Not self-importance, but inner oneness
One afternoon a spiritual Master asked one of his new disciples to hang a picture in the front hall of his centre. The Master pointed to a spot on the wall and told the disciple, “Please drive a nail here.” Naturally the new disciple was very happy that the Master had asked him to do this. He eagerly picked up the hammer and began to hit the nail. The disciple was performing the task soulfully and devotedly, without showing off, although the Master had asked him in particular and there were many disciples nearby to observe him.
Now it happened that one individual whom the Master considered a bad disciple was talking to a few of his friends at the other end of the hall. When he saw what had happened, this bad disciple immediately felt jealous. He said to himself, “Oh, Master cares more for him than for me; that is why Master has asked him to drive the nail.”
A few minutes later the Master politely asked the new disciple to sweep the kitchen floor. This time the other disciple was again dying of jealousy because the Master had asked the new disciple and not him. “Oh, Master asked him to do it,” said this unfortunate disciple. “It is only kitchen work, but I am inwardly dying because I have not got this kind of opportunity.”
One of the Master’s best disciples, who was really devoted and dedicated to the Master, was sitting in the meditation room nearby. He said to himself, “I am so grateful to the Master that he has asked that particular disciple, rather than me, to drive the nail and sweep the floor. He has now given me the opportunity to meditate. I can continue my meditation. I truly feel that the Master is doing this for my good.”
Another good disciple of the Master had also observed the scene. He was not in a meditative mood and he actually felt very depressed. This disciple said to himself, “Oh, I am so glad to see this. I know that Master is doing everything for my good. Today I am not in a good mood and if Master had asked me to drive a nail or sweep the floor, then I would only have shown off. I would have displayed my pride and vanity and all my other undivine qualities. I am so grateful to Master because he has forgiven me; he has not brought me forward and exposed my ignorance. He has not given me the opportunity today to expose myself.”
Occultly the Master had read the mind of each of these three disciples. He was very proud of his two good disciples and very displeased with the bad disciple’s reaction. The Master decided to speak to all the disciples present about the correct inner attitude towards selfless service. He called them into the meditation hall and said, “So-called selfless service is creating a problem in my ashram. I shall not use the word ‘ego’, but ‘importance’; it is our self-importance which is creating such problems.
“A good disciple will always find something good in the Master’s dispensation. He will think that it is for his own good that the Master is asking somebody else to do something. If he is in a bad mood, even then he is grateful that the Master has not exposed his ignorance. And if he is in a good mood, then he feels that his Master has given him the opportunity to meditate and go deep within and do something in the inner world. A good disciple will always know and feel, ‘Whatever is good for me, Master is giving me; whatever is good for others, Master is giving them; and this is bound to be the best for me also.’ But a bad disciple will never think in such a divine way. He will always feel that the Master cares for others much, much more than for him. If you constantly have the same divine attitude as the good disciple, then you will always be able to save yourself from the attack of jealousy, which is nothing but ignorance.”
This particular bad disciple inwardly felt that the Master had read his thoughts. But outwardly he said, “Master, please explain to us what you mean.”
The Master looked at the disciple for a few moments and then said, “When I ask someone else to do something, if you are a bad disciple you will immediately say, ‘Oh, Master has asked him; that means he cares only for him.’ At that time your whole world is lost because I have asked somebody else and not you. But if you are a good disciple, then immediately you will say, ‘I am so grateful to Master because he has allowed me to meditate and go deep within, to enjoy infinite Peace, Light and Bliss.’ This is absolutely the correct view, the divine view. Now see how you can change your attitude and save yourself.”
The bad disciple felt ashamed that the Master had openly exposed his wrong attitude. The Master continued, “Again, you have to go one step farther and say, ‘If the Master asks me immediately to drive a nail or to sweep the kitchen, then with equal joy I will perform the task because, for me, to meditate and to sweep the floor are of the same importance. But just now for one thing I have been asked and for another thing I have not been asked. I am happy that I am able to do something for the Master. If I remain in ignorance and let jealousy attack me, then I shall never be allowed to sweep the floor or to drive the nail. I won’t be able to meditate well either.’ Good disciples will always ascribe a good motive to everything that they are asked to do and bad disciples will always find a bad motive behind the Master’s request. If you play the role of a good disciple, then not only your problem but also God’s problem, the problem of age-old human ignorance, will immediately be solved.”
