so you say, “God has given me an opportunity. This is the field for my purposeful, creative action, and through purposeful, creative action, I shall fashion my future.”
Now, you see, the whole thing changes. I am the person. I can create my future. Two phrases come into my mind: “I am the captain of my soul. I am the architect of my fate.” So you say: “No one can arbitrarily thrust any prearranged fate upon me. Nonsense! If the past has fashioned my present, it has only fashioned the experience part of my present, not the action part of my present. My life has two factors–one is non-creative, one is creative. The experience part is non-creative, but the action part is creative.
“Therefore, while my body and mind are undergoing the inevitable experiences of past karma, what does it matter? I am superior to both body and mind. I am Spirit. And I am in charge. I will make use of the present to bring into being such actions–positive actions, creative actions, auspicious and sublime actions–that will create an auspicious, sublime and radiant future for myself.
“Because the all-important factor is neither the past nor the future, it is the present. The past is past, the future is not yet formed but I can form it. Why should I allow something else to form it? I am not a slave in my own house, I am master. So I will make use of this present time to engage myself in such actions–mental, physical, verbal–that I know what my future is going to be, because I am at this moment making it.
“I can make my future whatever I wish, whatever I want, whatever I desire, whatever I will. Only, I must be in charge–fully in charge–with all desire and determination. If I allow my senses to drag me here and there, if I allow my desires and cravings to take me at a tangent and pull me away from the straight course that leads to my sublime and radiant future, then I am my own enemy. I will be working against myself.”
Therefore, you must be a person who has controlled one’s senses and conquered the mind. When Lord Krishna tells this to Arjuna, Arjuna says, “It is impossible to control the mind. It is easier to control the blowing wind.” Lord Krishna agrees that it is difficult, but says, “Even though it may be very difficult, it is possible.” This is the key. It is possible, only persevering effort is necessary.
Lord Krishna also says in effect, “Tenacity, never give up, persevere! And if you carry on persevering effort, I promise you that you will attain whatever you wish to attain, you will reach wherever you wish to reach. But a word of caution. While you are moving in this direction–purposefully, determinedly–your senses are your enemies. And the craving element in the mind is so inveterate, so deep-rooted, that it is not easily eliminated. So it will go on bothering you, create a craving to move in this direction or that direction, towards this enjoyment, towards that possession or indulgence.
“You have to be strong and wise. Tell your mind, ‘Don’t be foolish. Don’t think that I am a thumb-sucking baby. I know what this world is. I know what the sense objects are. I know what enjoyment is. This so-called enjoyment ultimately ends in sorrow, pain, suffering and weeping. In the beginning it may seem sweet. Ultimately it is bitter’.
“Therefore, I, who have created this world, tell you: ‘Be awake. Keep up an active enquiry. Always discriminate between what is highest, best and most conducive to your happiness and what is seemingly attractive but contains within it much suffering and pain’. Pain is concealed as pleasure. It puts on a mask and grins at you, and you fall. No! don’t be foolish. Don’t be deceived.”
So, the Lord tells Arjuna, and all of us, that if you are a person of constant enquiry, constant discrimination, and a dispassion created out of such constant enquiry and discrimination, then don’t worry, you have nothing to fear. You will go through this life as a fully-protected soldier, protected by armour. All the shafts and bullets will do no harm. You will go through and finish your task and come out victoriously.
Abhyasa and vairagya–persevering effort supported by dispassion. This is the prescription that the Lord gives you in the sixth chapter of the Srimad Bhagavad Gita wisdom teachings. You must have constant perseverance in one direction and at the same time be fully rooted in dispassion, so that nothing has the power to drag you off course. Thus take your stand!