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Overcoming Disappointments in Life and on the Spiritual Path

Disappointment is a natural human emotion which can be overcome if we don't personalize it. Without challenges we do not make spiritual progress. Expect obstacles commensurate with the difficulty of the task. Be flexible enough to share and adjust the plan avoiding disappointment, discouragement, depression and despair.

Unedited Transcript:

The lesson on "Overcoming Disappointment:"

"Another instinctive response to the ebb and flow of life force is disappointment, which intensified becomes discouragement, depression and despair. These three negative states are obstacles to all human endeavor, especially for the spiritual seeker, who must learn early to regulate, control and balance the emotional ups and downs so well that he never experiences discouragement, which is nothing more than an imbalance of force."

One of the common false concepts about the spiritual path is that, the times when we're not faced with challenges, those are the good times. Those are the times we can just be blissful and be happy. No challenges.

One of the stories which impressed me, contrary to that was: Gurudeva was talking to the monks and he explained that his astrological period was so good -- period of a few years -- that he had no challenges. Everything was easy; every success came so easily, nothing was challenging. And therefore, he was making no spiritual progress. So, that's contrary to a common conception which is: Oh, no challenges, that's good, this is great.

Well, it's great if you're not trying to make spiritual progress. It makes for a comfortable happy life. You get up in the morning and life is easy that day. Therefore, the idea of having challenges is part of the spiritual path.

And Gurudeva explains that in subsequent paragraph:

"Therefore, to bring out the natural strengths, the guru will offer challenges."

New idea, perhaps. Things are going along so well, you've got your current life under control and what does the guru do? He asks you to do something more difficult then you've ever done before. But, it's based on the idea that you do have the ability to succeed. He's not giving you something that's unachievable. He's giving you something that will stretch all of your abilities further than they've been stretched before. And this is part of how spiritual progress is made. Getting those kinds of challenges and succeeding at them.

Since disappointment is a common reaction, we need to look at how can we avoid serious disappointment which will then lead to discouragement, depression and despair. We don't want to go there, right? That's not a happy place to be.

Gurudeva gives a key in the lesson: To look at it in an impersonal way. In other words, we personalize it. Something doesn't go well; we don't succeed at it. What's our first reaction? I'm just so incompetent. It's personalizing it, right? Others could do this but I just don't have the ability. It's also personalizing it. We think it's a reflection of who we are. But if we can keep it impersonal: I didn't succeed the first time; I'm experiencing the natural human emotion of disappointment. Then, it's easier to overcome it. We don't personalize it.

So, Gurudeva explains that:

"Once he recognizes these states as belonging to all men and ceases to identify them as personal tendencies, he is then able to cognize its source and convert it."

I didn't succeed. I'm disappointed. Moves out of disappointment and back into trying again to succeed. Doesn't personalize it by criticizing himself.

"In this way the emotional nature matures under the loving guidance of the spiritual teacher."

That's the suggestion in the lesson. I thought of two other suggestions.

This one, many of you have heard before when we're trying to accomplish a project and we're running into difficulties and avoiding the normal reaction of discouragement. How do we do that? By anticipating difficulties. By anticipating obstacles.

In other words, the more difficult, the more complex a project is the more difficulties, the more obstacles we should anticipate even before we start encountering. The very fact that we anticipate running into obstacles and difficulties, therefore, when we do so we say: Oh, let's see now; this is obstacle number three. Instead of going into discouragement.

Our biggest challenge for obstacles, of course, has been our biggest project which is Iraivan Temple. Carving a temple in Bangalore by one set of silpis, shipping it over here and 5, 10, 15 years later assembling it with another set of silpis has it's challenges. You can see it may not fit, right? The first group carves it one way, the second group tries to assemble it a next. So, we've run into many obstacles but we never got discouraged. Because we anticipated that we would. It's a very challenging project; no one's ever done it.

Build a temple that's hand carved in India, shipped to the U.S. and assembled. It's only in hand-carved granite. Most temples have some hand-carved granite at best -- the sanctums -- but the whole structure is usually, the outer structure is usually a western structure which you can build in a year. But, this is a very challenging project.

The biggest challenge we faced was when the government decided that silpis weren't religious workers and therefore didn't qualify for a visa to come into the U.S. anymore. Now, that could have been discouraging, right? But, what does it lead to? Disappointment which leads to discouragement, depression and despair. We could have hit despair on that one. But we didn't. We found the best immigration attorney that we could in Washington, D.C. and hired her services to sort it out. And it took a while but we ended up sorting it out. And through our efforts and the efforts of others a visa got clarified and silpis again were listed as those who fell under the religious worker category. So it all came back together but it took a while.

The last idea: How can we avoid disappointment, discouragement, depression and despair when our plan doesn't go well is to be flexible enough to evaluate the plan and not just stick to the original plan. Maybe the plan has a flaw in it. Could be a small flaw, could be a big flaw. But some times we're just stubborn, you know. We'll try and push this plan through no matter what and we keep running into more and more obstacles. It doesn't get more, it doesn't yield any kind of success. And the reason can be: There's a flaw in the plan.

So, if we're flexible enough to re-evaluate our plan... Perhaps we need to talk it over with someone else because sometimes obvious points aren't obvious to the person who created the plan. If it's our plan we don't see the obvious flaw. We need to share the plan with a fellow worker who's knowledgable in that field. Just talk it over with him and amazingly enough, he or she may see the flaw before we do even though it's our plan.

So, in that way, flexibility to adjust the plan, can help us from falling into this cycle of disappointment intensifying into discouragement, depression and despair.

Thank you very much.

Aum Namah Sivaya

[End of transcript.]

Photo of  Gurudeva
God's presence is everywhere, through everything, in everything, for Siva is the creator of all things, the manifestor of time, form and the space between forms.