Wednesday, 22 July 2020

Divine Heartache 3/3 - Practical Advaita Vedanta

Dealing with Spiritual Sadness
Learn to Accept Life’s Circumstances and Strive to Improve Them
A general complaint that often reaches our ears is that one is not placed in circumstances favourable for progress, and that much as one desires to live and work for the higher life, there are embarrassments that make it completely out of his power to advance, even a single step. How deeply such a person laments his peculiarly harrowing strait, and how vainly he thinks he would attempt and succeed in living the life of the soul, were he better situated. We say to such persons, you are but throwing away the energy of your soul in foolish lamentation, and cheating yourself with fine imagery as an excuse for negligence and want of determined effort. Firstly, you who are acquainted with and believe in the law of Karma, ought to know that favouring circumstances are the result of hard work in a previous incarnation, and not the offspring of the injustice of a blind destiny. Sri Krishna says that only those who have worked up to a certain point in occultism in one life are blessed in the next with surroundings suited to soul-growth. Why, then, complain for not having what you do not deserve? And unless you determine now to create better circumstances for the future, you may go on idly wishing for a change in which you please yourself with the belief that you will thrive; but be sure that nothing is attained without working for it. Surely the beginning must be made somewhere, by controlling circumstances and by working up to a certain degree, and then you can hope for and obtain surroundings calculated to assist your efforts. Then again, you should begin to realize that the circumstances under which you are placed can obtain no mastery over you, unless you deliberately put your neck under the yoke. The surroundings, however manifold, have no inherent power in them to distract your attention from the one star that is the guide of your life unless you voluntarily give them the power. Even a school boy knows that a quantity, however large, if raised to the power zero gives unity as the result. So you should constantly deny to all outside objects the slightest power over you, and then, though their number be infinite, you will see nothing but unity. It is merely your own desire that restrains you from soaring high. The fact is beautifully illustrated in Indian books by the way in which monkey-traps are made in that country. A quantity of gram is placed in an earthen vessel in which there is a small opening, just large enough to let the open palm of the monkey pass in. When he has closed his fist, having a handful of gram, he cannot take it out. If he only lets the gram drop, he can with the greatest ease run away and be free. But no! The attraction of the gram so bewilders his sense that he begins to think himself a captive and is thus caught. Exactly the same is the case with man; there is nothing to bind him to slavery if he can but see through the folly of unchecked Vasna (desire). It is your own weakness that is forming the obstacles for you. There is positively nothing outside of yourself that can in the least hinder your progress.

