You are much more influenced by those who surround you then you realize. We want to be the changer rather than the changed. We need to be challenged to strengthen ourselves. Difficulties are an important part of the path of sadhana.
Good morning everyone. Nice to be back, beautiful Hawaii.
This is from today's Master Course Lesson, Merging With Siva, Lesson 22, Reprogramming Old Patterns.
"You have perhaps often heard friends repeat the same complaint over and over again. They were not only making an affirmation, perhaps unknowingly, for their own subconscious mind, but for yours as well. Therefore, it behooves us always to be with positive people, spiritual, life-giving people, in order to be positive ourselves. It behooves us to listen to that with which we want to live, and to be the changer rather than the changed."
So that's a very important point and something we don't always think about. I was talking to one of the monks about it before we left on a trip. We tend to think the origin of every thought and feeling we have comes from ourselves. Kind of a default assumption. "I thought this, therefore, the origin of that though is somewhere in me." "I had this feeling. Therefore the origin of that feeling is somewhere in me." But that's not necessarily the case. For example, I gave as an example: One of the monastics had a particular aspect of his monastic life that was unique from others and I rarely thought about it. So I thought about it at 7 o'clock in the morning, then the monastic comes in to talk to me about it at 9 o'clock in the morning. So, what's the origin of that thought? Was that thought, did that thought come from me or did that thought come from the monastic who was planning to talk to me about it in the morning? Well, it came from the monastic, obviously, because why would I think about it? You know, something I never think about. Likewise, we have lots of workers on the property, there was one thing and we just had the silpis and the minimela and then we just added the gold leafing to it. Gold leafing team, the first challenge they faced was controlling their swear words. They were used to having free reign when it came to vocabulary. So, they said they would try.
But, I noticed a shift in some of our attitudes soon as they'd been here a few days. You know, the general, it, the glass tended to look half empty rather than half full some of the time. It hadn't happened when they weren't on the property. But, after they'd been on the property for about three days, the general attitude -- when I was discussing things with other monks about projects and all -- became less positive because of their presence on the property. So, again, what is the origin of the thought? Why did we have a change in perspective? Some long standing chronic problems, all of a sudden, that were going along and you know, harnessed, all of a sudden looked unsolvable to some. Why the change in perspective? Why was something that was difficult to live with, but under control, all of a sudden shifted to be, look unsolvable? And a big problem. Whereas, before it hadn't.
Well, it's the presence of the gold leafing team on the property and how it tipped the balance. We can sustain so many workers in our force field, and it's a huge number we have, already, and some of them in the minimela weren't exactly saints. So, they were trying their best to be on their good behavior. So, somehow we tipped, you know, the monks can only offset so much, and we; the monks are on this side of the scale, you know, the balance scale, so, the monks are over here we were doing fine, you know, it doesn't, you know, it was probably like that before the... You know, we were ahead of the situation, we had the silpis and the minimela carpenters over here. And we were probably something like that. This is the monks, so it, this is good; this is better. So, we went to there, then we went like that. Oh my! So, there's a mechanism in the shastras that counts, the monks. According to brahmacharya they have a certain balance and power. So, fortunately, we have a lot of older monks. But still, we can't... If people are on the property we can't out, you know, we can't necessarily compensate for their presence on the property. If they're not on the property, it's amazing how much we can handle. But, when they're on the property, they're right in the force field and it totally changes the situation, shall we say.
So, it's very interesting and it makes you think: Well, what is the origin of the thought? What is the origin of the feeling. It gives you a new perspective on it but, you're much more influenced by those who surround you then you realize. So, that's what Gurudeva's saying. It all relates to what was read; believe it or not. "Behooves us always to be with positive people, spiritual people, life-giving people, in order to be positive ourselves. Behooves us to listen to that with which we want to live, and to be the changer rather than the changed." So the changed means we would think that our perspective had changed, rather than work the changer back to the way it was. We would be the changed by having these extra workers on the property and we would start doing things differently. Our perspective would have been shifted by having ten more workers on the property. Whereas, we don't want that; we want to work it back and change the ones that are changing us. We want to be the changer rather than be the changed.
