Conversations with God - 8
D – Pranams Swami.
S – Blessings. So we are back in my little room here. Last time you wanted to ask me a question, and I postponed it. You can ask now.
D – Swami, that day you said that devotion helps us to make right choices in life. Kindly elaborate on that.
S – If you have devotion and discipline in your life, you can distinguish between the real good and the apparent good. Both have their own challenges. The former may be good for you and the society, but not pleasant; while later may be pleasant, but neither good for you nor the society. The former is sreyas, and the later, preyas.
D - An example, Swami.
S – You need money to meet your needs. That is alright. You work hard, use your intelligence, foresight, and earn a decent and honest living. But in case you want to make some quick money without working for it, you will take to dishonest ways. You want more than you deserve, and once you taste the kill, you will go from bad to worse. You will go from comfort to luxury, luxury to extravagance, to support extravagance go to cheating, become more selfish, more afraid, lose your sleep, get BP, and a hundred other troubles – and all this for some more money which cannot buy a pinch of happiness. In search of more happiness, happiness itself becomes the first casualty. That is the price of pursuing preyas.
D – Swami, if I get more money than I need, I can use the extra money for doing seva. And in your omniscience you know if I want to make some extr money for good work, I need to employ some clever ways. What is wrong in that? I am going to donate all that extra money to your super hospital.
S - Aha, you want to tempt me also! Do you know how many cheques I am offered which I don’t accept, or never encash? I am not interested in your ill-gotten money. You lie, cheat, steal and with that money want to buy my grace! All that kind of money is covered with greed; it leaves a very bad taste in the work you do with it. It is a curse for both, the one who gives, and the one who receives. You know, intention is any day more valuable than the action. Besides, there is another side to it.
D – Another side? What is that Swami?
S - Wealth acquired in immoral ways will stick to you; you will not really like to part with it. All this theory of extra money going for good work is just a make believe fanciful story. Greed will feed greed, truthfulness will feed truthfulness. Don’t ever think God needs your wealth, God needs you, for you are a part of Him. I always wonder why people can’t see this simple equation!
D – Swami, tears come to my eyes hearing your words. How simple, yet how profound are your words. Why don’t you make people understand this?
S – No, I can’t force them, they have to freely choose their ways. If they lead a life of discipline and devotion this choice making becomes easier. Therefore I try to teach them this fundamental truth. Man’s entire life is a saga of making choices, conscious, and unconscious.
D –Unconscious choices, Swami? Means, we can choose without really being aware of choosing?
S – When a good friend of you suddenly gets angry with you and scolds you, what will you do?
D – Swami, you are just great! Only a week ago a room mate misunderstood me, and scolded me. As soon as he started shouting at me, I just walked away.
S – Why didn’t you shout back?
D –I used to fight a lot in my primary school. But when I heard you in a discourse in my 9th class that when we sense a situation in which we might lose our balance, just walk away from it, I started practising it, and after several failures succeeded.
S – When you faced an angry friend last week, did you first convince yourself that this was a bad situation, and therefore, in order not to get involved, you must walk away?
D – No Swami, I just walked away without thinking like that.
S – So to walk away immediately from the hotspot was your unconscious choice?
D – Kind of.
S – Earlier you had tried that and you said, after several failures you succeeded. That means, you had to make several conscious choices between standing there and losing your cool, or running away from the explosive situation. You tried to build into your mind the argument which you believed was the best alternative until it became your unconscious choice, isn’t that so?
D – It must be so. I never thought about it. I just wanted to follow your advice, and tried it sincerely.
S – Now you see how devotion and discipline can affect your choices hugely. You choices build of destroy your life.
D - Swami, I can’t thank you enough. I need you every moment of my life so that I get your help in making the right choices.
S – What else do you think I am doing? I have come here to clarify your image of life through my life and my words. But the conviction to make a choice shall be yours. I cannot transfer that to you. You have to take responsibility of yourself. Didn’t Krishna say that to Arjuna? After explaining to him the secrets of life, he told him, “Now take your decision, to fight, or not to fight. I am not going to fight your war.” And Arjuna of course made the right decision, “Lord, I am your disciple. I will do whatever you say”.
D - Image of life, Swami? What is that?
S - My boy, there is so much to living than what you think you see. Most people miss most of it due to lack of attention. They go through life without any focus, and dissipate their energies. If you develop the habit of attention, you can make living a success story. Have you ever participated in sports and games in school or college?
