You never know when the universe is going to give you an important piece of the puzzle. This happened one time when Devi and I were with Swami Kriyananda in, of all places, a shopping mall in Sacramento, California. He had gotten a letter from someone who was discouraged after comparing his own accomplishments to those of Swamiji’s. (Aside: Comparing ourselves to great souls is fruitless and should come with a warning label: “Do not try this at home.”)
Swamiji’s response was very instructive. He said, “People shouldn’t be discouraged. They need to understand that I’ve just been at it a little longer. Everyone will find God in the end.”
Many people deal not only with feelings of inadequacy, but also with the feeling that they are losing the battle against life’s pressures to perform, and the accompanying stress. Growth requires a struggle—this is the lesson of the Bhagavad Gita—but we don’t need to compound external pressures with internal resistance. When we accept our challenges without feeling that they are unfair, most of our resistance vanishes. That resistance is born of self-absorption. As we overcome it, life becomes happier and, finally, joyful. One of the best ways to do so is to expand our sense of self by serving others. There is a lovely passage that has been attributed to Rabindranath Tagore: “I slept and dreamt that life was joy. I awoke and saw that life was service. I acted and behold, service was joy.”
There is also a deeper, more spiritual layer. Ultimately, we don’t do anything. God does it all. He is the dreamer of the whole universal drama. Once we truly grasp this truth, beyond mere affirmation, all the angst and pressures of the human condition burst like a soap bubble. One night I dreamt that I was pushing a bus up a long hill. No matter how hard I struggled, I couldn’t get it to move more than a foot or two. When I awoke in the morning, I saw all that work to have been only a dream. So long as we see ourselves as the doer, however, the spiritual path seems like pushing that bus.
A friend sent this quote from Anandamayee Ma: “You think that you are engaging in sadhana, but actually it is He who does everything, without Him nothing can be done. And if you imagine that you receive according to what you do, this is not correct either, for God is not a merchant; with Him there is no bargaining.”
This is deeply comforting and reassuring. We don’t need to accomplish anything. We just need to awaken from the dream of ego. That is both our challenge and our goal. All else is God’s lila.