So, when we work in an environment with a mixture of people -- most jobs, that's the way it is -- there's a mixture of people. It's not all someone who looks at life as we do. Usually, it's a variety of people. So, we have to be careful that we're the changer and not the changed. That we are influencing them for the better and they aren't influencing us for the worse. So, we can only, and one individual can only handle so much. So, it's the same principle. You don't want to be in a work environment where you're totally outnumbered all of the time. And there's just so much negativity there that you end up being the changed rather than the changer cause you can only handle so much. That's the way it is. Any situation. Schools! Ideally you have a choice of schools. You know, Hawaii schools are kind of, public schools aren't, it's easy to get changed, shall we say. Hard to be the changer. Odds are against you. So, I mean once you get up, you know, it's probably not too bad in grammar school but high school, I'm sure, is quite rough and quite racist in Hawaii.
So, that's the idea. We want to be in an environment whereby we can carry on with positive thoughts, carry on with our sadhanas and not be unduly influenced by those in the environment: work environment, school environment, whatever. Another example of that is satsang. You've heard this story before but make more sense in this context. Sometimes, I get e-mails in, maybe once a year, not once a month. And, someone says: "I want to get back on the path. I want to resume my sadhana. I haven't been doing sadhana for years and I want to start up again." So, I always say: "Well, find a satsang group that you can attend once a week." Because it's very hard if you're the only person who's trying to start up sadhana and maintain it, and you're not contacting anyone else who's doing the same. And you've been inconsistent for the last few years or you've stopped altogether. It's very very hard to sustain that on your own, therefore, even if their beliefs are somewhat different, it's useful to attend some kind of group gathering -- ideally once a week or at least once a month -- just to help you not be changed back by everybody else. You may not be able to hold it all on your own. So, that's the advantage of satsang or even a temple, just going to a temple also does the same thing if you're fortunate to have a temple nearby. But, it's very important because we take on the nature of those around us more than we realize. Such subtle ways, we don't even know it. The glass instead of looking half full looks half empty which is a big shift. We've become negative about something in a major way. Condition hasn't changed; the glass is at the same level. Our perspective of it is changed because the people we're interacting with have changed. They've managed to change us instead of us changing them, as Gurudeva says. So, it's a very good meditation. And if you start, if you get strange thoughts that don't seem to fit in with what you are thinking ask yourself: Well, where could this thought be coming from? You know, it's not necessarily coming from me. A hint: If it's Father's Day, where might it be coming from? Mother's Day? Say for us, Guru Purnima. We get, oh all these thoughts coming, Guru Purnima, you know, from all over the world. Huge numbers of people, hundreds of people thinking about us at Guru Purnima. So, changes the force field, but it doesn't really -- because they're not on the property -- you can handle hundreds of people, all of a sudden are thinking about the Aadheenam, without it causing total chaos. But, it does impact, hundreds of people thinking at the same time, about a place or a person, impacts the situation. Cause it's all mental. But, as I say: If you're on the property it makes a much greater difference.
So that's the first one.
Sutra 72 of the Nandinatha Sutras
"Accepting Praise And Blame
"It is well known that all Siva's devotees can absorb any amount of praise. But those who can withstand mental, emotional persecution, even physical torment, with the same infinite capacity are Siva's truest devotees."
Well, what in the world does that mean? Well, it means if every thing's going well, we're getting lots of praise, great for our ego, getting a little bigger. Gee, I didn't know I was so talented. I'm even more skilled than I thought. And it's good for being relaxed. But, when we're faced with challenges, difficult challenges, that develops another side of us. It lessens the ego; we realize: OK, maybe I'm not as great as I thought I was, have to work harder to get through this. And it causes us to develop new strengths. We become stronger in adversity than if we never faced it. So, the challenge is the right amount of adversity. If you get too much then it overwhelms you. But, you want to get just the right amount. It's similar to exercise, you know, you have to push yourself if you're trying to develop muscles, for example. You don't just do five and say: I call it good. You know, you push yourself and it's strenuous to significantly increase muscle. So, there's some strain involved. So, parallel is to increase our self control, over our emotions, over our intellect. When we're faced with difficult circumstances we develop certain strengths we would never develop if everything was always easy. Think it's in one of the lessons I read not too long ago. Gurudeva said: "It's easy to be peaceful in a peaceful environment, the challenge is to maintain that peace when everything around you is in chaos." Something like that is what I read I think. So, that's the idea. Being in a peaceful environment is good. We can be totally peaceful but then we want to learn to hold that peace no matter what surrounds us. That's the idea. And not feel: Oh, this is terrible; I'm not in a peaceful place; I need a peaceful place. No, that's missing the point. We need a challenging place in order to strengthen ourselves, strengthen our self control over our emotions and our intellect. We need to be challenged. So, we need the right amount of challenge and the right amount of peace. Otherwise, it doesn't work out right. Just as an exercise you need to figure our a strategy. If you're trying to build your muscles you increase it at a certain rate. You don't overdo it but you have a plan in mind and if you follow the plan you end up with more muscles. So, likewise, this is mental muscle we're building; control ourselves by facing difficult environments. That's what Gurudeva's saying.
