In the Battlefield of Life
There is a famous prayer of the Buddhists which Sri Chinmoy has put to music:
Buddham saranam gacchami
Dhammam saranam gacchami
Sangam saranam gacchami
which translates as
I take refuge in the Buddha (the guidance and protection of the Master)
I take refuge in the Dharma (the spiritual or inner life)
I take refuge in the Sangha (the community of brothers and sisters)
Confronted with the teeming squabble of the outside world, I often find myself taking refuge in one of the main pillars of Sri Chinmoy's philosophy - that the world is constantly getting better, constantly evolving and transcending itself. I know people with the opposite view - who holds on to fond memories of an idyllic childhood, and everything that's happened since then is used as evidence of the world getting worse and worse. Whenever they talk on the subject, they takes one or two bad incidents that either happened or they read about, and they define the world through the prism of these incidents. It's not just them I suppose; it happens to all of us: when you experience or read about something bad, your consciousness does shrink a little, and you become less able to feel the big picture in your heart.
I came to the path via lots of searching through books and books for piles of facts I could somehow cobble together and call the Truth... Perhaps one bright thing I may have gleaned from all of that was some idea of how we've grown and indeed what the world was like 200, 500, 800 years ago... It wasn't pretty. The were some unbelievably animal things going on that just don't happen anymore. So much of the progress we have made in pursuit of harmony and happiness is not noted simply because the fruits of that progress are so commonplace.
I know it's very easy to look at all the suffering and discontent out there and lose hope. But I remember Sri Chinmoy saying something like 'the more spiritually advanced a person is, the greater his sufferings from the condition of the world' (I can't remember which book I read it in). Even unaspiring people are evolving to the stage where a very significant proportion of them realise the extent to which the chaotic, disconnected life is causing them to suffer. It is only very recently that psychic, spiritual or emotional pain was even acknowleged alongside the physical pain. There hasn't been a sudden explosion of inner discontent - it is just that people are beginning to know themselves a little better and see the discontent that's already there.
Sometimes I like to lie flat on my back and look up at the clouds. Normally we can't feel the earth rotating, but I find that if you look at the clouds and say to yourself 'they're not moving, they're actually still and it's the earth that's rotating' with great intensity, then you can feel the earth moving under you at quite a speed, and the feeling of such a vast expanse moving under you can be a little unnerving! Similarly, if you really feel the world is getting better, then you'll find instances and happenings from everywhere that'll make you amazed at how fast the growth is happening! Sometimes I think the world should be tested for divine growth hormones, it's happening that fast.
Nirbhasa (Dublin, Ireland)
It seems like it's harder than ever to stay in good consciousness these days. You turn on the TV and see something you wish you hadn't seen. You listen to the radio and hear something you didn't want to hear. Then you go to work and, as one of my coworkers remarked, we're on track, but in the process of getting there there's been a lot of gnashing of teeth!
Is it just me, or is the world a little darker lately, are work loads heavier, fuses shorter, and are there a lot more confused and unhappy people out there?
There's a beautiful Catholic peace garden near where I work. In the winter it's snowy and you hardly know it's there. But in the summer, there are birds and flowers, benches and grass, and even a small statue of St. Francis and a humble, thoughtfully-placed plaque. Recently this summer, I was walking to work and noticed a man on a cell phone in the middle of this 'peace park' obviously having a huge argument. And a nice woman I ride the bus with, that I've never even talked to, noticed that I was also noticing the situation and remarked to me about how ironic it was and how it was just another sign of the times.
It seems there's not much a spiritual person can do these days but to say a silent prayer in hopes this world can somehow be a better place some day.
I mean, that's pretty bad when you walk by a PEACE PARK and there's someone having an argument right in the middle of it!
But, on the other hand, if you're having the misfortune of having a bad day, and I know I have, what better gift from God than to have it in a beautiful peace-loving park which will soothe you by the beauty of nature to hopefully remember that God loves you and also His entire creation, lock, stock, and barrel (whether you're crazy about them or not).
And when I've had a REALLY BAD DAY, you know, the kind where several people point out to you that you are just really not so perfect after all...
It can be hard not to get disgusted with yourself and to regain any sort of poise and balance, shall we say. In these difficult times, when the ignorance of the outer world, and also the ignorance within myself seem to be winning the battle, I take refuge in three things...
First of all, I am so grateful to my wonderful teacher Sri Chinmoy because he has pulled me out of a life of despair with some very, very powerful words...
In my highest consciousness
No disturbance can breathe.
I can forgive the whole world.
I can even forgive myself,
For there I am In God's Eternity.