The Master paused. “One more point I shall tell you and then I shall end my sermon. When a newcomer enters into a family, when a child is born, if the elder brothers or sisters are not good, then they become extremely jealous of him. They feel that previously the parents gave much attention to them, but that now the little one will get all the importance and they will get none. If they are really good and divine, then they become so happy that they have a new child in the family, a little brother. They feel, ‘Now we have one more in our family. If we have any disputes or calamities with a neighbouring family, our little brother will be able to fight for us when he is grown up. He will make us stronger than we are now.’ This is the attitude they take.”
“Master,” said the bad disciple most sincerely, “please tell us how to apply this philosophy in our spiritual lives.”
The Master said, “Here the family living adjacent to us is ignorance. You see that in our spiritual family the membership is increasing. If you take the attitude that each newcomer is a real member of your family, instead of a threat, then our family will be strengthened. And you yourself will be able to fight more powerfully against the enemy that is just beside you: ignorance. Always try to feel that in accepting newcomers you are increasing the number of your own soldiers to fight against ignorance. If you have sympathy and love for a new person, then that person becomes yours and in the tug-of-war the strength of your side is increasing, always increasing. The other side, ignorance, will naturally have to surrender to you. So be grateful to the newcomer for joining your side in the tug-of-war. Now you are getting more strength, more opportunity to conquer ignorance.”
“Master,” said the disciple, “your Illumination-Light has made everything very clear to us. From now on, no self-importance, no jealousy; only inner sympathy and love for our fellow disciples. We shall try; and with your Light, we shall definitely succeed.”
A galaxy of saints
Once there was a very great spiritual Master who dedicated himself unreservedly to all his ashrams around the world. The Master had a very high standard and he expected much from his disciples. But alas, one year many of his spiritual centres fell below his standard and his Beloved Supreme compelled him to disband the fallen centres one by one. Each time he lost a centre, the Master felt that he had lost part of his own heart and soul. Finally the Master had only one centre left, in a country far, far away.
One night the Master saw occultly that a great calamity was about to take place in this centre and that the Supreme in him would compel him to dissolve this centre as well. The Master was beside himself with grief. He immediately made arrangements to fly there the following day. As soon as the Master arrived, he called all his disciples together.
The Master began, “My dearest spiritual children, this will be one of my sermons. I am so pessimistic nowadays. Optimism has left me; pessimistic thoughts have come. I always say to you people, ‘Let us be hopeful,’ but now all the centres have disappointed me to such an extent that I see only darkness all around. I am sorry to say that I may be forced to disband this centre as well.”
The disciples were sad and shocked to hear that the situation had come to this critical point. “What exactly is the matter, Master?” one of them asked.
The Master said, “In some of my other centres there were people who paid all attention to selfless service and did not pay any attention to meditation. Meditation is a supreme necessity; selfless service is a supreme necessity. Both are of paramount importance in the spiritual life. But unfortunately at this centre you don’t give attention either to meditation or to dedicated service.”
“Master,” asked one disciple, “how have we disappointed you in our selfless service?”
“We have very few ways to express our selfless service here,” said the Master. “But each of you can do much, much more. Some of you do work hard in printing my books and in raising funds for the centre. But I tell you that if you had been more sincere, more dedicated and more devoted, then we could have branched out into more enterprises and other forms of dedicated service. That is to say, there are many, many other things we could have accomplished if you had been more serious in your devoted service.”
“Then please tell us what we should do to change our nature, Master,” one disciple said.
“If each of you can feel that you are one hundred per cent responsible for the success and progress of this centre, not ninety-nine but one hundred per cent, then there is no reason why this centre cannot survive and run the fastest. I wish to say that if you really feel at every second that you are God’s supremely chosen children, then this dearest centre of mine, my fondest centre, will have a different fate; and this change can be made overnight.
“When we become undivine in one thing, we become undivine in everything. If a person is really bad, he is bad in everything. But again, if he is really good, he as good in everything. Each one should first play the role of a saint. If each and every one of my spiritual children feels that he is a saint, then here we can have a galaxy of saints. But right now we don’t see ourselves in that way. So how can we think of surpassing the saints?”
“Master, we know that we are full of imperfections,” one disciple immediately said. “How can you say that we are at all like saints?”
