Challenges Bring Progress


Living through major challenges, gaining better self control, moving in the right direction, trying for improvement not perfection, we progress spiritually. Learn to be peaceful in the midst of intense activity. Eventually each purusha is ready to transcend the world, achieving liberation. You are the instigator of what happens to you. Through control and change of what's going on inside, we change what's going on outside of us.

Tirukural-Weavers Wisdom, Chapter 13, Possession of Self-Control.

Patanjali's Yoga Sutras, Verse II.18

Master Course, Merging with Siva, Lesson 104.

Unedited Transcript:

I opened up our TAKA page the other day and of course, there's always a quote from Gurudeva at the top. And sometimes it seems to address life as it's happening. Either my life or someone else's. This isn't someone else's; I was emailing.

I said to them: [Quoting Gurudeva] "This is why we are born on this planet, to evolve through challenges. We are here for no other reason. "

So my bhashya: In other words, the ordinary way of looking at major challenges is that we would prefer a life without them, right? Why would we want to face all these difficult times, wake up in the morning and be challenged by life so severely. However, what Gurudeva is saying is that it is actually by living through major challenges and thereby gaining better self-control that we progress spiritually.

Simple comparison is to Gurudeva's comment on being peaceful. Said it's fine to learn to be peaceful in a quiet place but eventually you have to learn to be peaceful in the midst of intense activity. That we can't just say I need a quiet place otherwise I can't be peaceful. That's not the idea. We need to gain the self control to be able to be peaceful no matter how busy it is on the outside.

Recently we were editing our "Insight" section on astrology, I actually wasn't editing it not knowing much about astrology, I was reading it. I corrected grammar. But, it reminded me of Gurudeva's statement. Cause we were talking about good periods and bad periods or periods with lots of challenges and periods with no challenges. So we tend to think that astrological periods with lots of challenges are bad and astrological periods where everything is smooth and guaranteed to be successful are good. Well that's true in a sense that it, it's easier to accomplish important things when the astrology is free of major challenges. It's a good time to open new business; if you're going to move it's a good time to move from one state to another.

But, we don't want to think that challenges are bad. Cause in the spirit of Gurudeva's quote is says we need to face challenges cause that's how we gain self control.

I remember Gurudeva once said: "My astrology is so good that I have no challenges, I have no enemies, I'm not making any spiritual progress at all."

That's what he said.

So, the challenges can provide the inner progress and the easy times can allow us to make major advancements on the outside. But bad times can be good if we learn to interpret it that way. Challenges aren't bad. Of course, we don't want to be overwhelmed. It's that idea that stress makes us strong if we survive it, right? We don't want it too intense that we can't survive it. But we don't want our life to be free of challenges cause then we don't improve our self control.

There's a chapter on self control in the Tirukural and you've heard my story about it before. But it's this parent, darshan section, family. There were two young kids, I think around four and six running around the room. You know and they wouldn't stop running around, not too fast, but you know they couldn't sit still. And their father admitted, he said: "You know I used to be a lot calmer before we had children."

And I told him: Well, that's the challenge. You know the challenge is to learn to be calm when you do have children and don't think it's okay not to be calm just because you don't have children. And that's what the Tirukural says, it says:

"He is mightier than a mountain who in the domestic state maintains self control."

Meaning, married with children. So it's easy. Live by yourself, you're single. Boy am I master of self control. Nothing disturbs me. But then you're married, you have kids, you have responsibilities, everything seems to disturb you. It's the same person. But, we have to learn how to face the challenges and maintain self control. Or said another way you get agitated less often cause we're not trying for immediate perfection. You know, we're trying for improvement. Gradual improvement. So that what used to agitate us the first time it happened, now it has to happen about four times before we get agitated. You know that's improvement. Not perfection but it's improvement. So, you know, we just need to be moving in the direction of improvement. So, all that was in Gurudeva's one sentence.

Reminded me of the, Patanjali's Yoga Sutra.

"What is experienced has the character of brightness, activity, and inertia. "

So that's just the three gunas. It's saying that nature, or what we experience comes in three forms. Tamas, rajas and sattva.

"It is embodied in the elements and the sense organs. Its purpose is to provide both experience and liberation."

So that's the related idea that we're not here just to go straight for liberation. We need a certain amount of experience first before we'll be able to achieve liberation. So, it's for experience and in facing the experience in the right way such as strengthening our self control, we eventually end up seeking liberation. But, we have to face the experience first.

So, my comment is: Each purusha needs a certain amount of experience in the world before it is ready to transcend the world through achieving liberation.

So that's what Patanjali is saying and it goes along with Gurudeva's quote that, you know, that the world is where we unfold spiritually. And one of the ways we unfold is by strengthening self control, through facing challenges.

This is from yesterday's Master Course.

"You change your own circumstances all the time, whether you know it or not. Even your mind is different today than it was a week ago. The various experiences you have brought to yourself have made it that way..."

Notice what's causing the experiences, right? You're a big magnet attracting these experiences. Things aren't happening to you. You're attracting them to you. So, it's not arbitrary what happens. You're just a big magnet attracting everything that happens to you. So, you don't want to think that someone else is the instigator of what happens to you. You're the instigator. You're attracting it. You just don't see what's inside of you that's causing all these things to happen to you. But you're the, you're the instigator.

I'll read the sentence again:

"...The various experiences you have brought to yourself have made it that way. The point to realize is that you can gain an intricate control of the various things that change in and about you. Lean the thoughts and feelings of your creation in the right direction, and discover how quickly your circumstances will change their direction. This is the secret of self-control. This is the practice of yoga. Try it, and lose the habit of concern, for concern is only a by-product of a part of the mind being out of control."

That's very direct. "...concern is only a by-product of a part of the mind being out of control." So we don't want concern, that's for sure.

So what Gurudeva's saying is what's going on inside of us relates to what happens outside of us. So, if we change what's going on inside of us, cause we have total control over what's going on inside of us, right? It'll change what's going on outside of us.

So, let us read that again:

"...The point to realize is that you can gain an intricate control of the various things that change in and about you. Lean the thoughts and feelings of your creation in the right direction, and discover how quickly your circumstances will change their direction. "

So isn't that interesting. So I think that's enough deep thinking for this morning. Two things tied together better than I thought they would.

Okay, have a wonderful day.

Photo of  Gurudeva
The force of the intellectual area of the mind is controlled and transmuted through the power of a regulated breath. A beginning pranayama is a method of breathing nine counts as we inhale, holding one; nine counts as we exhale, holding one count.
—Gurudeva