Spiritualizing Daily Life -- Six Challenges in Life

Bodhinatha begins a series of talks which focus on the topic of Spiritualizing Daily Life. He includes the themes The World is an Ashram and Work is Worship. Six common challenges we all face in life are discussed and Bodhinatha puts forth the spiritual method and means to meet these challenges.

Unedited Transcript:

Nice to have so many guests with us this morning. This is the point in the program where I give a short talk, so still getting polished, it's not finished.

Developing a theme that we've been talking about, taking the idea of work is worship, which is a general concept and making it more specific. Well I keep running into the same concern when I meet with Hindu families, there's a couple of constant themes and this theme expresses itself like; you know we're so busy with modern life, working, taking care of the family and so forth, we don't have any time for a spiritual life. What do we do? So, of course I wrote a whole editorial on that, about work being worship, and when we look at what we do during the work day, during our school day in the right way, then it's part of our worship. But, I realized it's too general a concept. We need a check off list. So, specific things to do and not to do during the time we're in the world. So that's what this is working up to and it's part of our upcoming Innersearch Travel Study Program. It's part of a series of classes. This will be part of the introduction.

It's a series of six classes that's going to focus on the topic: "Spiritualizing Daily Life." That's the topic: "Spiritualizing Daily Life." So things to do and not to do to make us, to make us acquire more, to make us evolve more during our work day. To advance us spiritually. In other words there's lots of opportunities to advance spiritually but we don't take advantage of them. So, we're missing the opportunity. We're evolving more slowly than we need to. So, this is trying to make us more aware of what those opportunities are and therefore to encourage us to take them more often.

And it's very important for children because children aren't being trained in this way and whatever teachings they're taught about Hinduism don't relate at all to what they do at school. You know there's nothing, there's no checklist of things to do and not to do at school from their teachers on Hinduism. It's all about the temple or about the philosophy. But they need a checklist. You know these are the things to do at school, these are the things not to do at school, to make spiritual progress.

So that's the general idea, so as I say it's kind of in its first stage here, it's not a polished presentation.

In Hinduism we are fortunate to have so many realized beings to guide us along the spiritual path. Their insights are so profound and powerful that they penetrate our normal consciousness and give us new insights into how to live to maximize our spiritual progress.

Our paramaguru, Yogaswami, of Jaffna, Sri Lanka, gave us one such gem in his statement "The world is an ashram, a training ground for the achievement of moksha, liberation. Each one does his part according to his measure. There is nothing that is evil."

Yogaswami's statement reminded me of a line from William Shakespeare's play "As You Like It" which goes:

'All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players: They have their exits and their entrances; And one man in his time plays many parts, His acts being seven ages.'

So using Yogaswami's insightful statement, here is a paraphrase of Shakespeare's lines; of course the first line is:

All the world's an ashram, And all the men and women are divine souls; They are spiritually maturing through earthly experiences, And one soul in its time takes many births, And thus evolves into oneness with God.

So, I like that one better than Shakespeare's personally, little more spiritual.

Let's look more closely at what it means to say that all the world's an ashram. When we go out the door to go to work, school or elsewhere, do we have in mind that we are going to an ashram? That our actions during the day at the office or in the classroom or elsewhere will help us evolve spiritually and bring us closer to moksha? When we come home and reflect on the day, do we feel that we have made spiritual progress when out of the home? Probably not. Why is this? It is because we have not been trained to look at life in this way.

The common idea is that what we do in the shrine room and at the temple is what brings us spiritual progress. And that what we do at the office or in the classroom has nothing to do with our spiritual life.

This common perspective is not the viewpoint of great souls such as Yogaswami. Such souls know that much spiritual progress can be made during our time in the world if we hold the right perspective. Let's bring this concept down to earth by dividing the opportunities for spiritual progress into two categories. They are "facing life's challenges" and "opportunities to serve."

First, facing life's challenges. Life is going to come to you whether you want it to or not. Joyful, easy times, difficult times, joys, sorrows, pleasure, pain, it is all coming. It is all there. It is all in your karma. It can't help but come. So you don't have to go looking for it, you don't have to go try and do something different. You can't avoid it, you can't hide from it. It is going to come.

It is like the famous story. A king was told that his son was going to die from a snake bite. So he did everything in the world to prevent it, but still it happened. He was not able to prevent the karma from happening, even though he was a king and had all these resources at his disposal.

