“Sue, I need to know what’s going on! What’s happening? Why are young people sick and dying all around me?” was a tearful telephone call to me at home from a distressed work colleague.
In the Intensive Care Unit where I work we see many deaths and tragedies of God’s Lila (Sanskrit for divine play), but to my colleague this was different. It was concerning a mutual friend who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer, and was altogether too close to home for her.
She wanted answers. Fortunately for me, being put ‘on the spot’, she already held a belief of reincarnation. I tried to expand on this by explaining as best I could, in brief, about the yogic teachings on the Law of Cause and Effect, or karma, of past lives and present. Karma is the sum total of actions and thoughts that cause an impartial reaction or return of like energy. This law is exact, impersonal and just is.
Reincarnation or rebirth continues until all karma is balanced or neutralized. If we view all that befalls us in this way, we can stay in equilibrium of the peaks and troughs of the illusion of physical duality, maya, and work quickly through our own karma.
Only one week later, I had to put my money where my mouth was. My faith in all I had explained to my colleague was truly tested, as God’s Lila decided to play even closer to home.
I received the news that my own sister, only 2 years older than I, had a particularly aggressive form of brain tumour! Her prognosis is extremely poor, especially now it is evident she received multiple complications from the attempt to surgically remove it.
When the news of this ‘bomb-shell’ dropped on my family, they could not understand why life, as it had abruptly revealed itself to them in this instance, was so unfair. Only two weeks ago she was walking round large as life. She only had ‘a bit of a headache!’
It is not easy to explain to someone who has just received life-shattering news that it is not for us to reason why this law is taking my friend so early on in this life. It is not for us to reason why my sister has been given a far from encouraging prognosis.
Who but God knows what karma my friend will expiate by leaving this life now? To what detriment if God’s will could possibly be negated and her life wrongly extended by the will of lesser knowing, but well intentioned, grieving family and friends? What valuable lessons would be missed if my sister was to have this trial removed from her against, not God’s will, directly, but against the exact law of karma?
So where does faith come in? Amidst the sorrow of this play, I can clearly see three lessons my dear sister has learned, literally overnight, through this illness, that were not apparently mastered before.
Firstly, she has become utterly selfless, thinking only of others. Secondly, she is in total acceptance of what is, and thirdly, she has not complained once about plenty she could have done, and would have done prior to her illness, and she will not allow others around her to complain either.
What priceless wisdom she has discovered through this trial she faces on the physical plane. It may have taken a thousand more incarnations to learn these lessons if she had not received her personal karma; exactly what she is due and, as a consequence, will start her next incarnation in a more advanced state of spiritual awareness than this one.
I stress the point that, being impartial, this law is always just, meting out exactly the correct reaction to action taken either in this life, or in a former life, regardless of the outer appearance of the unfairness of it all.
But despite the sadness and tragedy of this drama playing out, the teachings of Yoganandaji teach us to view life from a higher vantage point. Never were they so needed by me as at this time.
Amidst the suffering of my own family and friends, I can see blessings of hearts opening, of people putting others welfare before their own, of genuine empathy and desire to be of service to our dear friend and to my dear sister, and as described above, the personal evolution of souls. I view this last Christmas with my sister, spent at her hospital bedside and tending her needs, as a great blessing and privilege.
Yet because of my faith, I battled with myself for crying for her. How could I call myself a renunciate, living beyond the bonds of human attachment, if I was crying for my sister? I must be being selfish, crying for myself, yet that concept was abhorrent to me. I truly believe in my heart all I have stated here; therefore I shouldn’t feel the need to cry….. I was so troubled by this that I asked a dear friend and Kriyacharia (teacher of Kriya), at Ananda, this question.
Before he could reply, the question I put was evidently put to the Guru also, because only 2 hrs later I had the answer, from the Guru. I ‘just happened’ to be flicking through Whispers From Eternity, by Paramhansa Yogananda and came across prayer #192, Teach Me to See Thine Omnipresent Spirit Suffering in the Sick. The last few lines hit me:
“Teach me to sympathize with the cries, needs and suffering of others, that I may be as eager to free them from those burdens as I would be to free myself.
“Sorrowing, struggling, weeping, and smiling in empathy to the needs of all, may I at last find my soul’s real identity with all.”
Master had shown me in that moment that I weep in empathy for all. That it is alright for us to cry for others, even with the understanding that all is God’s will. That it is not that we are weak and selfish of our own needs of comfort, as I had accused myself, but that our hearts must open to the plight of others around us for us to enter into His Kingdom.
And finally, you know what truly sustains me through all of this? What sustains all firmly on this chosen path? That despite the self-perpetuating flux of tragedy and elation, there is one true constant. The immutable bliss of infinite power, God. All else is illusion, changeable and impermanent.
Even now, as I write these words and pause just for a second to focus my eyes and attention to the centre of the brow… there It is! Instantaneous, ever-new Bliss. Every time!
Without faith we are lost; abandoned in this world and at the mercy of fear born of ignorance. Without the tears of compassion we will never be truly free of our limiting selves.
Tears Before Dawn
When God calls time
On a dear and cherished lamb,
Know that He is smiling,
As He cradles in His hand
A soul of pure perfection,
A soul with no corruption from a life of dimmer view.
Know that all the karma
Meted out this life
Has all been for the purpose
Of everlasting life.
Not until is ready does God recall His own,
And when He does bestill life’s blood
He draws us nearer home.
Then all events preceding
Compile a Great Review;
To see, in life, what came of strife
And plan the next life due.
And so, we cry, those left behind,
Not having understanding
That our dear ones live,
Despite the flesh,
And return with an upper hand,
Until the day all recompense
Is paid and duly spent,
The day that God extends His hand
For good, O precious lambs.
Joy to you,