D - Yes Swami, for a couple of years at school I was training as a long distance runner.
S - Did you ever win any awards?
D - The first time I participated at school, in the 11th class, a 5 km marathon, I
came last! In the 12th class I trained harder, and came second.
S - Next year you were crowned first?
D –No Swami, after I joined the university, my priorities changed, and I thought there are more important goals to reach.
S - In one year you moved from a last to a second. How was it possible?
D - Second time I trained harder, and was quite serious about it.
S - What was in your mind when you participated in the 5 km race?
D - Oh Swami, I don’t understand even today what my trainer told me the day before the final run. He said, “My boy, when you kneel down on the track
waiting for the signal, until the moment you touch the tape, think only of touching the tape. Let the tape fill your mind completely. And it worked.
S - That is living for the Image of Life. When you were running on the track, your mind was entirely filled with the image of the tape, of arriving home. That singular obsession was necessary to bring out you hidden potential.
D - Oh yes, that should be so.
S - Similarly, in life too you need an image to pursue with single minded attention. When your mind is filled with this image, all your potential gears itself to taking you there. The higher, the nobler the image, the harder, the longer you must train, and greater, more lasting shall be your joy of arriving. Without this drive power you cannot achieve anything worthwhile. While you are on the race of life, with this image slowly and surely transforming you, you shall be called upon to make a series of choices, which you would call sacrifices, but in fact they are investments.
D - Investments Swami? How?
S - When you accept minor inconveniences to achieve a big dream, isn’t it like investing the money in your pocket to multiply it manifold later?
D - Ah, yes! Then Swami, is every choice an investment?
S - Yes, it is. It can be a wise investment, or foolish. It depends on the Image you have chosen for yourself.
D - Is the choice of this image important Swami? Can we change these images
as we go on in life? Can we have a good name, wealth, authority, for the image?
S - The freedom of choice is yours, and the joy, or disillusion too. If you choose wealth as your image, you may attain it, but midway through life you will feel more empty than ever, and you will need to substitute it. Then you will feel you don’t have enough drive left to make a new beginning. You may choose high position as the image until you realize that there is always someone higher to frustrate you, and you will be too exhausted to alter your course. Thus money, power, authority, position are trap images on whom you spill your powers, and gain nothing.
D – Then Swami, we should not aspire for money, position or authority?
S - I am not saying that. If they come in course of your work, accept them with dignity, and use them with understanding. But do not make them the sole aim of life. They are, each of them, so tantalizing that you shall never have any peace. You must have heard the story of the trap 99?
D – No Swami, I haven’t. Please tell me the story.
S – There was a certain wood cutter living on the edge of a village. He had a wife and a son. But he was very happy, without a care in the world. With the little he earned from his hard work he was able to provide his family with two coarse meals a day. One day the king of the land met him in the forest, and envied his happiness. As a consolation to the king, the chief minister told him that the woodcutter was happy because he had not fallen into the trap 99. The king wanted to know about this trap. The minister assured him he would show him the power of the trap in right time. Next day the chief minister put 99 gold coins in a pot, and half buried it near the cottage of the woodcutter. On his way back from forest the man stumbled over the pot, and took it inside as a gift of God. But when they found out that it contained 99 gold coins, one less than a perfect hundred, he was sad, and worked harder to make it a perfect hundred. He worked harder, they cut down on their food, forced the young boy to work, and in no time the happy singing family was a glum, sad, unhappy family. Earlier they used to share their meager fare with a visitor, but now they drove away all visitors. One day a man planted by the minister came to them asking for a night’s rest. The woodcutter family discovered that he was a very rich man. During the night the woodcutter and his wife attempted to kill him, and steal his money. But the man was alert, and saved himself, but the woodcutter found himself in jail. Of course a few days later he was released, and the minister explained to him about the trap 99. The man returned home wiser, but had permanently lost his most precious possession, happiness.
D - That is true Swami. I have seen this happening to many people. What then is the right choice Swami?
S - Man does not live by bread alone. He has a deeper, more persistent need for spiritual happiness. It is something that comes and grows, while other
kinds of happiness come and go, leaving behind furrows of pain and frustration. True happiness, I have repeated often, is union with God. So choose your image well.
D - Then making the right choice is half work done?
S - It is no doubt important, but more important is going with it all the way. The world is a great school, where you experience lessons. Do not hate it, nor love it; treat it as a ladder to climb up to your own truth.
D - Swami, the world a school? How?
S - We shall discuss this school in our next session.