How do we deal with discouragement? Gurudeva gave us a tool, the vasana daha tantra, to deal with events that hit us emotionally. The subconscious mind dutifully throws up memories that bother us so we can resolve them. Still not inspired? How do we uplift ourselves again? Worship. How do we prevent negative things from happening to us in the first place? Sangam, fellowship, or spiritual companionship, with those on the spiritual path. Another way to keep negative things from happening is to ask ourselves the question, "How is my daily sadhana going?" Keep it going with diligence. The power of diksha, initiation, is sustained and increased by doing the sadhanas required of the initiate, such as chanting your mantra if you were given mantra diksha. This sustains spiritual unfoldment. Otherwise, we automatically regress.
At least a few times a month, someone e-mails in and says, "What do I do? I am just not doing that well on the spiritual path anymore. I am having difficulty. What do you suggest?"
There are two suggestions to get reinspired, to get encouraged. The first one is, perhaps we are reacting to some recent events. Sometimes we hit difficulties in our lives or difficulties in the life of someone we love and they really hit us emotionally. We get discouraged, we lose our inspiration. Gurudeva has given us a wonderful tool, the Vasana Daha Tantra for just those occasions.
How do we know if we are discouraged for that reason? Because we think about it. The subconscious mind always tells us what the problems are by popping them up in front of us on a regular basis. If we find ourselves constantly thinking about some recent events means we have not cleared the subconscious mind of their presence. So we need to take the time to do Vasana Daha Tantra. Write it all down and burn it up. Wait awhile and see if we are still thinking about it. If we are not, good. But if we are thinking about it still, even though we have written it down, we have to write it down again. Part of it we did not write down and get rid of. Probably got rid of a third of it or half of it, but part of it is still there. We can go through this process a number of times. When we reach the point where we don't think about it anymore, we know we don't have to write it down anymore. The subconscious mind stops popping it up as something to deal with.
Another aspect of difficult times, going through a hardship is we blame it on someone else. "They did that to me." We are clinging to that. We are resenting what this other person did to me. We think about it all the time. "This person did that. How could they do that to me?" We have forgotten that one of the basic principles of the law of karma is to take responsibility for what happens. Our karma comes to us through other people. Sometimes we naturally blame the other people. It is easier than blaming our selves. They are the first scapegoat. "They did that to me. I am going to resent that. I am going to feel hurt because they did that to me. I am going to become discouraged because they did that to me and I didn't deserve it."
Obviously, we are stuck until we accept responsibility. "I did that to me through this person." It is hard for things to just fall out of trees! In nature, karma rarely comes back to you in that way. It comes back to you through other people. "I did that to me through that person," is taking responsibility. Whatever happens, I did that to me through the other person. When we stop looking at the person as the cause and look at our self as the cause, then we can start moving on in this difficult experience.
But if we don't then we are stuck because we resent them, we dislike them. We become discouraged because life is unfair to us. So we have to shift our perspective into the perspective that whatever happens, there is only one person to blame. Whoever does it, does not really matter. If something good happens or if something bad happens, there is only one person to blame. Of course, that is me. I did it to myself.
Those are some thoughts on moving on from recent difficult times. We can get out of that discouragement. But even when we have cleared that from our subconscious mind, we still may be not inspired. We are improving but we are not back to where we were. It is like an airplane that landed! We were doing fine, we were up in the sky, going along. All of a sudden, life brought us back to the ground, we landed. So we are on the ground again. How do we take off? How do we get back up to where we were in consciousness when we land through discouragement?
Well, an easy way is through the temple worship, through the Sakti of the Deity. In our tradition, Lord Muruga is particularly effective for lifting us up, energizing us, getting our plane to take off again. He has a very uplifting Sakti particularly on festival days and particularly if we engage in some kind of vrata or penance to really focus in on the sakti. There are lots of opportunities throughout the year, Murugan festivals or Sashti days when Muruga's Sakti is stronger than usual. If we are in need of it, then we should do some serious preparation. Do a vrata, fasting during the day, do some penance. Really focus in and try to absorb as much of Muruga's Sakti as possible during those auspicious days. If we do a good enough job, we will be inspired, we will be back in the air. We will have taken off again in consciousness in a very, very simple way.
How can we prevent this from happening in the first place? When e-mails come in from someone who is in this state of mind, it says, "Gee, I am not doing my sadhana, I have kind of lost my inspiration, my spiritual life isn't working out very well. What do you suggest?"
Sanga. Not a river, a fellowship. Sanga - fellowship, companionship, spiritual companions. Quite often, someone falls off the path because they don't have any friends who are on the path. They are the only one. So they are influenced by the people who they work with, influenced by the people they go to school with, who are not interested in spiritual things. Before you know it, they have lost their interest in spiritual things too. They are interested in just what everyone else is interested in, that they socialize with at work and at school.
There are some beautiful quotes in the Kural on this, "As water changes according to the soil through which it flows, so a man assimilates the character of his associates. Purity of mind and purity of conduct, these two depend upon the purity of a man's companions."
Tirukural certainly understands this one very, very well. There is a lot of good advice there on companions. A good way of thinking about companions is the natural concern that parents have for who their children are making friends with. We know what happens. Children start acting like their friends. It happens all the time. So it is a simple example of this principle.
If we want to reinforce our spiritual aspirations, we need to have friends who are also spiritual. It is very hard if we don't. So the advice I always give when someone e-mails in is to find some kind of religious gathering you can go to once a week. Find a sangam you can affiliate with. people who are spiritually inclined that you can make friends with and you will find your spiritual life getting strengthened just by that fellowship. That is the idea of satsanga, fellowship of those who are seeking truth, seeking spiritual unfoldment.
The second advise given in this case is, "How is your daily sadhana going?" Of course they will say, "What sadhana? Let us see. I haven't done, I forget what I am supposed to do." To end up in this state of mind means somewhere along the line you slacked off on your sadhana and you probably stopped it all together, at least parts of it. So this is the second way of preventing getting discouraged in the first place.
The first way is fellowship with spiritual seekers and the second way is to keep your daily sadhana going with diligence. Don't give up on it.
Sometimes, Gurudeva has initiated Church members in mantra diksha and they do their mantra diksha for a year or two and then stop. They stop doing it altogether. You cannot benefit spiritually from a diksha you received years ago, if you don't do the sadhana that the diksha requires. The diksha wanes in power. The power of the diksha is sustained and increased by doing the sadhana that came with it. So japa, visesha diksha, puja. Sometimes members stop doing their puja, just don't have enough time, right? "Oh, I am so busy. There is no way I can do the puja. It is just - I go to bed, I get up, I go to work. There is no time in my life for puja."
Why did you get initiated? Why did you take on the obligation of doing puja if you are not going to do it? Doing the daily puja for those that receive visesha diksha, of course is a necessary part of daily sadhana to sustain the spiritual unfoldments, to sustain the state of inspiration that you have.
It sounds simple, sangam and sadhana. It works. If we are diligent in maintaining sangam, fellowship with friends, companions who are spiritually inclined and doing our daily sadhana, then we don't end up in states of discouragement that we otherwise would. We don't end up back into the worldly habits that we previously had. We stay above them, we go a different direction. Without both of those, it is likely we wind up back where we were. We feel like we have regressed here, not making progress. We were doing better and now we are not. It is like a weight-loss program! You do real well for a while. Then, all of a sudden you start putting it back on. Same way with sadhana.