Positive Attitudes for Positive Spiritual Progress
Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami , 2003-04-05
Bodhinatha reads sloka 2 of Dancing with Siva - "Where am I going? What is my path?" The Hindu spiritual path can be described in three simple ways - becoming a better person, learning from our experiences, and improving our behavior. By holding the attitude that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn from our experiences, positive inward strives can be made through self-reflection and we are able to improve our behavior. Bodhinatha conveys the richness of this sloka in a stirring upadesha on karma management, sadhana, and the San Marga.
"Sloka 2: Where am I going? What is my path?
We are all growing toward God and experience is the path. Through experience we mature out of fear into fearlessness, out of anger into love, out of conflict into peace, out of darkness into light and union in God. Aum."
That is important. It focuses on experience and that was another point we made to Billy's group. How do we describe the Hindu concept of the spiritual path? I gave three synonyms - becoming a better person, improving our behavior, learning from our experiences. That is the simplest way I could think of to explain to this group, the Hindu spiritual path. Becoming a better person and learning from our experiences and improving our behavior.
If we are not doing that, then we are not making the spiritual progress that we could. The more we can do that, the more progress we are making. The idea of learning from our experiences is particularly important. As I mentioned in that talk, the biggest barrier in that regard is the concept that mistakes are bad, wrong, should not happen. Rather than, the concept that mistakes are wonderful opportunities to learn. All we have to do is figure out what we need to learn.
When it says the path is experience, it means we realize what we did we could do better, we should do better. There is another way of doing things. We are refining our behavior, we are learning from our experiences.
That won't happen if we feel we should not make mistakes. We feel we should not make mistakes, we make a mistake, we go into self pity, sorrow, self condemnation. That is our reaction if we make a mistake and we feel we should not make mistakes.
Whereas what we want to do is, if we make a mistake we become self reflective without emotion and say, "Gee, how can I avoid that in the future? I know the goal is to only make a mistake once."
So, two different ways of relating to mistakes. How we look at mistakes is key to progressing through our experiences and not just reacting to them.
I thought I would read from the bhasya also. It is so rich you really can't summarize it.
Gurudeva's bhasya: "We have taken birth in a physical body to grow and evolve into our divine potential. We are inwardly already one with God."
There is the word already!
"Our religion contains the knowledge of how to realize this oneness and not create unwanted experiences along the way."
That is very useful. It is pointing out what we are talking about. "Our religion contains the knowledge of how to realize this oneness." Those are the techniques in 'Merging with Siva', our sadhanas, our tantras and through putting them into practice in our life, we maximize our spiritual progress.
"Not create unwanted experiences along the way," means to be careful in terms of the karmas we are creating by our current actions. The knowledge such as we summarized in 'Karma Management' is just a systematized statement of Gurudeva's principles on karma. It is all drawn from the Trilogy. When we understand the principles of karma management, there is no way we are going to create new negative karmas. We are smarter than that. We have got this figured out. We may have some real whoppers coming to us from the past. But at least, we are not creating any for the future. We got that much figured out in terms of our karma.
"The peerless path is following the way of our spiritual forefathers, discovering the mystical meaning of the scriptures. The peerless path is commitment, study, discipline, practice and the maturing of yoga into wisdom."
So we are talking about the kinds of spiritual practices we need to follow and how we need to follow them. We need to be consistent, which here is the word commitment. Commitment means consistency also. So consistency in our practices is very important and there is more value in that which you can sustain. In other words, sometimes when we are youthful we try and do too much, try and set a level of sadhana. Of course, those who are older don't try and set a level of sadhana that is something they can't sustain. Eventually, we have to back off. What we can sustain is what is good, to be sure to keep going on a daily basis, weekly basis.
"In the beginning stages, we suffer until we learn. Learning leads us to service; and selfless service is the beginning of spiritual striving." This is a beautiful statement, really. Suffer, learn, service, understanding, meditation.
If we are suffering, it means we are not doing something right. We are not supposed to suffer. Gurudeva didn't like suffering. He said, "Life is meant to be lived joyously."
So, if we are suffering, it means we don't understand something about the spiritual path. Or, maybe we are going through some rough karma. That could be one reason for suffering. But the idea of suffering here does not mean going through some rough karma from the past. It means doing unwise actions in the present which are bringing back suffering. That is what it is referring to, not managing our karma.
We suffer until we start to manage our karma, act in ways that does not create new karma for us, which is what learning means. We suffer until we learn. Learn what? How to not create new negative karma.
Or, said another way, we are creating suffering for ourselves in the future, every time we create negative karma in the present. When we figure out, when we learn enough about karma and gain enough self control, then we stop creating new negative karma for the future, which is moving from suffering to learning.
"Learning leads us to service."
Service is the sense of not being totally selfish. We are concerned about others. We are concerned about the temple. We are concerned about this, we are concerned about that. We spend time to do things which benefits other people, benefits the temple and so forth. It does not give us any immediate gratification in an external sense. It gives us the spiritual gratification, of course. Service is a natural state of consciousness we come into when our karma is going along smoothly.
"Service leads us to understanding."
Understanding in this case means religious understanding of the temple, understanding of the states of mind, that kind of understanding.
"Understanding leads us to meditate deeply and without distractions."
That is self explanatory.
"Finally, meditation leads us to surrender in God. This is the straight and certain path, the San Marga, leading to Self Realization, the inmost purpose of life, and subsequently to moksha, freedom from rebirth. The Vedas wisely affirm, "By austerity, goodness is obtained. From goodness, understanding is reached. From understanding, the Self is obtained. And he who obtains the Self is freed from the cycle of birth and death. Aum Namah Sivaya."
That is such a perfect quote from the Vedas to illustrate this. Thank you.