I don’t know how many times people have come to me commiserating over thwarted good intentions of meditation or some other aspect of their own spiritual practice, only to have fallen short in their discipline in some way.
When I offer support I have been met on more than one occasion with, “Oh but it’s alright for you. You’re disciplined. You’ve got this… you can do that”!
I remember reading of Yogananda speaking with one of his devotees who, in a similar circumstance said to him, “Oh, but it’s alright for you, Sir, you’re a Master”.
Yogananda’s stern retort bellowed, “And what do you think MADE me a master?”
How do these people think I became disciplined? Sheer will, hard work, and determination, until it is not perceived as hard work any more.
Making statements like the examples above are actually just a ‘cop out’. Anyone making such a claim is really denying responsibility for their own actions, or inaction, justifying to their reason/ego that they are somehow not to blame for the inadequacy.
“It’s not my fault I’m not as good as you… you’re better equipped than I…I’ll get there…eventually… I’ll try harder…I will, but…”
All humans are equally equipped with the same fundamental: divinity. There is no favouritism in Creation. No human has an advantage over another. We just think they have. Our true natures are disciplined and perfectly attuned to the Divine already. It is only maya’s (creation) cunning veil of illusion that leads us to believe our bad, undisciplined habits are inherent in our nature. They are not, but we have nurtured these habits for such an inconceivably long time that they are deeply embedded in our subconscious.
We have to UNLEARN all that we think we are and remember our true nature. If we feel inadequate before one who is perceived as an advanced devotee just know that we too have exactly the same potential as they. An important note here is that only a true master would know how advanced a particular devotee is anyway. Outward appearances of great discipline do not necessarily mirror spiritual advancement.
I view the disciplines of Yoga as an essential investment in the bank of Self realization and actually look forward to and carry out my practice in joy consciousness of self-offering. It is then not perceived as a chore but appreciated as a delightful privilege, of having been given the grace of this sacred knowledge of the ancient practice of Yoga in this life.
There is no way of putting this but bluntly. Spiritual advancement is dependent on 3 things, neutralization of karma (past and present), divine grace and OUR OWN EFFORT. Master taught that the disciple has to put in 25% of the effort required to attain liberation in this life. Guru will provide a further 25% and the remaining 50% will be given as God’s grace, via the guru. But the 25% that must come from each one of us must be 110% of what we think we are capable of. We must always go that bit more and push our self-fabricated boundaries. Each week we can aspire to sit that bit longer and go that bit deeper into our practice. We won’t get anywhere by being passive; for waiting for Realization to come to us. God helps him who helps himself!
We owe it to ourselves to take ownership of the fact that it is our own effort that is lacking, not the grace that is assuredly ours if sincere and consistent in our endeavours. Our technique may not be as good as we would like, but don’t think that qualifies us to lay blame elsewhere and give up. If we are truly sincere then we must carry on as best we can, all the while praying for the guidance and strength to improve. If we are falling short in some way and are looking for an excuse to divert away from our goal we must look to ourselves and answer these two questions honestly, “Just how badly do I want Realization?” And, “How much am I willing to change in pursuit of that goal?”
If we offer our practice up to God, by acknowledging Him as the Doer in all things, we can let go of any expectations of a desired outcome, leaving it to Him to sort out. What a huge burden taken immediately from our shoulders, but we must never become complacent or smug in our expectations of faith. We need to regularly turn up, offer ourselves in habitual devotional practice, and wait as children who have complete and utter trust they will receive what they need from a loving parent. The child doesn’t know what it needs, but it knows the parent does.
Nayaswami Kriyananda often quotes the invaluable and beautiful words from a passage of Sir Edwin Arnold’s translation of ‘The Song Celestial’. “But if, in this, thy faint heart fails, bring Me thy failure!” As long as our perceived failures are given to Him, then we transmute our perceived failure into ‘not yet succeeded’.
We can be ever heartened knowing that by sincere and uninterrupted efforts, we WILL be noticed by the Guru and help WILL be forthcoming, however badly we think our practice. Nayaswami Kriyananda speaks of a disciple who, try as he might, was not practicing Kriya correctly. Swamiji, not feeling comfortable in telling the disciple directly of his shortcomings, took it to Master who smiled. He knew of the problem and of the unerring devotion of the disciple in question and told Swamiji that he was doing the kriyas for him…
O Lord, my heart’s love I will give unto Thee,
My ardent desire is my soul to be free.
I will move mountains, and rivers will ford,
For my soul to unite in One Gracious Accord.
But I’ll just wait a bit, for time is aplenty,
It’s alright for others, but I’m not quite ready.
“All in good time, Thou wilt come when Thou’st meant”,
I won’t put myself out…
Though perhaps during Lent.
To Thee I do chatter, my thought Thou’st behold,
So no need to work on this burdensome load,
Smug in the knowledge that some day I’ll find
That place I much read of, that Kingdom sublime.
Lord I’ll try harder, but I’m sure I’ll be given
All that required to succeed in my mission.
I won’t have to do much, sure faith is enough
To carry me through when the going gets tough.
But I promise I’ll sit more than minimum dues,
I will eat healthier food and this weight I will lose,
I will make it my business not to pry ‘to affairs
That do not concern me; I’ll keep to my prayers.
I will look unto heaven, the moon and the stars
And longingly wish for a place in Thine arms.
I’ll no longer be passive; I will act for the Good,
I will strive so much harder than I thought that I should.
I’ll no longer expect Thy gifts, undeserved,
And wonder why progress decidedly turbid.
My world will transform with the happiness I’ll get,
When I go that bit further…
I will… but not yet!
Joy to you