“I tell you,” said the Master, “that you are the chosen instruments of God. Chosen instruments of God are far superior to saints. A saint is very good, but he is not brave enough. His standard is high, but he won’t touch things that are beneath him and he won’t be eager to speak to others. He is afraid of being stained by the dark ink of the world. Usually Indian saints enter into the Himalayan caves. They lead a very pure life, but they don’t work for God-manifestation. Here each one of you has been chosen by the Supreme as a hero-warrior. You already embody the saintly qualities of aspiration and the feeling of oneness. These divine qualities you are now going to offer to the world at large. That is why we call you chosen instruments of the Supreme. You have to go far, far beyond the saints and fight against fear, doubt, jealousy, imperfection and limitation according to the Will of the Supreme.”
Everyone was deeply moved by the Master’s words. But one disciple asked, “What shall we do if people reject our offering, Master?”
The Master said, “A scorpion’s capacity is to bite. The very nature of an undivine person is to hurt others. But if you are a saint, you won’t kill the scorpion after it bites you. What will you do? You will just put it back where it belongs. It is your very nature to do this, because you are divine. If somebody hurts you, then you will show your capacity, which is your nobility. Nothing is wasted, my children. Even an undivine person is bound to receive some light from your nobility, either consciously or unconsciously.
“Every day this centre can be improved if each individual feels that he is a saint. There is nothing wrong in thinking this way at first; it is absolutely the right attitude. If you say, ‘I am a good man, I am a sincere man,’ then you become one with your soul. At that time you cannot do anything wrong. If you take the positive approach and say, ‘I am the Supreme’s child,’ or if you repeat a few times, ‘I am God’s son,’ or ‘I am God’s daughter,’ then all good qualities come to you. But if you make yourself feel that you are a lump of clay or a bundle of ignorance and God is somebody else far away, then you will never reach your Goal. You will only be crying and weeping all the time. That is the wrong approach. You have to feel that you are in potentiality what God is. If God is great, God is kind, God is affectionate, God is forgiving, then we also have those qualities. Every attribute that we ascribe to God, we ourselves also have.”
“They certainly are hidden right now,” said one disciple.
“We have them in an infinitesimal measure, whereas God has them in infinite measure. But as we become spiritually mature, these qualities grow in infinite measure. So we should have the inner feeling that what God has in boundless measure, we also definitely have. Then at the express command of the Supreme we have to offer our wealth unreservedly to mankind.
“God is the ocean and the individual is the tiny drop. If this tiny drop enters into the ocean, then how are we going to trace it? It becomes the ocean itself. Again, if all the drops are taken away from the ocean, then the ocean will be empty. If I as a drop and you as a drop are taken away from the ocean, which is God, then the ocean is not complete. The drop surrenders itself to the ocean and becomes the ocean. At that time, the compassion of the ocean and the love of the ocean accept the drop as their very own, as something that will add to their strength.”
“Are you saying that the drop actually contributes something to the ocean, Master?” asked a disciple.
“It is absolutely true,” said the Master. “If your father has one thousand dollars and you, as a child, bring one dollar to your father, then the sum becomes one thousand and one. At that time your father no longer has only one thousand dollars; he has one thousand and one. Similarly, all of you should feel that your effort, your spiritual contribution is extremely necessary. Each individual contribution adds to God’s Reality and His Capacity on earth and in Heaven.
“Please try to always feel that you are the chosen child of the Supreme. You know that right beside your house there may be people who are very, very bad, very low and very undivine. You will never do the things that they do. You immediately feel that you come from a respectable family, you have had a good education and you are following the spiritual life; therefore it is impossible for you to do the things that they do, it is simply beneath your dignity. Their standard and your standard are totally different. Your standard is very high; their standard is very low.
“Again, you have to feel that the things that you are doing right now, in comparison to a saint’s standard, are very low. But God is telling you that you are far superior to a saint. You have accepted the spiritual life and you now have the power to become His chosen instrument. This is what we always claim to be. Let us always think to what we truly are.”
“Master, forgive me, but I don’t understand you. First you scold us; then you extol us to the skies.”
