When people are new to the spiritual path, they sometimes fall into the misguided belief that the way to be “spiritual” is to pretend that they’re above it all.
The problem is, it’s unrealistic to imagine that you’re above the world, if the truth is that you simply lack the courage to engage with it.
When we refuse to be involved with the world, it’s nearly always because we’re afraid. We fear to open our hearts, because we might be rejected. We fear to try to be successful or creative, because we might fail.
(Image: Enlightenment comes by relating with energy and enthusiasm to the world that God has given us, and that we have created – it is not only about blissful visions and floating above this world on clouds of grace.)
This isn’t the example of the masters. They have tremendous energy, and they are fully engaged with reality. Even if they live far removed from the world, meditating in a remote cave, their commitment to the divine life and to sharing God’s love with all is absolute.
One of the reasons our spiritual life stops working for us is that we gradually start to give it less energy, and then it doesn’t inspire us anymore. And because it doesn’t inspire us, we don’t do it as much. And – what do you know? – pretty soon, all of the energy and inspiration runs down.
We need to realize that there’s a force that is trying to pull us back into the world and away from the spiritual life, and that it takes a great deal of energy to prevail against that force.
When you begin to make progress on the path, there is a force that will try to lure you back. “You don’t have to do meditate…” “Don’t try to be too good…” “Be just like everybody else…” “Come back into the world and join us…”
That force will try to distract you through the television and the newspapers, and especially through your family and so-called “friends.”
And if you stick to the path, to the point where you begin to grow strong, Satan will really take an interest in you.
There was a famous monk in Egypt called St. Anthony of the Desert, who spent many years meditating in a cave, far away from civilization. And as his devotion grew deeper, Satan made every effort to discourage him, by appearing in the form of terrible monsters and threatening to shake down the cave if he didn’t stop praying and meditating. But Anthony held strong. No matter how much the Devil threatened him, he said, “I will not give up. This is my only reality.”
Our tests rarely come in the form of the Devil threatening to smash the roof down on our head. We play out our lives in the everyday world, and our tests are simpler. Will we get out of bed and meditate? Will we exercise and eat properly? Will we be kind to the people God sends us? Will we have the courage to open our hearts to others?
Swami Kriyananda wrote a song called “Walk Like a Man.”
The words of the first verse say:
Walk like a man, even though you walk alone.
Why court approval, once the road is known?
Let come who will, but if they all turn home,
The goal still awaits you: Go on alone!
It’s one of our favorite songs at Ananda, because what holds our communities together is each person’s commitment to follow the inner star of the Divine.
We must develop the power to go on alone, to fear not the loving. To fear not to love the work we must do. To fear not to love our family, and to gradually expand that love to all.
Don’t think that you’re being God-centered, if you’re only closing yourself off from others. You must find God through the life that God has given you.
We have to learn to love God in good and ill fortune, in health and disease, through life and death.
Whenever you start to think, “My life isn’t going right,” it’s good to remember that God’s only desire is to give you perfect love and freedom and joy. But He can’t break His laws. He can’t make the spiritual path work for us unless we do our part.
We cannot put our hands in a fire and not be burned. We cannot give only a little energy and expect great graces to come to us. We must face the karma we’ve created, and have the courage to go forward, knowing that if we move toward the light, the light will move toward us.
I often joke about the “divine matching fund.” You put in a pice and God puts in a thousand rupees. Meaning that God’s grace is out of all proportion to the amount we give.
Yogananda said, “God-realization is twenty-five percent the effort of the devotee, twenty-five percent the effort of the guru on his behalf, and fifty percent the grace of God.”
The point is that our twenty-five percent must be one-hundred percent of our effort. And then you don’t have to worry about the details.
Someone said to Swami Kriyananda, “I’ve prayed and prayed, and I don’t know what God wants me to do.”
Swamiji said, “It doesn’t really matter which choice you make. God is pleased that you’ve thought to try to attune yourself to Him. And all you have to do is sincerely try.”
All you have to do is even just want to be in tune with God , and He will help you. It doesn’t make any difference how you feel from one day to the next, just keep going.
If you plant a seed in the ground, you can’t see if it is growing. You cannot know when it will break the soil and reach up to the sun. Similarly, when you plant the seed of determination for God, only God knows when He will come. But, really, there is no choice except to move in the direction of the perfect happiness we are seeking.
Go to those places that inspire you. Do those things that keep your energy flowing with enthusiasm for God and the spiritual life. And don’t quit. That’s how you ride the spiritual life. No matter how low you are, you can stand up and start walking. Keep walking toward the light, and God will greet you and bless you, and give you everything your heart desires.