Obstacles are mysterious efforts of nature to help you
There is, however, another truth that has to be so learnt and assimilated as to form a corner-stone of your belief. You have to understand that the aim of nature being identical with your own, all that you, in your ignorance, call sufferings and obstacles, are in reality the mysterious efforts of nature to help you in your work if you can manage them properly. An idea of how Karma is a never-failing aid to evolution can be gleaned from the consideration that resistance always develops the Will-power. The mental height and quiet that has been attained by overcoming obstacles, form a guarantee of our having advanced some distance, and give us the assurance that it is no fungus-growth, destined to live but for a day. Moksha being another name for perfection, requires that you should have experienced all phases of existence; hence you should look upon all circumstances with the gratitude of a pupil. All complaint is a silent rebellion against the law of progress. An occultist's object being to hurry on the work of evolution, if you complain you will, instead of reaping any benefit thereby, retard your progress. Leaving all complaint aside, devote yourself heart and soul in the work of helping the growth of your soul. All disturbance of equilibrium is prejudicial; bearing in mind, therefore, that there is but one pivot in the universe on which equilibrium can be restored, detach yourself with effort from objects of sense, and fix your heart on the Supreme Unity. Equilibrium, however, is of three kinds, on the mental as well as on the physical plane. First, unstable equilibrium, in which if the mind is disturbed ever so little, it turns away the more forcibly from its position of rest. This is the nature of the devout feelings that incidentally fall to the lot of the man of the world and which are next to useless for an occultist. Second, neutral equilibrium, in which there is no active tendency either way, and the mind is occupied either in sublime thoughts or in objects of sense. This is a distinct step no doubt, but you must not rest satisfied with it, but should strive to attain the third — stable equilibrium. At this stage, however busy a man may be in the performance of his material duties, his heart for ever flies from them to attain calmness and peace. So our final advice is, that all duties should be performed conscientiously with the conviction that their avoidance, instead of being a help, is sure to prove an obstacle. At the same time never forget for a moment that the aim for which you work is not what your hands are plying for. Ever take care not to be so attracted by work as to lose sight, even for a short time, of the magic charms which your soul reveals.
Learn to love meditative solitude
Love solitude with all your heart and enjoy it whenever you can afford to fly to it. Imagination is of the greatest help in the elevation of the soul. You will realize its power only when you apply it to a distinct end under the command of your will. Retire to a secluded spot — the bank of a river or a solitary grove if possible — and call up spiritual scenes before your mind's eye, and in thought lose yourself in the supreme self. Dreaming is supposed to be an odd and foolish habit in this matter-of-fact, practical age of ours. Hardly is it guessed that dreaming spiritual dreams is the highest heritage of the human race. Yes, we say, conjure up dreams by Will and then calmly drink in the invigorating amrita that will then flow into your heart. Learn to withdraw into the sanctum sanctorum of your soul, and the bliss of all the three worlds is there. Be meditative, and you will reach the goal of all happiness. The divine flute of Krishna is ever sending forth celestial melodies in the very atmosphere which we breathe, but we can hear it only when the chaotic tumult of worldly thoughts has been laid asleep. Drowned in the solemn profundity of your soul, worship devoutly the sweet influence which then remains upon you, and from this it is, you should know, that you are to derive strength to fight with the terrible foes around you. Look back upon the earlier portion of your life, and there, buried under the ashes of subsequent physical experiences, you will find the glowing embers having a spiritual fire. In childhood the consciousness is not completely materialized, and as we are just then bringing to a close a period of spiritual existence, we continue to be vivified by soul-influence. Then, we do not quite understand nor very much care for the wild chatter of men around, and have no option but to dream happily. What will help you most in spiritual development is the putting forth of all your energies to keep the Mystic Peace of your soul undisturbed, even in the midst of worldly company and in the thick of material affairs. While conversing, to all appearances, with your friends and relatives try with head and heart to live in a world of your own creation. Create in yourself a sort of inward yearning for the soul, a ‘Heartache for the Beloved", to use the language of the Sufis, without whom your very life would be one vast barren desert of horror and pain. How pathetically does the Sufis poet sing:—
" Marà dar manzile jánàn ché anno ayesh chem hardum.
Jaras faryàd midárad ké bar bundaid mahmilha."
"What possible delight could I find in the stages of my journey
to the beloved when every moment arises the sound:
Prepare for thy journey."
Direct your will to the spiritual
Think not that we are talking of vague improbabilities. See in the case of a mesmerist, what human Will, though distracted by a thousand and one material ambitions, can do. What then of the Will, subtle as it is, when it is directed on the highest subtlety, and, moreover, spirit, body and soul are all working in the same direction — which cannot be possible in any other pursuit. Only try constantly to live in the Inner World of Rest and Calm, and your external consciousness will then lose its intensity of colour. True you will move in the world all the same, but its appearances and events will affect you but as dreams — compared to the beauties of the new life you have begun to live. See how the moon which shines with all effulgence by the reflection of the light of the sun, loses its brightness and turns into a pale piece of cloud on the rise of the sun itself; so our external consciousness that shines with a dazzle by the reflection of the spiritual light gets dimmed and pale on the approach of a higher consciousness. Therefore, whether you are travelling lonely and unfriended to a distant country, or are living on the bosom of a dear wife enjoying the sweets of a comfortable home, forget not that you are but a pilgrim journeying to your native land from which you have strayed out. Let us then pray in Matthew Arnold's sad, sweet words :—
"Calm soul of all things! Make it mine
To feel amid the city's jar.
That there abides a piece of thine,
Man did not make, and cannot mar !
The will to neither strive nor cry,
The power to feel with others give !
Calm, calm me more! nor let me die
Before I have begun to live."
(Matthew Arnold, Lines Written in Kensington Gardens. Empedocles on Etna, and Other Poems (London: B. Fellowes, 1852)

Part 1 

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