“Dear ones,” said the Master, “when I tell you that you are God’s children, I am not flattering you. No! I see in you what you truly are. But unfortunately you don’t see what you are. That is the problem. Think of yourselves as divine. Then automatically the undivine qualities will leave you, because they will see that they are knocking at the wrong door, a stranger’s door. There will unmistakably come a time when your life and the life of ignorance and limitation will be perfect strangers to each other. So, my children, try to change your fate. God’s Grace is already there.”
The rules of the Master
Once there was a spiritual Master who was very strict with his disciples. Once a week, however, he met with new disciples and prospective disciples and with these seekers he was not strict. Now, it happened that one week the Master knew he would be late to this meeting, so he asked one of his close disciples, who had been with him a long time, to read out some rules and regulations before his arrival. Unfortunately, even before the disciple had finished reading, people started shouting questions and insults at him. They vehemently protested against the new regulations which requested disciples to give up drugs, shave their beards, cut their hair and dress modestly. The poor disciple felt that the best thing for him to do would be to leave the room.
When the Master arrived, the disciple told him what had happened. The Master became furious. He entered the meditation room to formally start the meeting, meditated only five minutes facing the group and then said, “Some people here are cursing the disciples who are responsible either for writing these rules or for reading them to you. But it was my wish that these regulations be worded in this way and it was at my express request that this disciple read them out tonight. I am taking full responsibility for their actions.
“Some of you are finding these prerequisites very harsh, perhaps undivine. If the wording is harsh and undivine, then you have to know that I myself have been suffering mercilessly from many undivine vibrations caused by the misconduct of both the disciples and the non-disciples. I feel that the time has come for me to be a little strict and to stand firmly by my convictions. If any new seekers approach you about these rules, please tell them what I have just said.”
One new disciple who had a beard said, “Master, I am a little confused, since some of your good disciples do have beards.”
The Master said, “My son, you have just joined our centre. If you want to be my true disciple then please try to follow my request. Now, every rule admits of exceptions. If I ask one individual out of two hundred or three hundred to keep his beard, then I am fully responsible for it. If you see that somebody among my disciples has a beard or long hair, then you have to know that either that person has got my permission or I personally have asked him to keep it. Either it is my necessity or it is that person’s necessity. When I approve of something that is not in my rules, I approve for a particular individual; this permission does not apply to all.”
One boy jumped up and said angrily, “Jesus Christ had long hair.”
The Master immediately replied, “If you say that the Christ had long hair, I will agree. If I see the Christ, I will go and touch his feet. But if I see you, I will just run away. If you have the Christ-consciousness, then you can have long hair. I have written and spoken considerably about long hair. It is my feeling that men should look like men and women should look like women according to the present standards. Hundreds of years ago men had long hair, but we have no right to do so now in the twentieth century just because they did. Most of the time people feel that long hair will offer them a kind of soft, gentle or mild quality. But this is not true. Even if you have long hair you can have a very disturbing vibration. I have seen that nowadays long hair creates a ferocious vibration. From now on, you must have short hair and no beard, and your clothes should be neat and tidy.”
“Do you think it is fair,” asked another boy arrogantly, “to make us stop taking drugs?”
The Master said, “If you are still taking drugs, then you are knocking at the wrong door. Our door will no longer be open to you. Drugs and alcohol I do not approve of, nor can I tolerate. I always say that gradually, gradually you can stop smoking or drinking tea or coffee. But in the case of drugs I don’t tell seekers, ‘gradually, gradually you can stop’. I tell them, ‘Stop immediately’.”
“Are you also strict about diet?” one girl asked.
“Meat and fish,” explained the Master, “and especially meat, offer us animal consciousness. When we eat meat, our subtle nerves become agitated. Fish is also undivine. When we take fish, the subtle nerves become lethargic. We are already half animal. We quarrel and fight all the time. Why should we increase our animal qualities? But again I say, as with tea or coffee, if you can’t stop eating meat and fish all at once, don’t worry; slowly and steadily you can give them up. Week by week you can try to minimise the quantity. But if possible, it is better to stop eating meat and fish immediately. Since you want to follow a spiritual path, why should you add to your animal qualities?”
At this point one seeker said, “I am studying under another Master as well and he is not so strict with his disciples.”
The Master replied, “As we have no right to convert anyone, you also have no right to disturb our peace, our serenity, our prayer. We are not begging you to come to our path. If you have come from a different path, there is no harm in it, provided that you now feel the necessity of following our path. But if you still have another Master and at the same time you try our path or other paths, then you will make no progress. In school there are many subjects. Naturally for each subject you need a different teacher. But in the inner school it can never be like that. In the spiritual life there is one subject and one teacher. If you go to different paths, you are making a mistake.”
