Part III – Chapter15
Taking up the challenge.
People without a spiritual life are comparable to walking dead; they are like busy empty shells. They have a body and mind, for which they work in many ways; but it is as if they have no soul, since they devote almost no energy to it. It is only when one lives a spiritual life, a life filled with more and more spiritual concerns, that one can be truly said to be alive. Try it, and you will understand.
Once one has desired and resolved to attain one’s fullest potential realization, one should go about doing whatever is necessary or useful to that end, and not dither or indulge in conflicting or useless pursuits. One should strive with determination, intelligence and discipline.
The seeker has to take personal responsibility for his or her enlightenment and liberation. Do be open to and indeed look for spiritual guidance, but fundamentally be your own “guru” (wise teacher).
It is important to realize that life is short and the work to be done is long. When one is young, one generally has the impression that there is plenty of time left to one to do what has to be done, and one thinks one has time to indulge a little (or a lot). As one passes middle age, and looks back, one realizes how quickly time flies and how much time one wasted for nothing worth anything. And as one reaches an older age, one is very sorry one did not make the required effort when one was younger and much stronger.
And of course, none of us knows how quickly he or she will die. It could be today, tomorrow, this week, this month, this year, within a few years… no one knows. We are all like a flower: first a bud, then a fresh, tender unfolding of beauty, then we wither away, never to be seen again.
A good image of the spiritualizing process is that of a baby in the womb. The womb symbolizes ‘this world’ (i.e. the material world), and outside the womb is ‘the next world’ (i.e. the spiritual world). Just as a baby in the womb gradually forms and grows, in preparation for its exit into a more independent existence, so does our spiritual work prepare us for ‘death’ from this world and ‘birth’ in the next one. Spirituality facilitates our transition.
With regard to the quality of volitional response required, a general recommendation I would make is: rather use “smooth will” than “rough will”. Our will is rough when we try to use “force” to effect change, i.e. when we act in a relatively unconscious manner, without accurate aim, wasting energy. Smooth will is the opposite approach – it is “thoughtful”, quiet strength, masterfully applied how, where and when appropriate, for as long as necessary.
We can illustrate the difference with reference to fighting. The less experienced fighter throws punches wildly, blindly, hoping one will perchance land successfully. The winning fighter calmly waits for an actual opening, and aims his blows precisely; he sticks to his opponent and shoves him off with just the required amount of power, following up on his advance till the job is fully done.
I do not propose to write a guidebook for spiritual seekers. I do not consider myself sufficiently qualified. I would just be repeating what many other people have said or written in all the traditions. Moreover, there is so much to say, so many details to mention, that the task is in truth infinite.
Nevertheless, I would like to make some remarks relevant to the current cultural situation. Present-day society, under the influence of educators, media and politicians who pander to the lowest impulses of people, has swerved very visibly (in the space of my own lifetime) to the side of utter shallowness and moronic hedonism. I would like to here respond to some aspects of this onslaught, and offer readers some advice.
Whoever is sincerely interested in meditation, has to adopt a lifestyle favorable to it. This may not be found easy at first. There are many bad habits to break, but with sustained intelligent effort, it is quite feasible.
In fact, little effort is necessary other than continued, regular meditation practice – more and more daily. Because, as one advances in meditation, one’s behavior tends to naturally align itself with the level of consciousness it produces. Things that seemed valuable before simply cease to impress us so much, and they fall by the wayside by themselves.
Still, some personal determination is needed – or one risks losing the treasure of meditation. One has to have character to move forward.
A posture Buddhists call “boddhicitta”.