Friday, February 23, 2018

                                Conversations with God - 10
Devotee - Swami, today You are going to give us some practical hints about how to develop shraddha and vichara, as promised by You. This is a wonderful experience, being instructed by the Divine Himself. Till today I had vague ideas about spiritual life, and generally believed that spirituality cannot be a serious pursuit for the modern man. I used to think, be a man of the world, and love God; that should be enough.
Swami - Could be nearly enough if you add a clause: be a man of the world, but do not belong to it.
D - How is that Swami? If we live in this world, we must belong to it, for we are a part of it. We have work to do, duties to perform, and our success or failure is the cause of our happiness or misery. We experience in the world disease and death, poverty and pain, love and hate, desertation of near and dear ones, calamities inflicted on us by fellow humans and nature, the
       list is endless. Sometimes we wish death is better than going through the endless vagaries of life! And now you say we do not belong to the world! Is it more wishful than real?
S - Yes, and No. Imagine two blind men. Both of them lost their eyes in the same accident. One of them lived the rest of his life an angry and hungry man, complaining to heaven and earth of God’s indiscretion. The other refused to bend his knees to his handicap, learnt a trade, and lived to become a prosperous, respectable citizen. The first one belonged to the world, the second to himself. The world with its series of work-worry-woe failed to subdue his spirit.
D -That is wonderful Swami, a very inspiring story. But Swami, though the second person is not subdued by his handicap, he experiences all the worries, uncertainties, and pains of living in the world. In that sense he belongs to it.
S -  He lives in the world, but is not mastered by it. He can still smile, can keep his wits around himself, and live without complaints. He knows what he can achieve, and cannot, and does not lose his sleep over what he cannot. He knows what is inevitable, and what he can change. He does not hold either God or the world responsible for his woes, fixes his attention on rising above them all. But in one sense he belongs to the world.
D -  What is that Swami?
S -  He is still trapped by his ambition, his desires, and the fear of failure. All his energies are spent on grappling with that one adversary, blindness, directed towards rising above his physical handicap. But do you think he experiences the joy of fulfillment?
D - I am not sure swami. But he has achieved something phenomenal, and that should make him happy.
S - How long? After reaching his goal of wealth and respect, he comes at par with people with eyes, in a way, better than many. Then what more remains for him to achieve? Will it not be an emptiness for him after that? Will he not suddenly be overtaken by his handicap, and remember what he could not achieve? Will it not undo the hard work of a lifetime?  The fire which has burned in him incessantly, must be kept burning, otherwise, the fire is going to consume him now, for it has nothing else to consume.
D –Swami, this is completely a new angle of seeing! I confess, this is probable. But aren’t you pointing out that a successful man of the world is happy and unhappy at the same time, successful and unsuccessful at the same time?
S -  My boy, he succeeded in overcoming poverty, and shame, true, but did he succeed in overcoming sorrow, suffering, fear, apprehension, disease and death?
D – But no one can.
S - He partially did. When he resolved to deny the world of darkness and despair an easy prey, which the other blind was, he was still blind, yet he was not. He could not see, yet he did everything to be at par with a man who could. He was not confined by his handicap. If you carry this possibility a little further, you could be poor, but not fall a prey to poverty; you might be betrayed, but not give in to anger or despondence; you might be caught young by a terminal disease, but not rave at fate or the doctors, and live the rest of the sunshine with a cool head on your shoulders. That is being in the world, yet not being a part of it.
D –Swami, how elevating is the thought! But how could one make this possibility 
       a reality?
S - With a little detachment. Once you begin to believe that you are not in essence this body and mind, that you are someone who could have this apparatus in your control; that death is not your extinction; that apparent failures are feeble distractions, you will begin to draft a different success story. You will look beyond status, wealth, authority, appeasement of senses etc which your world dubs as success. You will visualize another horizon across which lies your kingdom, the kingdom of heaven, which Jesus spoke so often. Though you will not hate this world, nor try to run away from it, you can still love it and serve it as a temporary resting place which you have to live in order to outlive it. That is being in the world, and not a part of it.
D - Swami, every word you speak opens a new window before me, shows me a new dawn. I am increasingly overwhelmed by its glory. But Swami, I have still some questions, for if I do not ask now, I know I may never get another chance to see my way to that glory.
S – I am always glad to clear and clarify your way to me. What greater joy can a father have more than seeing his prodigal son back home? Ask.
D – What is this detachment, Swami, which turns the world around? How does one practise it?  
S –With a little commonsense you can do that. Suppose you were going on a     journey, and missed a train. You would start raving and ranting against the department, and give yourself and the people around a hard time complaining about your misery. By doing so, you cannot get a new train provided for your journey. You will only fail to enjoy your lunch or dinner, as the case may be. Instead, if you pretend a little detachment, and try to explore an alternative route, or train, or if you must wait for the next connection, which was a few hours later, go round the place in a relaxed manner, or try to remember if you have a friend in the place you can spend some time with, or sit down in the rest room and read a book, you can profit well from this untoward situation. Or, take another example. Suppose someone has lost their only child young. Obviously, they would cry aloud against a cruel fate, and an insensitive God. No amount of discourse can bring quiet and understanding to them. If they try to reason out, which no doubt a near impossible task, that even though the child’s death has filled their lives with darkness, whether they would spend the rest of their lives in this darkness, or seek some light to go through life, is in their hands, they will soon have the wisdom of being a little detached. Isn’t that real? Isn’t that practical? Time heals all wounds.

