I took initiation as a disciple of Paramhansa Yogananda a few months ago. It has really boosted my meditation practice. Before, I struggled to find time. Now there is always time to meditate. Everything was going fine until this week, when two big karmic bombs went off. I fear that my life may change forever. The teachings say that I should pray and accept it as God’s will. But I am sad, angry, and feel that I am being punished – I don’t even know for what. Why would God do this to me?
The ego sees life in terms of pleasure and ease. A powerful ego can take pleasure in things that a weaker person could not bear – physical challenges, the adventure of becoming wealthy, or expressing the courage to be a soldier.
However limited, what the ego defines as pleasure and ease it calls good. And when life forces us outside of these self-definitions, as it always will, the ego calls it “bad.”
We grieve over the untimely death of a loved one, the betrayal of people we trusted, advancing age, failing health – the list of things that can take us out of our “comfort zone” is endless!
From a spiritual perspective, the ego’s idea of good and bad is irrelevant. What matters for our progress toward complete happiness and freedom from suffering is not what happens to us, but what we become through our experiences.
Will we expand our awareness to embrace a greater reality? Or will we contract in hopes of avoiding suffering?
Think how a mother responds when her child is afraid to go to her first day in school. The mother is sympathetic, but she is unrelenting. She knows there is no future for her child in hiding at home. The child must find the courage to expand into a greater reality. The mother is firm, but she is supportive, lovingly giving the child the confidence she needs to expand her awareness and find a new level of happiness. It is the same with us and our Divine Mother.
We often define God’s love for us in terms of the nice things He gives us. We submit our prayers, meditations, and donations, and in return we expect to have a good job and a nice home, and to find a parking place when we need it.
This kind of “faith” is really nothing more than what a satisfied customer would feel upon finding the goods she desires in a store.
Being a devotee is not a deal we make with God. His love for us transcends our mere pleasure and ease. What he wants for us, as my Guru Paramhansa Yogananda dramatically put it, is that we “learn to stand unshaken amidst the crash of breaking worlds.”
That is what we ultimately want for ourselves. Nothing less will satisfy us, even though we may cringe, at first, when we see the path we must follow.
So – no, you are not being punished. But yes, you are being challenged to embrace a reality greater than the one you were living in. You had your life neatly arranged, and now that life of ease has been shattered, probably forever.
Is that “bad,” or “good”?
In fact, it is neither. It is merely an opportunity that life has presented you to expand your consciousness. Every external condition is temporary. Sooner or later, by the friction of time or by exploding karmic bombs, our life changes into something else. Only consciousness is eternal. What you are in your consciousness will remain with you, no matter what conditions surround you. That is why God wants us to cultivate the expanded consciousness that brings happiness and freedom.
God is offering you an opportunity to push beyond your self-definitions. The fact that you have responded with anger shows that you have much to learn. But rather than be dismayed by your shortcomings – be delighted!
The bliss that you long for will not be yours until you can conquer your limitations. Now that you are aware of them, you can get to work. Is that “bad” or “good”? You see, it depends on your point of view. Will you long for pleasure and ease? Or will you aspire to a bliss that lasts through all eternity?
Far from causing difficulties, becoming the disciple of a great master is our safe haven. It gives us a way to move inward and escape into a realm of spirit where our true self is untouched by life’s trials.
What is the alternative? If you abandon God, where can you go?
I have noticed that when people face trials such as you describe, they either use the event to cling more tightly to God or as an excuse to run away. Always it comes down to knowing where we can find true comfort. Will you keep up your routine of spiritual practices? Will you come to the Temple? Will you participate in service and seek inspiration together with other seekers?
Or will you allow false reasoning to persuade you that staying away from spiritual things will lift the darkness? The confused heart says, “Oh! I’m too sad to go to the Temple this morning.” Or, more insidiously, “I don’t want to bring others down by my suffering.”
Don’t give in to these thoughts. You must outwit them with determination and long-range thinking. We cannot drive out darkness by beating at it with a stick, whether the “stick” is anger at God, fury with other people, self-recrimination, loss of faith, or tears. None of it will work. We can only drive out darkness by the presence of light. Seek the light in every possible way, and you will be astonished to find yourself standing, if not unshaken, at least solidly on the two pillars of faith and love for God.
That power nothing can take from you. So is meditation which achieves that end “good” or “bad”?
You see, God loves you, not because He gives you pleasure and ease, but because in the end He gives you Himself – Infinite freedom, unconditional love, perfect bliss.