Sequel to ‘With Gratitude to Ardhanareeshwara’; ‘Surrendering to Ardhanareeshwara’ & ‘United as Ardhanareeshwara’
By perceiving myself as both the giver and the receiver, I see that every time I console I am being consoled; every time I understand I am being understood; and every cell I love, loves me in return! By allowing this divine love to flow through me, both aspects of creativity and acceptance merge to be one divine energy and unite within me as the one divine inseparable form – Ardhanareesvara! There I remain United as Ardhanareesvara.
– UNITED AS ARDHANAREESVARA
Intellectual arguments can be given by quoting many wise men on how to live life detached. But mere information would make us a grinding mill. The spiritual journey is just beginning. How does one go about living in this world of hypocrisies? How does one learn to live with that supreme love spreading to everybody – even to those who don’t seem to deserve it? The future is a mystery and imagination, used as it is to much drama, will have a field day trying to scare the wits away. What gives a tree its strength? – Its deep penetrating roots. What would give me inner strength? – Looking back into my beliefs.
I recollect reading Thomas Hood’s poem Past and Present in school. The verse that stayed in my memory was –
I remember I remember
The fir trees dark and high
I used to think their slender tops
Were close against the sky:
It was childish ignorance,
But now ‘tis little joy
To know I’m farther off from heaven
Than when I was a boy
The thought that immediately struck me as a child was “Even when I grow up, I have to make sure that God would remain as close to me as He is now”. It was always a great pleasure to sit by myself and write letters to God, which soon graduated to become poems addressed to Him. I never remember being afraid of Him or even of giving Him disgusting respect! He was and has always remained my constant companion, my best friend there to hear all that I need to say and gently guide me every time I go astray. But He is always there, close to my every thought – I never try to hide anything from Him – not my most private desires or my deepest fears. He is the one who always understands my need for tears and smiles.
When I was in college Swami Vivekananda’s ‘The secret of work’ was one of my favorite essays. His words were to become a great guide to my life!
A golden chain is as much a chain as an iron one. There is a thorn in my finger, and I use another to take the first one out; and when I have taken it out, I throw both of them aside; I have no necessity for keeping the second thorn, because both are thorns after all. So the bad tendencies are to be counteracted by the good ones, and the bad impressions on the mind should be removed by the fresh waves of good ones, until all that is evil almost disappears, or is subdued and held in control in a corner of the mind; but after that, the good tendencies have also to be conquered. Thus the “attached” becomes the “unattached”
As a teenager I wondered ‘If I give up even joy, won’t life be a big bore?’ I remember chiding to my dear friend God, ‘don’t you think its absurd to give up even pleasures! Shouldn’t they be teaching us to spread happiness in your name than to say throw away even the good thorn!’ – it was absolutely beyond my comprehension and my dear friend realized this, so He never argued His case – till much later.
All of us, during the course of growing up, face life’s battles – challenges that seem insurmountable. They vary from being emotional, private and personal in nature to societal, professional or lofty in disposition. In the depth of mortal agony is when most of us human beings find and devote time for God. Till then, He remains a not so near illusion, available for our convenience.
When such a challenge appeared in my life, these words of Swami Vivekananda were the anchor that salvaged my life. I remember sitting deep into the night, wondering if those words meant give up worldly life. I had always concentrated on the second half of the message – throw away even the good thorn. And so I had concluded that even though other avenues in life become available, man was to throw it away and retreat into a life of seclusion. Disappointed with the turns my life had taken, I was ready to renounce the world. Age old advice from people to live selflessly, like a lotus leaf in water bombarded my thoughts and without any perception of what they really meant I was willing to withdraw from the materialistic world vehemently proclaiming that all matter is maya or illusion.
The revelation came, “If God is Omniscient, how come He eludes matter alone?” In the words of Sat Prem – Try as we might, we simply cannot understand through what distortion or oversight “All is Brahman” became “All, except the world, is Brahman”. Why search for a God in an astral world when He is right here with us – not just within us but in front of us, behind us, beside us, below us and above us! Why search for peace in an unknown heaven when we can achieve that peace right here on earth! Why accept failures in life when success is just on the other side of failure! Life is like an onion – I shouldn’t be trying to peal off every skin to find out what is underneath!
After a great deal of pondering, the deeper meaning of Swami Vivekananda’s passage hit my mind. When I reread the first half ‘To remove the bad thorn you need a good thorn’ – it struck me that evolution has to be progressive and sequential, not random. If we wish to achieve higher life we have to first learn to live this life as designed by Him.
Whatever be the negative emotion that rises due to life’s battles – hatred, anger, jealousy, fear, self-pity or even distrust, to remove those ill-feelings that fill our being we have to learn to love again, to trust again – to directly employ the reverse of the negative emotion that is overpowering us.
