The Liberating Wisdom at Our Doorsteps
Sri Swami Chidananda
This article is a chapter from the book An Instrument of Thy Peace.
Never before in human history has any generation been as fortunate as we are. We have now such a wealth of spiritual wisdom, insight and knowledge as never before—more than any past generation in human history has ever had. This is a momentous century, a thrilling time. Just around the turn of the 19th century, this earth saw the advent of great saintly beings who demonstrated in their lives the spiritual experience that had been passed down over many millennia. They expressed in their lives the heritage of the past 5,000 years of the accumulated spiritual history of mankind. Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Swami Rama Tirtha, Sri Aurobindo, Nityananda, Ramana Maharshi—these tremendous souls who took their birth during the last century have given us the epitome of the spiritual experience manifested throughout human history. They have said, “Here you are: this is the truth; this is the goal of life; this is your supreme blessedness; these are the ways to attain it.” Remarkably, they said it in a language suited to modern man.
Thanks to the advancement in technology, these insights and spiritual teachings are available to us. In the past, one had to journey into forests, mountain monasteries or into isolated caves to learn from these masters. Only two or three generations ago they were hidden, as printing technology and transportation had not reached the level seen in this century. These sorts of holy people have always been incarnating, but their teachings and their wisdom were little known, because we didn’t have the benefits of modern communication. Now we do.
These great ones said that the human family must be a spiritual brotherhood. They said that each day must be a step on the journey towards divine perfection. That is wisdom. If you pride yourself on being a practical modern man, well then, now show this practicality in your spiritual life! These spiritual giants gave us the easy means, and they brought liberating wisdom to our doorsteps. We must respond to it. The wisdom wealth of the entire globe is available to mankind anywhere on earth today thanks to printing technology and so many other channels. As a generation you may have much to complain about, but at the same time you have got ten times more things that you could thank God for. Clearly recognise how fortunate you are.
At this moment I have the privilege to remind you of your birthright, the supreme experience that the sages attained and declared to us. “Come, you also can attain that great blessedness which we have already attained. We want you to do it, because that is why you are here. Get busy, get busy! Your highest welfare and supreme blessedness are in your hands if you only utilise life in a wise way for that attainment.” I also declare to you that God-realisation is within the reach of everyone. It is not denied to anyone. It is within the reach of everyone who is listening to these words. You can attain it, if only you want it enough and you are not attached to little things.
Disruptions in the Mind
Unfortunately, we are seized with terrible fears to lose the petty things that have ruled our lives. We have hypnotised ourselves into thinking that if we lose these insignificant things, we will be lost. We cling to the petty things that are our problems, misery, suffering and pain, and we think, “If I lose them, I’ll not get anything else.” We have no trust or real faith in the divine, which is our only true friend and is the only thing that we can trust.
Living in the world we do, we also fall prey to the outer factors that tend to disrupt the inner tranquillity of the psyche. We hear and see things through the media—newspaper headlines, radio announcements and television news—all of which can agitate us. Another factor is that when a group of friends meets together, the topic of conversation naturally turns to current events, and each person wants to share with the others the horror stories they have seen on TV. There was an era before the media became so present in our lives, but now the media are ever present and are able to tempt our minds away. We see aeroplane crashes and earthquakes, and we get a bad taste in our mouths, because the media brings these things to us so directly.
There are many examples of factors that disrupt the mind. What about a person who always gets upset because he thinks that someone is making uncomplimentary remarks about him? Whether the other person is actually doing it or not may be irrelevant if he is convinced that they are doing so. As far as he is concerned, the imagination becomes a fact, and it can be a source of mental disturbance for him. Our imagination can create a non-existent thing and then afterwards plague us. Many of us go through our lives constantly agitating ourselves, because we imagine that someone is thinking, saying or doing something against us, although all the while that someone may not even be aware of us. For instance, if two people are talking together and they look our way, we may think that they are talking about us, whereas they may be simply looking to make sure that no one is listening to their conversation. We misread the situation and think, “Oh yes, look, they are indeed saying something bad about me,” and we work ourselves into a terrible state.
We are afraid to let go of pain and sorrow. We fear to give up our misery because we don’t have faith. We don’t deeply believe in the words of the great ones who have experienced the divine and have called us to attain it ourselves, when in fact it is for this attainment that we have been born. Yet, we are not prepared to believe. We are afraid, but of what? Afraid to lose our favourite problems. We have become so fond of our own sorrow and misery, which we have created and with which we have been engaged for so long. We are accustomed to clinging to our problems, and we think that if the problems go, then we will go with them, because they have become part and parcel of us. We have hypnotised ourselves into thinking this misery is necessary for us and without it we cannot live. We cling to our sorrows, our slavery, our folly and attachment. This is maya. The basic blemish of the human psychological nature is attachment. We are attached to the very thing that is destroying our life, but we cling to it nonetheless.
