Drawing the Lesson from Each Experience

Today Bodhinatha spoke on facing life's challenges by cultivating a contemplative lifestyle. He read from Gurudeva's teachings on this and stressed the importance of regular worship in the home and temple. We must draw the lesson from each of life's experiences and not make too many divisions in which this part of life is spiritual and that part is not. Rather, we will be well served to identify with our inner and perfect soul, not with body, emotions and intellect. He also spoke of accepting life's challenges and hardships, for they are our self-created karma. By accepting, we face them and learn from our experiences, even from our mistakes.

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Questions? Bodhinatha is the successor of "Gurudeva," Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. If you have questions on subjects about spiritual life you will find answers in Gurudeva's books and teachings. Learn about ways to study these teachings by visiting The Master Course site or writing to mastercourse@hindu.org.

Unedited Transcript:

Good Morning, everyone! Good Morning to our guests, welcome! It is nice to have you both with us this morning.

We give a small talk after the ceremony. We are in our Daily Lesson sections in the Nandinatha Sutras. We just started the second section of five sutras which is called 'Facing Life's Challenges'. So I thought I read today from the first two of those and give some commentary on them.

The first one is Sutra 6. "Siva's devotees cultivate a contemplative nature by meditating daily, seeking the light, drawing the lesson from each experience and identifying with infinite intelligence, not with body, emotion or intellect. Aum."

The first part of that is, "Siva's devotees cultivate a contemplative nature by meditating daily, seeking the light."

What is a contemplative nature?

A contemplative nature is, of course, a peaceful nature and this sutra shows the relationship between being peaceful and being regular in your morning worship.

Recently a young Hindu family man asked for suggestions on remaining peaceful, despite our fast paced modern life. I asked him if he worshipped in the morning before going to work and his answer was that he did, some times. So I suggested he be regular everyday in his morning worship and also go to the temple once a week without fail and in this way find greater peace in modern life.

"Drawing a lesson from each experience."

If we take the time to draw the lesson from the experience, we improve our behavior as a result. If we don't take the time then our behavior remains the same, without improvement. To bother to take the time at all and draw the lesson from each experience, we have to understand the importance of this process to our spiritual advancement.

I know many people to whom spiritual life is their meditation practice or time in the shrine room and the rest of their life is school, work and at home is not considered spiritual life. They have yet to understand the point that the experiences of life offer us opportunities to learn and thereby refine our behavior and become a more spiritual person.

The powerful analogy in 'Dancing with Siva' is that the world of maya is the classroom. We or anava are the students and karma is the teacher. In experiencing the reactions to our actions, the ill-conceived actions eventually create a negative result. In understanding this, we are motivated to not do them anymore. Likewise the well conceived, unselfish actions eventually create a positive result. Therefore, we are motivated to do more of them.

The last idea in this sutra is, "Identifying with infinite intelligence, not with body, emotions or intellect."

We know, of course, from Gurudeva's teachings that we are a spiritual being, as is stated in 'Dancing with Siva', Sloka 1, "Rishis proclaim that we are not our body, mind or emotions. We are divine souls on a wonderous journey. We came from God, live in God and are evolving into oneness with God. We are, in truth, the Truth we seek. Aum."

The first line of the Bhasya is also good to read. It says, "We are immortal souls living and growing in the great school of earthly experience in which we have lived many lives."

A few lines later we have, "Deep inside we are perfect this very moment, and we have only to discover and live up to this perfection to be whole."

It is easy to grasp intellectually the concept that you are a spiritual being. The challenge is to actually feel that way about yourself throughout the day, everyday. Often, the unresolved burdens of the past discourage us, other times the challenges of the present overwhelm us.

How then can we actually successfully feel that we are a spiritual being, perfect on the inside at this very moment?

It is by regularly utilizing the many tools that Gurudeva has given us, such as, temple worship, vasana daha tantra, affirmations, color meditations and japa.

Moving on to Sutra number 7.

"Siva's devotees accept all experiences, however difficult, as their self-created karma, without cringing or complaining. Theirs is the power of surrender, accepting what is as it is and dealing with it courageously. Aum."

So the first idea here is, "Siva's devotees accept all experiences, however difficult, as their self-created karma, without cringing or complaining." There is a relevant verse in the Tirukural on this idea. It says, "Why should those who rejoice when destiny brings them good, moan when that same destiny decrees misfortune?"

The Kural points out that it is human nature to only want to experience good fortune and to want to avoid misfortune altogether. This, of course, is not realistic. Our past is a mixture of wisely-conceived unselfish actions and ill-conceived selfish ones. Therefore, the karmas that come to us from those actions are both positive and negative, making us experience both gain and loss, joy and sorrow.

As we often mention, our karma comes to us through other people and it is natural to see other people as the source of what happened to us. They did it, right? So it is their fault.

However as we know, whatever happens to us is our karma, our creation and the other person is simply the vehicle through which the karma comes back to us. As the second principle in Karma Management says - Accept Responsibility.

The next idea of this Sutra is, "Theirs is the power of surrender, accepting what is as it is and dealing with it courageously."

Quite often, our initial response is to resist accepting what is and to want it to be something better, less problematic. Parents are not willing to accept the mistakes the children are making and simply respond with blame and shame rather than helping them understand what they need to know to improve. Teachers find their students to be not as interested in learning as they had hoped and give up on them. Supervisors at work find their staff does not pay attention to the corrections that they make and try to solve the problem by yelling at them.

Gurudeva made an interesting statement in this regard. He said, "Problems are not problems. They are a repetition of the past that needs to be adjusted."

I will read that again, Gurudeva-ism there! "Problems are not problems. They are a repetition of the past that needs to be adjusted."

In other words, labeling certain actions as problems can be an obstacle in solving them. It is as if we are supposed to be perfect and if we make a mistake, that is terrible. However, the truth is that none of us are perfect. Otherwise, we would not be born on earth in the first place. Learning from our mistakes, actually adjusting the repetition of the past needs to be the focus, totally free of any blame and shame in any sense, the problems should not exist.