Reality and Life

The existence of the world, extreme views: The attitude that the world is real, the attitude that the world is illusion. When we look at it the right way, through experiencing the world, we come to God. Challenges we face in life provide good opportunities for spiritual progress. Wanting to live in a place that's totally quiet and peaceful is a false spiritual concept. The key to doing well spiritually is to learn not to get upset by disturbing experiences.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone. Always seems so quiet the day after a big festival. This is from, I believe it's yesterday's Dancing With Siva lesson.

"Does the Universe ever end. Is it real?

"The universe ends at mahapralaya, when time, form and space dissolve in God Siva, only to be created again in the next cosmic cycle. We call it relatively real to distinguish it from the unchanging Reality.

"This universe, and indeed all of existence, is maya, Siva's mirific energy. While God is absolutely real, His emanated world is relatively real. Being relatively real does not mean the universe is illusory or nonexistent, but that it is impermanent and subject to change. It is an error to say that the universe is mere illusion, for it is entirely real when experienced in ordinary consciousness, and its existence is required to lead us to God. The universe is born, evolves and dissolves in cycles much as the seasons come and go through the year. These cycles are inconceivably immense, ending in mahapralaya when the universe undergoes dissolution. All three worlds, including time and space, dissolve in God siva. This is His ultimate grace--the evolution of all souls is perfect and complete as they lose individuality and return to Him. Then God Siva exists alone in His three perfections until He again issues forth creation. The Vedas state, 'Truly, God is One; there can be no second. He alone governs these worlds with his powers. He stands facing beings. He, the herdsman, after bringing forth all worlds, reabsorbs them at the end of time.'"

So, certainly having the right attitude toward the world is a key aspect of making progress on the spiritual path. That's part of what Gurudeva's stressing here in his bhashya. "The existence of the world is required to lead us to God." So, when we think of the world we tend to think in standard concepts; one is the materialistic concept where we're infatuated with the world. So, we're all here so none of us is suffering from that one. But that's a common attitude toward the world, is that it's real. In fact, the purpose of life has to do solely with the world and acquiring possessions. That's common thought in the modern world, both in East and West. Materialism! The purpose of life is to stack up those possessions. The opposite extreme is the world is illusion. It doesn't really matter; we should just ignore it, kind of pretend it's not there. So that's going from one end of the spectrum to the other. So, that's a, it's an attitude that I know some older teenagers have for a few years and then somehow it goes away as they get older and infatuated with the world. But there's an age there when the world seems unreal and unimportant in many peoples lives but it doesn't last. So those are extremes and as Gurudeva points out, the world is important because it's existence is required to lead us to God. So, we don't want to go to either of the extremes. If the world is illusion it really doesn't matter what happens or the world is the only important thing and therefore, my whole focus is on what happens in the world and acquiring wealth in the world.

The example I usually use is the one of going to school. That if you're going to school with the attitude that school is unreal, it's obvious what's going to happen. You're not going to try and learn anything cause that's your basic attitude, school is unreal, doesn't matter what happens in school. Well we can have the same attitude toward the world without realizing it in terms of spiritual progress, because, we don't quite understand who the world relates to spiritual progress. So, Yogaswami has a nice statement in that regard he says: "The world is an ashram, a training ground for the achievement of moksha, liberation." So, how many people look at the world as an ashram is a good question. Probably not that many. It's not an obvious way of looking at it. So, when we talk about ashram we know that an ashram is a spiritual place; it's a place that you go either permanently or temporarily to make spiritual progress. So, if we can put that same concept on the world, that the world is a place, whereby, when we look at it the right way, we can make spiritual progress. That's what Yogaswami and Gurudeva are saying. So it doesn't mean that we care that, we're not concerned that others look at it that way. That's you know, we can't be concerned about how others look at it, otherwise, we can't hold that attitude because they're not looking at it that way necessarily. We can look at it that way that: The world is a place where, when we pay attention and do things in a certain way, we can make spiritual progress. Whereas Gurudeva says: By experiencing the world we come to God.

So I developed a list of suggestions in that regard, I thought I'd read, it's from one of the Publisher's Desks.