Most people would say ‘Time is a great healer – given time you will be fine.’ True! Time would teach every human being on this earth to love and trust again for it is the nature of human beings to love and trust. But wearing an impassive mask of love to a few will not hide the hate and distrust that boils within us towards some others. It is not a question of so-called self-control, which is only a control over the appearances. Self-control is only the power to control ones actions over our feelings. For real power we need inner mastery, Will power – the force and ability to make not just our body but also our minds to do what we want. If we have to remove those thorns of hatred and fear, we have to learn to love and trust those very same people who instigate these emotions of hatred and fear in us! There is no question of looking for someone else more lovable or more trust worthy to cherish – for then we will only be adding new thorns to our flesh. Only by re-learning to love and trust the ones who have prompted these negative feelings, can we spiritually progress in life.
This is what the Bible says, “No man can see God but through the Son.” Seeing God is the aim and goal of all human life, but perceiving the son must come before we become one with the Father.
How does one go about forgiving were forgiveness is never asked; loving were only hatred is reciprocated; trusting when every cell screams BETRAYER? First we have to acknowledge and accept to ourselves that we are attempting to do this for our own sakes! There is no altruistic motive to get the noble prize or to display our tremendous self-control! This is a true exercise to build our will power! Second, we should have absolute faith in the power He has bestowed upon us to shape our lives the way we want. And third, when the time comes, we have to be willing to relinquish our ego!
Every time a negative emotion surfaces in the mind, let us go out of the way to perform its opposite positive action. If hatred towards someone surfaces, lets face him and wish him the very best in life with as much sincerity as we can muster. If anger fills us, let us deliberately use soft, mild and polite vocabulary to douse that anger. Attempting to bury these negative thoughts will always bury them alive – ready to surface any time without notice. We have to learn to kill these bad feelings first. Our power lies in being able to show the other cheek!
Sure it is going to begin as being an act and if our self-control increases kudos to us! But gradually, the inner battle will weaken and our actions will be born of strength. “Attitudes don’t care where they are shaped” – we are soon likely to make inner peace our culture.
Stanislaw Lem in The Seventh Sally writes ‘…When the imitator is perfect, so must be the imitation, and the semblance becomes the truth, the pretense a reality!’ If we begin to live our lives with the semblance of love and trust, it will soon become a reality. Don’t dream that the past has never occurred, but rather work towards validating your dreams for the future. If we quantitatively increase our positive actions, they will automatically begin to negate the negative past.
Have absolute faith in God, our creator. When in one session at Alma Mater, my mentor Rajan said ‘you will find answers to the questions Where? How? What? But never ask Why? For that only He Knows!’ I immediately asked myself mentally “have I asked why?’ I must confess that while in the middle of mental depression I had asked God a few times, ‘Why did you let it happen?’ for I believe in His omnipotence to make or break any rule of life. But never have I asked Him ‘Why did you do this to me?’ or even ‘Why did it happen to me?’ as if questioning His right! Absolute belief that you will get what you deserve in life not necessarily what you desire will give you strength to face every situation. Never give in to doubt or tears for as my guru, Paramahansa Yogananda says ‘Tears and sighs on the battlefield of life are the liquid cowardice of weak minds!’
Time indeed will prove to be the greatest teacher, for given time we will learn to replace our bad thorns with good thorns. These changes that we begin to carry out, when monitored and sustained will become our culture. Not just our self-control but our will power too will strengthen and become a powerful tool with which we can face life.
One fine day the voice of eternity might whisper – “Its time to throw away the good thorn.” If we had tried to throw away that bad thorn that was hurting us so badly, we would have been trying to escape from life. But now the urge to throw away this good thorn is a desire to progress spiritually in life. For a second our hearts may rise lets do it!
But questions will follow “What was the point of removing these negative feelings of hatred and jealousy and filling myself with love and trust, if I have to give up these positive emotions also? If I can give up so easily this love and trust that I have with great difficulty re-built, won’t it mean that the entire new born love and trust is an act and not really true!”
But His divine grace will lead us “You care for them, they will matter to you – don’t ever wish them ill. But the time has come to let them free from the bondage of that memory.” The good thorn you have to throw away is not the physical reality but its mental imagery! We don’t have to physically renounce these good habits but mentally amputate them from our ego.
What mental imagery? These thoughts that it is ‘I’ who has forgiven, the pride that ‘I’ have won, the feeling that ‘I’ have made a success of my life! The time will come for the ego ‘I’ to die. If we try to relinquish this ‘I’ before removing the bad thorns, we will be attempting to retreat from life with discouragement and a feeling of failure. Seeking ‘God’ would be out of sorrow – an insult to Him for we would be returning His most divine gift of life unused. Yet after ensuring the removal of all our bad thorns, when anger, hatred, self-pity, jealousy and all its little friends seem absolutely petty and small to us, the time would be ripe to relinquish this ‘I’ – the good thorn.
Now the time will come to seek ‘God’ with joy, wonder and awe, To seek Him with gratitude for this gift of life, To seek Him with the desire of living life as willed by Him. As Aurobindo says ‘Where is the devil if not in God? The only sin is to lose all heart!’ When the time comes to throw away both thorns, our divine friend will hold our hands leading us with a gentle smile! But till then let us hold on to the good thorn and remove as many bad thorns as possible so that we will be ready for His call!
Written by Gita Krishna Raj | Published in infinithoughts in March 2003