FOES WITHOUT, PEACE WITHIN
Many foes have I without;
Within only Peace.
The outer world has turned me mad.
The inner world has smashed the mountain of my errors.
The outer world, coming near me, has opened the door of destruction.
In my inner world, the ever-beautiful, The Eternal Infinite is dancing.
Secondly, I am so grateful to my spiritual brothers and sisters and also to my wonderful parents. On a recent trip to New York this was really brought home to me. Friends opened their hearts and homes to me, gave me surprise presents, spent time with me talking, shopping, singing, and even showed me a funny movie when I was upset. From a small smile to a large unexpected gift soulfully given. And from someone doing but a small favor to someone taking time out of a very busy schedule to help our small meditation centre grow...the generous hearts of my spiritual friends have left me speechless. I do feel God's love every day in and through you, my dear spiritual brothers and sisters!
I am also extremely, extremely grateful to my wonderful parents. They have always encouraged me and inspired me to be who I am. One time I was particularly depressed as a teenager because I'd gone to yet another event where I once again didn't meet any friends. My Mom encouraged me to keep trying, because the next thing you try could be it. And one day I finally did find a spiritual group of people I felt at home with. The Sri Chinmoy Centre is very much a home to me. My true friends. No one could wish for dearer hearts.
My Lord, You have entered into my heart
And made me feel
That we are all brothers and sisters
Of one world-family.
Now do enter into my mind
So it will act like the heart,
And I will not be able to hurt others.
And thirdly, I take refuge in my spiritual life..... the routine of it, the memorization of it, the fact that it's there. It's solid. You're having a bad day and you just suddenly realize that you're absolutely helpless to change the world or yourself. And in those times just going through your daily routine... your meditations, your prayers, reading spiritual books, exercising, listening to uplifting music, reciting inspiring quotes... it is like balm on a wound. It's so tangible you can almost feel it. Your consciousness is definitely being lifted.
And, finally, that's why I'm actually grateful for, Yes, even the bad days. Because through them, it becomes blatantly obvious that spirituality is something very, very real in your life.
Today when I was cycling to my job, I cycled past a woman with a baby in a carriage. The baby gave me such an enthusiastic, sweet smile. I only saw it for a second, then they were behind me. It gave me a really good feeling. I remembered, Sri Chinmoy writes that you can feel the Supreme's love for you through a child's smile (I think it is in the little Jharna-Kala book Love, Joy, and Happiness).
I feel it's so important to smile in your outer life and show happinness and joy, love and compassion and all those good things - for you can really make someone's day, and you spread many good feelings. Although, sometimes it can be very hard, and when I want to do this I don't feel very sincere. But, that baby's smile taught me again how.
Premananda (Oslo, Norway)
While reading Sri Chinmoy's beautiful poems about Mother Teresa, I came to realise again something I'd forgotten for a long time, and that was how we can develop compassion through the tough experiences and problems we go through. Here is a woman whose heart bled for every sufferer on earth. She prayed constantly for everyone. It illumined a self-centeredness in me, which has been making my journey difficult. I guess the following experiences may be familiar to many.
I've often been getting so worried and anxious when finding problems in myself. And then I've become worried about getting worried, for that's an undinvine quality and so on and so on. And in this way I've tortured myself for hours and hours. Even when turning to spiritual medicine my worries would haunt me. I'd be worried about not meditating right, concentrating right, praying right, singing right, which even made my attempts at spiritual discipline painful. I'd try many techniques to conquer these worries, but immediately I'd usually worry about whether I'm doing it right.
However, reading Sri Chinmoy's writings usually worked to calm me down and give me peace in the midst of this turbulent storm. I feel his writings increase our oneness. I realised while reading the Mother Teresa poems that I must certainly not be alone with these obstacles. And then I felt sympathy for all the people who must be going through the same thing, for I could identify with their pain. And of course we don't want others to go through pain so we pray for them. And it was wonderful for once to feel without any doubt that here I was with a sincere prayer, and that gave me a very good feeling. And a realisation that while praying to conquer our problems, why not pray for everyone at the same time? (especially those with similar problems we can identify with).
So problems have a light of their own, at least in the way that they increase sincerity in prayer, increase our sympathy, compassion and oneness. Every cloud has a silver lining, as they say. And I guess we can use all our experiences for a divine purpose. For gratitude, prayer, compassion and the like.
It's wonderful how simply reading Sri Chinmoy's writings is like gently bathing in a loving ocean, where our ignorance is lovingly washed away, and we learn more and more what it is to live in the heart.
Premananda (Oslo, Norway)