Life's challenges will come to us. What is going to happen is going to happen. But where the focus should be is how we respond to it, because that is where we have a choice. That is where we have free will.

For example, a small infant keeps us awake all night by crying. How do we respond to it? Does it upset us? Or, do we just take it and respond back with lots of love?

We get accused of something that we didn't do. How do we respond to it? We face challenges at work, our boss is unfair with us, yells at us. Any of this sound familiar? Do we go home and yell at the spouse? We want to yell at the boss but we could not. So do we go home and yell at the spouse? We have choices. It's how we face the challenges in life that come to us that makes the difference. We can face them and just react emotionally to them without thinking much about spiritual principles. We can get angry. We can get despondent. We can worry a lot. We can get irritable. We can also choose to control these emotional reactions that we might have. We can choose to live without anger. We can choose to increase our patience. We can choose to be kinder to other people, to be more generous. That is what makes a difference.

In other words, if we get angry now and then, let us try and eliminate anger all together. If we get impatient with people who seem to explain things at great lengths when it could be explained in a short way, lets learn not how to get impatient. Let us learn how to accept that that is their nature.

We find ourselves receiving money, a bonus at work and our first thought is what we can do to get ourselves more possessions. Let us try and be more generous. What can we do to help the local temple, should be our first thought.

Here is a list of six common challenges we face in life that provide us with good opportunities for spiritual progress if we can respond in a wise manner with self-control.

That's as far as I got so the rest has to be, [laughs] the rest has to be a little more informal. So we have a six comments, well I got up to 5:15 this morning and I ran out of time.

First challenge. So there's six challenges. Mistreatment by others:

So this is you know, the most common one. People are always mistreating us, right? Isn't that amazing? Why they don't treat us without mistreating us. So, how we react to mistreatment. You know we've talked about that before. There's four possible reactions to mistreatment and the example I used, I think it was last talk was at work. Someone always takes the pens from your desk. You know a simple example, right? So how do you respond? Can retaliate. When he's not there at lunch you go take the pens from his desk, right? OK. We're retaliating, we feel good. You can smolder inside, do nothing you know, really resent the fact that he takes your pens but you don't do anything, you really dislike it inside, and it's just burning inside but you don't do anything. Well that's not good either of course.

You can forgive the person, realizing that he doesn't know better. Forgiveness is based on realizing that that's all the person knows; he doesn't know how to do it another way. If he did he would. So, by accepting the person and realizing that they're lacking certain knowledge you can forgive them. Or, you can buy a bunch of pens for them and give them to them. Say, I noticed that you're always running out of pens. You know here's a big supply, this should last you for a few months. So that's the idea of, it's a "Tirukural" verse that it says, let's see, remember it? Return, return injury with kindness and forget both. Something like that. It actually reads better than that, but that's the idea. Instead of retaliating which is returning injury with injury, which the world is fill of, full of, we return the injury with a kindness. Why? Because we want to improve the world. We don't' want the world to be full of retaliation. We want the world to be a more spiritual place. So, we return injury with kindness.

So that's the first challenge. Lots of opportunities there to handle that. Cause of we're always getting mistreated by someone.

Second challenge. We make a mistake.

So, you may know someone who makes mistakes. You can pass this on to them. So, we all make mistakes in other words. So the, I've a lesson on that and it focuses on the four responses to a mistake. And, so the goal is to learn from our mistakes and not repeat them. So, mistakes are wonderful when we learn from them and you know it's one of the things parents can teach children, grandparents can teach grandchildren is: You know it's OK to make a mistake but you should learn from it and not repeat it.

So, that's how we grow spiritually. Just like child grows up to be an adult. Child makes a lot of mistakes when the child's younger and the parents teach the child and the child learns how to not make those mistakes. So similarly over a period of lives, the soul grows up. And in the process it makes a lot of mistakes. So, we can't go down in a heap and feel bad because we made a mistake, you know, which is the first reaction. You know we have to learn the lesson, learn how not to repeat the mistake and develop a, I call it being self reflective. Being self reflective enough to realize we made a mistake and not repeating it. So it's a habit we can get into, even on small things. An example I always use is a road. Cause we, our back road has a few major holes in which are actually getting a little bigger than when I first started telling this story. So it's more important you know. So you drive down the back road and the tire goes into the hole and everyone almost hits their head, or does hit their head on the roof of the car and you know you keep going. So, but do you do it again? You know, next day when you drive down the road. Do you hit the same hole or not. You know, are you self reflective? You made a mistake. You hit the hole. Wasn't good for the people in the car, wasn't good for the car. You have the ability to say: OK, every time I drive down this road in the future I'm going to go to the left because I know there's a hole right there and I hit this hole once and I don't have to hit it again. So, that's a simple example about you know being self-reflective and learning from our mistakes.

