There is a popular cartoon that appears in many newspapers in America. It is about two charming but very stupid characters named Frank and Ernest.
Occasionally the cartoonist does a wonderful job of illuminating life’s deep questions.
In one cartoon, Frank asks God for the secret of happiness.
Finally, God tells Frank that the key is to live simply and be selfless, humble, generous, and self-controlled.
Frank contemplates this answer. Then he says: “Is there anyone else up there I can talk to?”
The cartoon is funny because it is true.
The path to freedom and oneness with divine bliss is long. When we stumble on the path, it isn’t so much because we lose our faith, so much as we lose our patience.
(Photo: All things, including flowers, are traveling toward God’s bliss, and freedom from suffering. Dawn on the Camas Prairie, US. Source: Wikimedia Commons)
We want it all to be over. We want happiness to be ours without making the effort to correct our errors.
A friend faced a difficult test. Her husband was stricken with an incurable disease that eventually took his life. At first she comforted herself by denying that it was happening. But after several years his condition made that game impossible.
On a particularly unhappy day, she happened to see Swami Kriyananda, and she had the sudden thought that perhaps he could give her some advice for how to deal with the terrible situation. Or perhaps he would pray for her – she didn’t care how the help came, so long as Swamiji or God would do something to change what was happening.
Swamiji listened compassionately, and then he said, “You will get stronger.”
At first, she didn’t understand. The whole point was that she didn’t have the strength to face her situation!
Then she realized that Swamiji had given her the perfect advice that she could follow.
“I can do that,” she thought. “I can put one foot in front of the other, and I can grow stronger.”
Eventually her husband died. But with perseverance and growing faith in God, she discovered that peace awaits us all behind the experiences of this world, in our hearts.
For years, I have noticed that when the spiritual teacher gives a talk and then invites questions from the audience, someone will always play the role of “Frank.”
After deep instruction in the spiritual teachings, the person destined to play “Frank” on the day will ask a cleverly disguised question that essentially translates as, “Isn’t there someone else I can talk to?”
In other words, “Do I really have to cooperate with God’s plan, or can I do it my way?”
In fact, we don’t have to cooperate with God at all. His “plan” is that he gives us complete freedom to reject Him for as long as we like. The only problem is that when we live for the ego, we get the ego’s reward, and it may feel good for a while, but in the end it only causes suffering.
Many years ago, after giving a deep and inspiring talk, Swami Kriyananda gazed out at the group of us gathered in his living room. His body was in front of us, but his consciousness embraced infinity.
In a voice filled with divine sympathy, he said, “You are going to get it right sooner or later. Why waste millions of years?”
Put one foot in front of the other. As you ascend toward God’s light, you will find that each step brings increasing satisfaction and joy. In that way, it is not really such a long and difficult path at all.