There's a related one for the monks and about humility it says:
"He must endure hardships and problems in strength, never carping or complaining, for difficulties are the very grist of the mills of the path of sadhana followed by his Guru parampara."
So, that's saying the same thing. Difficulties are an important part of the path of sadhana. It's not supposed to be easy. We're supposed to be challenged but not overwhelmed by the challenge. Getting through that, getting through the difficulties, we get stronger. A related one:
"He must learn to accept criticism and correction without justifying himself, without defending his actions, even when that correction is unjust or unfounded."
So, that one only works in the monastery. You can't do that one at work. You can't take the blame if you're not at fault. You might end up losing your job. "He did it." OK, I'm supposed to take the blame; out the door the next day. But in the monastery no one gets fired so, it's good. To get blamed for something you didn't do; this is really good. You can blame a monk too now that you know it's OK. Blame one of the monks for something you didn't do and it's supposed to increase his humility. So, that's an important monastic trait because monastics need to become more humble; and sometimes, the environment is so protective they don't have the experiences they would have out in the world that would give the humility the way we just talked about. Just by being overwhelmed occasionally, facing difficulties, makes us more humble. For monks the environment's controlled and particularly for younger monks responsibilities aren't heavy. So therefore, nothing better than getting blamed for something you didn't do and biting your tongue and saying: "Oh, thank you."
My last one. I was doing some research for an article on karma yoga and came across this one. It's to do with reducing pride. In fact this is from Swami Sivananda, Rishikesh:
"An effective way to reduce pride and increase humility is for one to perform menial tasks. Karma yoga offers such opportunities through offering your service at an ashram or temple for such tasks as washing dishes, washing clothes, cleaning the kitchens and bathrooms, working in the gardens, washing the windows, sweeping the paths -- all without seeking praise or approval."
So, how many rich business men do you see sweeping the paths at the ashram? Not enough, right? Should be more. But it is a tendency. You know, if you're rich and famous you don't come in and do the menial chores. But what better way to balance out being rich and famous is to come to the ashram and serve in a simple way. Sivananda's story is about Mahatma Gandhi's ashram. He says:
"Study the autobiography of Mahatma Gandhiji. He never made any difference between menial service and dignified work. Scavenging and cleaning of the latrine was the highest Yoga for him. This was the highest puja for him. He himself did the cleaning of latrines. He annihilated the illusory little 'I' through service of various sorts. Many highly educated persons joined his ashram for learning yoga under him. They thought that Gandhiji would teach them yoga in some mysterious manner in a private room and would give lessons on pranayama, meditation, awakening of kundalini, etc. They were disappointed when they were asked to clean the latrine first. (They didn't sign up for that, right?) They left the Ashram immediately. Gandhiji himself repaired his shoes. He himself used to grind flour and take upon his shoulders the work of others also when they were unable to do their allotted portion of work for the day in the Ashram. When an educated person, a new Ashramite, felt shy to do the grinding work, Gandhiji himself would do his work in front of him and then the man would do the work himself from the next day willingly." So, he'd show him that Gandiji can do it, you can do it.
Sivananda comments: "He who has understood the right significance of karma yoga will take every work as yogic activity or worship of the Lord. There is no menial work in his vision. Every work is puja of the Lord. In the light of karma yoga all actions are sacred. That aspirant who always takes immense delight in doing works which are considered by the worldly man as menial services, and who always does willingly such acts only will become a dynamic yogi. He will be absolutely free from conceit and egoism. He will have no downfall. The canker of pride cannot touch him."
Thank you very much.
[End of transcript.]