Conversations with God - 9
Devotee - Swami, I am back at your Lotus Feet for learning more lessons. I can understand learning from you, but learning from the world – well, how could the world be a school? Why then all these schools and universities?
Swami - What do you learn at school?
D - Physics, Chemistry, Maths, Economics, History, Languages etc.
S - And at the university?
D - Higher level of all these subjects.
S - What do you gain from all these years of rigorous studies?
D - Knowledge, for sure, but more importantly, a living.
S - So schools and colleges train you for a living?
D - Yes Swami.
S - After you leave the university, and get a job, you stop learning?
D - No Swami, if we do not learn while in job, it would be difficult to keep it. Besides, there are other things to learn too.
S - For instance?
D - Swami, like, how to behave with colleagues, how to behave with the boss, how not to be cheated by others, control anger, and scores of things.
S - At which school?
D – Err….Ah, now I understand how the world is a bigger school!
S - Yes. At this school, which never stops teaching, you learn the art of living. Your schools and colleges should prepare you for this bigger school where the real teaching takes place. In your schools and colleges you pick up some skills for earning a living, but no lessons for living a life. Therefore after getting a gold medal in the university you can fail in this school.
D - Who teaches in this school, Swami?
S - God. But He does not come to the class with chalk and duster to work out
the lessons. He may send you the lesson in a friend’s birthday card, in a disease or a cure, in some dear one’s betrayal, in a failure, in a patch of cloud, in a song, in a tear or a smile, from a bird or a beast, in fact the Upanishad talks of one Upamanyu who learnt great lessons from a crane and a bull, and one Abadhuta learnt great lessons from the 24 aspects of Nature – there are a million ways God may want to teach you how to live a God-ward life for which the only condition is your readiness.
D - Readiness to learn, swami?
S - When something happens to you, in fact things are happening to you all the time, you should be able to see the hand of God in it. Experience is not what happens to you, they are mere incidents, but whatever you do with them is experience. Life is an opportunity to learn, and keeps upgrading the lessons. Most people live a horizontal life, without awareness of domains they need to explore. It is not living a life; it is flowing willy-nilly on the stream of time like a hapless leaf being carried away in a strong current. Only when you live to learn, live on a vertical line, you learn to live.
D - Please stop Swami, this is a huge bouncer! What is live to learn and learn to live?
S - My son, if you use living this life as means to an end, not an end in itself, it is living to learn. When you realise that there is more to life than is seen, and each day is an opportunity to encounter this unseen life, it is learning to live. They are complementary to each other. The most important thing in life is this awareness. I was telling you about attention last time. Attention and Awareness are twin brothers. Therefore I always say Awareness is Life. You are here on earth to complete your incomplete homework, the tasks which remain unaccomplished from a previous lifetime, from a previous school, and tasks of this life, the current school. If you do not carry out this dual homework, you will have to return with the same workload, and waste another lifetime.
D - Swami, how to complete the homework, and how to learn lessons properly?
S - Besides awareness, you must have shraddha (श्रद्धा), or creative interest. Willing eagerness to learn is shraddha. Nothing good or great can be achieved without it. It is like fire, forever burning in your heart, forever driving you to learn more and yet more. Shraddha drives you to give your best, and make the best investment of your time. But it works best when aided by Vichara, or discrimination. Therefore Krishna told Arjuna श्रद्धाबान् लभते ज्ञानम्, the one with creative interest alone has access to wisdom.
D – Vichara? What is this new thing Swami? What if we don’t use it, and what if we do?
S - It helps to decide what you would learn. Suppose you want to be a physician. Then at a certain stage in school you have to choose a certain combination of subjects for study. It is same with any profession. You have to make an early choice. If you would be a physician, then you don’t take mathematics at 11th class, and if you would be a computer scientist, you don’t take biology at 11th class. In life too you have to make some conscious choices. There are a million ways you can live your life, but no one wants to learn all the million ways even though they are all exciting. Once you have defined your goal by the help of vichara, stick to the roadmap with shraddha.
D - Swami, can you elaborate it?
S – Suppose you have decided to spend a quiet evening in reading a book, or in writing an article, or doing namasmarana. Suddenly a couple of friends arrive for chatting, or someone invites you to go out for dinner. What will you do? You may tell yourself, “Look, you can read the book another day, write the article tomorrow, but should not disappoint your friends”, or “When I decided upon giving myself a quiet hour, I did not know what my friends were planning. Therefore I need not oblige them”. Here vichara is in operation. Vichara helps your choice, and shraddha helps to carry out your choice. Remember, one step to accept the wrong decision weakens the next decision to do the right, and one step to reject the wrong decision strengthens the next decision to be on the right.
D - Swami, it is not always possible to stick to the right decision. There are so many obligations and attractions we live with that sometimes we cannot do what we would like to do. How to face this challenge?
S - Yes I know. The other day some of you were watching a cricket match in hostel, and came for darshan late. In the meantime, I had called a few of your class to do some work in my room, and you missed the learning chance.
D - Yes swami, that was the hardest hit, and I learned the lesson of my life.
S - If you follow your Guru with shraddha, he can convert a failure into a success. You were tempted by cricket that day, and missed an opportunity; but since you had shraddha for me, when next time a more interesting match was going on you were able to resist the temptation and come for darshan in time. And to reward your strength for right choice, I spoke with you.
D - Yes Swami, I am so much grateful to you for that.
S - You must however remember that every learning situation is also a test.
D – How Swami?
S - I will give you a very simple example. Suppose you are driving to your office. You found a young man lying on the road in a pool of blood. Another car had hit him and run away. What are you going to do? Run away to your work, or take the wounded man to hospital and save him? Compassion tells you, save him. Your mind tells you, you must reach office in time, otherwise your boss will get mad at you. This is a test for you and a learning situation too.
D - Yes Swami, that is a big test. What should one do?
S – It depends on which class you are in, and the strength of your vichara. Every minute you come across a situation, it is both a test and a learning opportunity.
D - Swami, if every minute I am on tiptoe, the tension will kill me! The three
hours test in college drives me to the edge of my patience! Now you are
asking me to push it to 24 hours!
S –You feel like that because you are forcing yourself to learn, you don’t have shraddha to learn. You can play cricket for a whole day without getting bored?
D – Yes Swami.
S – And discuss the pros and cons of the game for a week?
D – But that is cricket Swami, much more interesting than an exam hall.
D – In other words, you have shraddha for cricket, and no shraddha for the subjects you study. This is where vichara takes a lead. You tell yourself, ‘Cricket is no doubt interesting, but the many games I am going to play in my life are no less important. So I must learn my lessons with equal zest, if not more’. I am very much pleased even if you take a single step towards me with shraddha, for that makes you stronger for the next step. All your learning lessons are connected, and well planned by God. If you miss one lesson, you do not get the best of subsequent lessons. You have grading system in your university?
D - Yes Swami.
S – Which means marks you get in each class test add up to final grading point?
D - That is so Swami.
S - Then if you fail in one test your final grading suffers?
D - Very much Swami.
S - That is exactly what happens in life. Your missing a right lesson, or learning a wrong lesson affects your stay in the school of life.
D - But Swami, Our Guru can remedy that?
S - Yes, he can, provided you have shraddha. Therefore strengthen your vichara, and increase your shraddha. This much today. More next time.
D - Thank You Swami.
- To continue