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"Holy Mother" painted by Swami Tadatmananda
Used courtesy of the Vedanta Society of Southern California
[A short extract from a lecture by Swami Bhavyananda entitled 'Spiritual Life', transcribed by David Black. Source:Vedanta Magazine, March-April 2004]
There must be strict discipline. Nothing can be achieved in spiritual life without hard struggle and practice. Society or the organised church will give you certain broad principles, a framework within which you have to work. How I work it out is my personal individual business. Nobody can help me in that.
There is only one principle or Divinity, around which we have to organise ourselves. From lower truths we should grow into higher truths: "I understand only this much today, but as I go on contemplating it, the wider truth opens itself out to me." The main thing is to practice and grow naturally with it. We have to proceed step by step, from the gross to the subtle. Our vision must become clearer and steadier every day. Say I want to keep a room clean, I do a little each day and everything works out very well. Just that gentle 'doing' is good enough, but it must be regular and systematic. See, in India, material comforts are so minimal. When I started living in Shillong, it was my first experience of having wooden floors. I had always lived in a warmer climate before that. In Bangalore, all our floors were covered in fine cement as a sort of polish. It lasted for centuries! In Shillong it was cold; houses were built on stilts and had wooden floors. I didn't like this dull wood, but I couldn't afford to carpet it. Somebody suggested rubbing linseed oil on to protect it, but I wasn't satisfied as it still looked very dull; so every morning I took a piece of cloth and rubbed it! People used to laugh at me and ask me what I was doing and I'd tell them I didn't like this dull-looking wood! Really, I never knew about wax polish, but with this simple rubbing of the floor every day, it became so clear and bright people thought I'd put some kind of polish on it — just gentle rubbing, that's all, nothing more was needed!
That's what we have to organise in our inner life. Every day, this polishing goes on... "I can't spare much time, I don't have the patience or the equipment. Perhaps I'm really not made that way... but I feel it's the correct thing." So you do what you can — simply do it, rub it, clean it every day, that's enough. Then slowly it opens itself. The best possible for my personality, within its limitations, comes out. When that much comes out, it opens itself further, because essentially we have the Divine Power within us and you've just created a situation for it to open itself up. So if that happens, you get strength also to do more.
You needn't feel discouraged or disheartened that you're not able to do this or that... "Oh, I make a good resolution then I fail". It doesn't matter. Make another resolution, that's all! You start walking, and you tumble and stumble and fall. Get up and start walking again, that's all! The failure is not in failure alone: in accepting the failure, that's the real failure. So don't accept it! Just get up, and start walking again and you will learn.
In spiritual life, this is what I personally feel one has to do. That's what is practical, within my understanding. It doesn't matter, mistakes are there; big lessons are given. "I just cannot follow it — but I follow what I can." It all adds up in the long run, and slowly the change, the transformation comes.
One shouldn't yield to the temptation of this feeling "I am not fit for it". That kind of self-criticism, self depreciation is not really worthwhile for a spiritual aspirant. "God has given me this much strength, within that I shall do, then what happens, we shall see!" That should be the attitude.
Location: Wilmslow, U.K.
Thank you, Vriju.
May we each keep on polishing our floor, each in our own way and to the best of our ability.
Location: san Diego, California, USA
Dear Shri Vriju,
Just chanced to read your post of long ago. Thank you. It is wonderful. About not accepting defeat and getting up each time we fall, I had a personal experience in the Sri Ramakrishna Temple here at Guwahati, a sort of command inside my heart as I approached the temple saying this very thing. In Assamese, "Pori Pori Uthi Thak," that is what I heard. Meaning literally "Falling, Falling, Keep getting up." This has helped me. All in all a very meaningful lecture extract. Thank you once again. By the way, you haven't posted any story for long. Do do so.