The World Is Not Our Enemy!
Sri Swami Chidananda
This article is a chapter from the book Seek The Beyond.
Our goal is the one non-dual Supreme Being. However, we live our spiritual life in the midst of this outer world. We are obliged, therefore, to function not only in the inner spiritual world, but in the outer spiritual dimension–which is manifest as something gross, material, physical, with varied multiplicity.
Placed amidst these two seemingly different factors, we are required to consider the mutuality and interaction between the two. Are they to be tolerated and suffered as a negative, minus factor in our life, or are they to be understood in a different light? Are they meant to be understood, utilised and profited from in a way that, in spite of duality, there is no contradictory dichotomy between the two?
In this connection, is there something that nature has to offer us, some insight, some guidance? Where there are dual factors, is opposition inevitable, or do dual factors provide two halves that ultimately go to make a whole–they complement and complete each other? What exactly is the situation?
In the Gita we are told that we have to deal with the three gunas because we are in prakriti, cosmic nature. And prakriti is made out of the three gunas. So they are part of our life. Sattva guna takes one upward, rajas plies on the horizontal plane and tamas takes one downward. Seeming opposition, but the great insight given to us is that all three are necessary and each has a legitimate function. They are indispensable.
And if we observe nature, we see a tree able to exist on a piece of ground because its roots go deep into the soil. At the same time the roots tend to make the ground hold firm and strong. The roots provide, as it were, a framework, while it is the ground that enables the tree to stand firmly and strongly. There is a duality, yet it seems to be to the advantage of both. The ground is necessary for the tree; the tree also gives something to the ground.
We are surrounded by a world of many things. Are they necessary? Are they unnecessary? Are they so many obstacles to our spiritual evolution? What exactly are they? If they are unnecessary, God would not have put them there. If they are necessary, they must have a purpose. What is their purpose? To hamper our spiritual progress? To become so many obstacles, so many troubling factors? We must think deeply over this and benefit out of this reflection.
Sometimes seemingly opposing factors serve a purpose. The arouse from within us certain faculties, certain determinations, certain plus factors like strong resolution–“I must overcome this!” They offer a challenge, and you are meant to exercise your intelligence–how to meet the challenge and overcome it. They are factors that make many positive things happen within our psyche. We take it as a challenge; we use our intelligence to ponder, “How can we deal with this?” They bring about the power of resolution and determination: “I must deal with it!”
So they are stimulators of many things from within, which otherwise would not be stimulated. We would be dull and drab. Thus, because they stimulate the inner aspect of our being, antahkarana, they don’t seem to be entirely negative. They do serve a positive purpose, a constructive purpose, that goes beyond mere mutuality or interaction. They seem to have a positive purpose.
Without a pair of oars, the boat cannot move. Without the boat, the oars are useless; they serve no purpose. When both are together, they help us to cross the river. The upper and lower teeth are not at war against each other. Both are necessary if we wish to chew our food properly. Perhaps this is how we should view our life and things and factors, both outer and inner. God is all-intelligence. He would not have committed an error, a blunder.
All other forms of life, no matter how strong, how dynamic, how well endowed they are, when they are moving forward and come across a formidable obstruction, change their direction. Man alone asks how he can scale it, how he can overcome it. He does not think of changing his direction. He thinks of continuing his onward movement. If a river comes, build a bridge to cross it! If a mountain obstructs a railroad, bore a tunnel through it! Perhaps this has something to teach us. Man alone does this–no other creature.
Thus, all things have been provided because they are necessary. They test us, try us: How far are we really sincere? How far as we determined? What is the quality of our aspiration–how authentic, genuine and true? Therefore, they are necessary. They offer challenges. They also offer us a way of estimating our spiritual life. They thus become contributors to our meaningful progress.
If we thus begin to understand them and view them, our reaction to them will also change. We will not be so frequently overcome by despondence or be taken aback and doubt the possibility of moving forward when these negative things come and bother us. We will not lose confidence and be disheartened when we begin to see that all these things are necessary. They come to test and train us, to arouse from within us dormant faculties. They are challenges.
When seen as such, a whole new vision dawns upon you. Your approach to them is an intelligent one. All reactions to them become positive; your entire life, in addition to your spiritual life and sadhana, takes on a new attitude and nature. It no longer reacts in a negative way. It reacts in a positive way: “God has sent these things; they are necessary. I must try to understand in what manner I can gain, in what manner I can utilise them.”
The whole approach, therefore, is not one of diffidence or trepidation or insecurity and doubt. The whole approach is very positive and understanding. It is creative and constructive, and the very approach itself is constituted as a forward movement. This is the light in which we should view the world in which we have to live and to carry on our spiritual sadhana. Then the world is seen with a different meaning; it is not a foe or an enemy.
But then, why have the scriptures painted the contrary. They call it maya, a trap, bondage. They call it a jungle in which you will become lost, a net in which you will be caught. There is a purpose. It is all to make us move cautiously and carefully. That is all. Because if you are not intelligent and perceptive, then due to your non-perception and lack of discrimination, you may make them into binding factors. Not that they are there as binding factors. They are just there to tell us: “Here are things of value, but if you don’t deal with them properly they may become liabilities. Therefore, open your eyes, move forward cautiously and carefully.”
When humanity was in a much lower scale of evolution and human intelligence had not evolved, perhaps it was necessary to paint that negative picture, but it is no longer necessary. So if we allow remnants of that to still continue in our life, it is because it is good to be cautious while we boldly move forward. It is good to exercise a degree of care in living our spiritual life. That much we must see while we make this world and all the things in it a valuable part of our training and spiritual education.
Thus, the way the world has to be dealt with, so that it may cease to become our enemy and obstacle, is to add to the mutuality and the interactive situation a positive attitude and approach–the utilisation of all these various things for our own benefit. May the grace of God and the benedictions of the guru enable us to do this intelligent act and profit thereby. God bless us all!