Finally the Master spoke to all the seekers and new disciples.
“Most of my disciples are very sincere and earnest, so I feel I can exercise my authority. If you don’t want to follow our path devotedly, soulfully, explicitly, then we do not want your presence. You cannot please two Masters. He who wants to please everyone, pleases no one. If you want to follow our path, you should give us a chance. If after six months or a year or two you feel that you are not receiving anything here, then you should go to someone else. But as long as you remain in my boat you have to abide by my rules, which are the soulful necessities for my spiritual children.”
Then the Master stood up to close the meeting.
You belong to God
One hundred and fifty years ago there was a certain spiritual Master in India who made a resolution at the beginning of each year as to how he would deal with his disciples. In this way each year the Master would try a different approach to expedite the progress of his disciples. He would follow his declaration faithfully for the entire year. One New Year’s Day the Master announced that this would be the year of self-transcendence. He gave a very inspiring talk about transcending limitations:
“The New Year means new hope, new determination, new realisation and new manifestation. Every day we can have new hope, new determination, new realisation and new manifestation, but unfortunately it does not usually happen in that way. So at least once a year we should find inner encouragement and bring forth new achievements, new reality. Such being the case, I wish to say that today we are getting a golden opportunity not only to transcend our limitations, but also to transform them. While aspiring, we eventually transcend our achievements. When we transcend our achievements, we transcend our limitations as well. Every second we can achieve and transcend; and while we are transcending ourselves, our limitations can easily be transformed as well. In this way we gradually come to know more and more of our divine reality.”
After his talk the Master asked his disciples to come up one by one for his spiritual blessing. After he had blessed them, a close disciple of the Master asked, “Master, can you tell each one of us individually what limitations we should transcend?”
The Master said, “My spiritual children, we have only one limitation and that limitation is the feeling that God belongs to somebody else and not to us. We have learnt: ‘God belongs to him; He is partial to him, not to me.’ That is our only limitation. When we have that kind of attitude, we feel that we ourselves are the most useless limitation. But now let us try to feel that God belongs to others and that He belongs to us as well. Each individual has to have the faith that he will eventually feel the constant Presence of God. When we have this feeling, all our limitations can be surmounted. So from now on, all of you please feel that God belongs to you. If you claim God as your very own then there can be no limitations.”
Suddenly one young man stood up. “Master, what can I do? I have been your disciple for ten years, but I still feel that I am all limitation.”
“First of all,” said the Master, “it is wrong to feel that you are an unworthy disciple or that you are my worst disciple. These feelings are not good. There are two ways to ruin ourselves. One way is to feel that we are great, very great, by far the best; everybody is inferior to us. This is one kind of ego; self-aggrandisement. The other way to ruin ourselves is to feel that we are hopeless, we are useless; everybody is far superior to us. By feeling that we are good for nothing, we get a kind of subtle pleasure. By feeling that everybody is at our feet, that we have surpassed everyone, in this way also we get a kind of pleasure. These are the two ways in which the ego operates. One way we feed our self-aggrandisement and the other way we starve our dream and reality. Both ways are bad.”
“Then how should I feel, Master?” asked the boy.
“The positive approach is ‘I am God’s son. Now it is up to me to please Him in His own way and it is up to Him to manifest His Reality in and through me.’ If you have this kind of attitude, then you will never have a feeling of inferiority and you will never think that you are my worst disciple. Who is best? Who is worst? God alone knows. But by feeling that you are by far the best or the worst, you do not gain anything. If you aggrandise your ego, then you are doing something wrong. And if you deliberately strike your own reality, then you are also doing something wrong.”
“Oh, Master,” said the boy, “you have hundreds of disciples, so it is not easy to feel that I am a chosen disciple of yours.”
“From now on,” the Master said, “please feel that you are God’s son, and that out of millions and billions of people on earth you have been awakened. You are following our path. Whenever one follows a spiritual path, that person is supremely chosen. Here the feeling of unworthiness has no value. All of you are following our path. You are chosen disciples for our path. And for you, our path is the one that is destined to take you to God.”
(Sri Chinmoy, A galaxy of saints)