D - Swami, I agree that can help in such extreme situations, though it is, as you admitted, nearly impossible. But is detachment suitable for such extreme situations only? What about living in the world, doing one’s duty, being part of the usual rounds of pleasure and pain, with responsibilities and commitments, with demands to be fulfilled, and obligations to be met, can detachment really help? If one goes through all this without any interest, will not the work suffer, will not people around take it as rudeness? A son may not be sensitive to his parents, and a doctor to his patients. Is it acceptable?
 S -  That is not detachment, that is selfishness, or as you said, rudeness. A man of detachment cannot be insensitive to pain and suffering, indifferent to his duties and obligations, only he will not lose his direction through these experiences. A person of detachment is also a person of right attachment, attachment to God, attachment to enduring values. Non- attachment is born out of a loving disposition, a love that blesses all things, sees the presence of God in all things. Attachment is the secret desire to possess, detachment is freedom from that desire. In fact no freedom is possible without detachment. 
D - I didn’t understand this new idea Swami. How attachment is a desire to possess, and detachment freedom that desire?
S - If you have seen a beautiful sunrise at a seashore, you would like to see it again and again, won’t you? You would love it. But there is no attachment in this love, you cannot ask the sun to offer you this experience to you only at your home far inland. You cannot possess this loveliness, take a patent on it. If you watch a child smile, you would smile too in spite of yourself. There is no attachment in it. But if you think my child should smile better than all other children, that is attachment, and you can’t enjoy even your child’s smile! If you admire a friend’s new car, or his new house, and feel jealous of them, it is attachment, which does not allow you to appreciate them properly. You will lose your sleep over planning how to get a better car, or a better house, and for no reason you would get angry with your friend. If you can remain free from the bug of greed and jealousy, you can better appreciate the innovative design of the car, or the architecture of the house. Admire, but do not desire, that is detachment.

D – Swami, will it not come in the way of our efforts? A detached man might not feel motivated to upgrade his skill and achievement. He might not give his best, and be a slipshod worker. That would damage the organization he works for and consequently himself.
S - That man is lazy, not detached. Laziness is selfishness, not detachment. A truly detached man has no attachment to his gains or profits. He will never ask, “What do I profit by being so sincere, or hardworking? I can easily relax and take my time to reach the target which profits others. Anyway, detachment is a spiritual thing, and I can’t be faulted for being spiritual”. Is that spirituality? A spiritual man always thinks of how the world can benefit from his work. He is the most selfless worker, most efficient worker. Detachment, therefore, improves the world, improves your work, increases the quantum of happiness in the society; it should be the gospel of an awakened mankind.
D - There is a fire running in my veins Swami, but still I have to get more from You. I am hungry for more.
S - When a child is hungry, the mother too feels restless to feed him. Fire your question. Let me also see how hot your fire is!
D -  How to improve this detachment Swami?
S -  If you analyse these states of attachment and detachment you will see that you are  attached to something which belongs to you, or something you want to make your own. The key word is possession. If something is not yours, unless you are greedy, you are generally detached from it. Hundreds of parents are losing their children all over the world daily. Do you weep for them? Do you call fate or God unjust on that account? But when your son dies, young or old, God has a shower of choicest expletives! Isn’t that irrational?
D -  So you call attachment irrational, Swami?
S - While death is natural, death in your house is unacceptable. Is it rational?  You possess your son, and it is entirely your prerogative to decide when, or  if, he could leave you. Is it rational?
D - It appears wrong when we think about it this way. But Swami, if one does not shed a tear when someone so dear to him leaves him, is that rational?
S -  Is it rational too to feel nothing when the only son of a father in Mumbai, or Toronto dies young, leaving him shattered? He was also dear to his father. Do you shed a tear when a little sparrow is eaten by a cat, or a stray puppy is crushed under the wheels of your car? No, because they are birds, and animals, and they do not deserve the sympathies of the lofty man! The relationship is same. If shedding tear is justified by relationships, my boy, you can never wipe your eyes dry, and life would come to a standstill.
D -  What should we do then, Swami?
S -  We will continue the dialogue next week.

          To continue --            --------------------------------------------

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