Support the concentration of the mind and develop the habit of cultivating keen attention in everything that you do, no matter what it is. Whatever you do, do it attentively. This means you are always in a state of concentration, and your mind is always kept focused. If you are cutting your vegetables, let the mind be fully focused upon the cutting of vegetables. If you are watering the garden and pruning your plants, let the mind be fully focused upon this act of watering the garden and pruning the plants. The action does not matter; the way in which you engage yourself in it matters. If you are always given to a habit of daydreaming, you will never be completely present.
Your outer life spoils the state of concentration by taking on the negative characteristics of carelessness, heedlessness and lack of attention. Then you do a disservice to yourself and you find yourself in difficulty when you sit for meditation, because the greater part of the day you have allowed the mind to be absent-minded and inattentive. Once you do sit for meditation, immediately you want it to become absolutely concentrated, but the mind will show you that you have been very unwise in using it during the hours outside of meditation.
Unless you have courage enough to throw all the junk out the window, you will not know God. It takes enormous courage—you must have the guts! You have to make a clear decision one time or another. After all, what could happen? Maybe you will die—that is the worst thing that could happen. Dare and let the worst happen! You are going to die anyway, so why not dare it? Then maybe if you are willing to have the courage, you will give God a chance to come into your life. Otherwise, we only live in imagination that we want God, but we are not willing to take a daring step towards Him. “Come what may, I will take that step for the sake of God!” If this determination comes to you, the myth of your sorrow will be exploded. It is you who makes the sorrow a big thing. You give it an exaggerated shape by thinking that it is something important that cannot be eliminated.
Somehow we would rather not have trust and faith in the very thing that will never violate our trust. It is only common sense that if you want to move towards the East you cannot do so as long as you walk in a westward direction. It is as simple as that. If you want to move towards the East, first and foremost you must stop walking towards the West. Turn around and commence purposefully walking towards the East.
The Supreme Blessedness
The supreme blessedness does not lie in things that are non-eternal, finite and impermanent. Supreme blessedness is only in the eternal, changeless Reality that is your own Self and the source of your being. Whether you know it or not, you are only existing because That supports your existence. Otherwise, if It were not there, you would not exist. It is your invisible support and your ultimate goal, and therein lies the supreme joy. That one fact is enough to compensate for all the rough experiences you inevitably have to go through in this life. Existence is like an ocean buffeted with sorrows, pains and sufferings. If only you were wise enough, you could utilise these experiences as insights, and you could gain new knowledge. You could know in which direction lies your harm, and then you could avoid those negative directions. If you can utilise these experiences wisely, they can be used to push you higher towards your spiritual ideal.
There was an incident in the Srimad Bhagavatam where a pauper taught a king who was full of worries and who had no peace. It is a very fascinating chapter, and I have gone through it so many times. The pauper, possessing nothing, radiated peace and joy. The king asked, “Who are your gurus who have given you the secret of this knowledge?” The pauper said, “My gurus are many. I have learned from everything I see in nature. I have learned from beast, bird, river and mountain. From the earth I learned forbearance. So many people tread upon it, stamp upon it and dig into it, yet it bears everything uncomplainingly. As I go through life I must bear, forbear and be patient. The tree taught me generosity. The tree gives all of its bounty, shade, flowers, fruits and leaves. Whether you pour water on it or take an axe and cut it, it is the same—the tree always responds in the same manner. It never withholds its fruit, and I learned in life that I should be like a tree and keep on giving.” Thus he went on recounting the other lessons of his twenty-four gurus.
So learn from life like this pauper did. Take life as your guru; take every experience as a lesson, and learn from everything. Learn from your own children, for it is said that God sometimes speaks out of the mouths of babes. In that way ever be a learner. You will advance on the path, and your life will become enriched. Thus you can make life into a process of sadhana and spiritual perfection by being a perpetual student.
Painful experiences are inevitable in this life, but bliss is your birthright. The presence of bliss is the absolute Reality. Your attainment is absolutely assured, but it unfolds to the extent that you really long for it. Your highest welfare lies in attaining the eternal that we call God. Life is a journey towards Him, and all aspects of our life should be made to go in that direction. Whether it is home life, professional life, social life or whatever it is, you must live in a continuous remembrance of the supreme goal and bring the spiritual quality into every aspect of your life. All these activities should be complementary processes to the central purpose of attaining God.
That is the one great business, as there is nothing higher than attaining God, and all other things should take a secondary place. The realisation of God is the main reason for which you have come into existence. Human life is in vain if God is left out of it. If the quest is not there in your life, you have attained nothing—you have only killed time. But if the sincere longing is there, when the call comes, you will be ready for it. Don’t get caught under a false sense of values. Don’t indulge the unimportant and then completely ignore the important. On the contrary, make the important thing the first priority. All unimportant things will take care of themselves. Therein lies the guarantee of your attaining peace and joy.