I have a confession to make. There are times when I can become stubborn. I expect this can be a little challenging for my friends, but at times it has produced some interesting results.
Here’s an example. While in college my friends and I would occasionally sign up as subjects for psychology experiments. These were harmless enough, and we got paid for our time. We actually came to enjoy them, because the psychologists never told us what they were really studying, so we had to guess the true focus of their research.
During one such experiment, the psychologist brought me into a room which was empty except for a chair placed in the middle. After I got settled on it, she shut the door, turned off the lights, and left me sitting alone in complete darkness. Then a disembodied voice from another room said, “The object of our experiment is to see if the eyes can track movement of a point of light in complete darkness.”
A point of light suddenly appeared before me. I focused on it, trying to sense any movement. To help orient my perception, I extended my arm with my thumb pointed upward and placed it next to the tiny point. Although I couldn’t see my thumb, I could sense its relation to the light. In this way I could track any movement by the distance of the light from my thumb.
Then the voice said, “Now, tell us if the light is moving to the right or left.” By keeping my arm steady, I could tell the light had remained stationary. “It’s not moving either way,” I said. The voice replied, “It is moving. Tell us in which direction.”
“Sorry,” I said, “it’s not moving.” This exchange went on several more times. Finally, with a deep sigh, the researcher said, “Okay, now tell us in which diagonal direction the light is moving.”
Still keeping my arm and thumb fixed in a position next to the light, I could tell there wasn’t any movement, and I wasn’t about to be deterred. There I was, alone in a totally dark room, but still, after each of several attempts to convince me otherwise, I replied “Sorry, but it’s not moving.”
At this point the disembodied voice became totally silent. I waited for a while and finally said, “I don’t care if you never let me out of this room: The light has not moved.” After another period of silence, the lights in the room came on, a door opened, and a very frustrated-looking psychologist entered.
Somewhat embarrassed, she confessed, “You were right. The light wasn’t moving, but the point of the experiment was to see if we could influence you to say it was. Every other person said that they saw movement, so we’re throwing out your data!” (So much for objective science!)
This experience stuck with me for a long time, and I drew an important lesson from it. I had no outer point of reference with which to judge, but I could sense my own relationship to the light, which told me it was steady.
There are times in the spiritual journey when we grow discouraged, or when doubts assail us. The path before us can become obscure: We may feel lost, with no light to guide us. Then the questions come: “Am I good enough to follow a path to God? Will these teachings really work for me?”
At such times, try to feel your inner relation with divine light. Though you may not be able to see it, try to sense its steady, unmoving presence within you. Those of materialistic consciousness may try to convince you that the light is no longer there where you know you saw it, or simply not there at all, but determinedly cling to its ever-present reality.
There’s a beautiful story that Swami Kriyananda told us about Rajarshi Janakananda, Paramhansa Yogananda’s most advanced disciple. Rajarshi was just at the point of attaining nirbikalpa samadhi, when suddenly everything went dark inwardly. For years during meditation he’d been seeing great light, but in an instant it all vanished.
There was a strong temptation to doubt everything he’d experienced, but he kept trying. After days of darkness, suddenly Rajarshi saw a little point of light, and gradually it came closer and closer. The light expanded until it became Master, then in turn Sri Yukteswar, Lahiri Mahasaya, and Babaji; then finally, Rajarshi merged into the Infinite.
Swamiji concluded this story by saying that before we can merge into God, each one of us will have to face a similar, final test of piercing through the darkness. And so even now, if the light seems to disappear, cling with determination and even doggedness to the truth that it is unmoving and unchanging. That light is the source of all that is. It is our truest reality, and we must eventually claim it as our own.
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