And third challenge: Difficult projects.

So, sometimes when we face difficult projects, you know things that really stretch our abilities to accomplish, we kind of feel overwhelmed by them. We don't see the value. Why do I have to work so hard? What's the benefit of doing all of this? So, the benefit is that it creates concentration, willpower and steadfastness. Qualities that work on our inner life as well. There're not just qualities that we acquire that help us do things in the outer world, they also help us do things within ourselves. They help us advance spiritually because we have better concentration, better willpower and we're more steadfast. We, we keep doing something once we started. So those qualities which you can cultivate in children when they're going to school, and how they handle their schoolwork, and when we go to work in a profession, those same qualities are important to cultivate. So it shows how our abilities in the outer world to do things also help us inwardly.

Fourth challenge: Disturbed emotions:

We get upset. And the boss or the teacher corrects us. We get upset. We get emotional. So, lots of things upset us in daily life and do we let them upset us? Do we remain upset all day? How do we respond when we get upset? So, the spiritual approach to getting upset is we want to increase our control over our emotions. As Gurudeva says: "Emotions are either something that control us or we control them." So, lots of people are controlled by their emotions, they just, they get upset and that's it for the day they get upset. But, spiritual person, if he gets upset tries to pull him or herself out of the upset condition as quickly as possible. That's the spiritual response. OK, we got upset, let's get un-upset and to work with ourselves and learn how to do that. And eventually, once we've learned how to do that, we'll be good enough at it that we won't get upset in the first place. But we have to start by pulling ourselves out of the upset mood as quickly as possible, that's the start. We have to master that first and then we can get it to the point where we just don't get upset anymore. Very hard to meditate when you're disturbed.

Misunderstandings:

That's one of the things that happens between people. Misunderstandings come up and how we handle them determines our spiritual progress. Do we resolve them or don't we resolve them. Get a lot of misunderstandings that are unresolved with other people, it's a real barrier to spiritual progress. You know Gurudeva speaks a lot about this in "Living with Siva" that we should resolve differences. Nothing wrong with having differences of opinion with others, but they should be resolved. Not just go on forever.

So lots of people, when misunderstandings come up, hard feelings come up they just, they don't resolve them. They hold on to them for ever. They can tell at the end of their life, you know, a list of about three hundred unresolved misunderstandings. Because they don't have the philosophy about of resolving things. They have the philosophy that someone mistreats you you should just shun them forever and you never resolve it. So that's not Gurudeva's approach. Gurudeva says: OK, if a misunderstanding comes up, resolve it. Don't hold grudges and don't let things go undiscussed.

Sixth challenge: Group gossip and criticism.

So this is a constant problem. People like to gossip. And gossiping is unkind speech. So Gurudeva teaches us to speak only that which is true, kind, helpful and necessary. So gossiping, speaking about others in a negative way, you know when they're not around, is not something we should participate in. So I got an e-mail on that. Real live e-mail came in in the last week. "My question is: What should you do when people around you gossip and backbite and you know that is wrong? Do you simply walk away or try to say something? How does one deal with that situation? "

OK. Advice: It depends on how well you know the people. If you don't know them well, walking away is good. If you know them through regular association, you can try to change the subject. If they are family members you should be quite direct and explain that you are not comfortable gossiping or backbiting and would rather talk about something else.

So that's where it stands at the moment. It's not finished as I said and the other part of it is, maybe we'll present that next week, is: "Six Opportunities to Serve." This was: "Six Challenges in Life." The other side is six opportunities to serve and you know, how many children go to school with the idea of helping others and volunteering? You know not very many right. They're going to school to get the good grades and that's it. They're not doing anything extra. But there's lots of opportunities in life to help others and in helping others we earn punya; we earn good merit, good karma. So of course in harming others we earn papa or demerit. So there's lots of opportunities in life to help others and to advance ourselves spiritually. So that's can be our talk of next time.

Aum Namah Sivaya

[End of transcript]