Well, how is it that we can make progress in the world? Well the first couple relate to karma as we talked about. Karma is a very important part of Gurudeva's teachings, specifically, resolving karma. Well the world is the place where our karma comes to us and therefore, we have an opportunity to resolve it. If we didn't interact with other people it would be very hard for us to move through our karma. It wouldn't happen very quickly. So the interactions with people, which sometimes can be very difficult, which allows our karma to come to us. And if we handle it correctly, without creating new karma, then we're moving closer to moksha because we're resolving it.

So we have:

"Six common challenges we face in life that provide us with good opportunities for spiritual progress if we respond in a wise manner with self-control.

"First Challenge: Mistreatment by Others.

"Life provides us a steady stream of experiences in which we are mistreated by others. Rather than retaliate or hold resentment, we can forgive and respond with kindness."

Well, that's our karma coming back to us as you know. And we have lots of opportunities to do that and we need to find someway to look at it so we don't get too focused on the person who returned our karma to us. We get upset with them and because we're so upset with them we create a new karma. So, one of the concepts I use is: Well if it wasn't that person it would be someone else. You know, that's going to come back to us through someone because we set it in motion. So, why get upset with that person, would be somebody else, or somebody else, or somebody else. That's one way of trying to minimize the personal nature of it. We focus on the person rather than what's coming to us as our own creation.

"Second Challenge: Our Own Mistakes.

"When we make an error, we have a choice to wallow in self-doubt and self-depreciation or to figure out how to not repeat the mistake."

So. that's what Gurudeva called Life the Great Experience. Learning from our mistakes. And of course we mention this two in our satsangs. ideally, we only need to make a mistake once; we're so observant of what we are doing. We make a mistake, but we only do it once and we come up with a way of avoiding that mistake in the future. That's being very self-reflective and certainly a good goal.

"Third Challenge: Difficult Projects.

"When faced with tasks that stretch our abilities, we can do the minimal just to get by or be inspired to do our best by looking at them as opportunities to improve our concentration, willpower and steadfastness, all of which will enhance our meditation abilities and inner striving. "

What this point is showing is that the abilities or skills we develop and doing things in the world are the same skills we have in our inner striving; they're not separate. If we go to school and we strive hard to study, learn to concentrate the mind, then that same ability to concentrate is there when we're sitting down in meditation or when we're sitting in the temple and trying to be devotional. Our mind is not running all over the place. It's not a different ability. So, whether it's focused on outer tasks or inner tasks it's the same. Likewise willpower, our ability to hold the mind firm, not let awareness fly all over the place in meditation is the same willpower we developed in doing difficult tasks in the world. So stretching ourselves and doing a little more than we think we can in external tasks not only helps us do better in the external world, it also helps us do better in our inner striving. That's the point; it's the same ability. But it's easier to develop it outside than inside.

"Fourth Challenge: Disturbed Emotions.

"When we get upset by life's experiences, we have a choice to suffer the emotional upheaval or to strive to pull ourselves out of it as quickly as possible."

So we're learning to control the emotions by dealing with difficult situations. We're controlling the emotional body which is important. It's something we need to do to make spiritual progress. A part of the, one of the false concepts in a spiritual life is we want to live in a place that's totally quiet and peaceful where there's nothing disturbing going on, right? Like everyone wants to stay here; because you don't live here there's no disturbances on the island. You don't, all the disturbances are back where you live; you left them behind. If you live on the island, then of course you have disturbances here too. But there's this idea we want to go to a place that's perfectly peaceful and no problems then that's where I'll do well spiritually; it's just so peaceful. But that's not the case. After you were there a while you'd get upset just like you do at home. It's just because you're only there a short while you don't. So, the key is to learn to not get upset. No matter if life is peaceful or quite disturbed. So, Gurudeva felt that you should be in disturbing circumstances now and them to strengthen your ability to not get upset by them. That's the point. You're strengthening your emotional control. That's one of the qualities that's needed to make spiritual progress. So the disturbing experiences we encounter in life, if in the process, we learn to control our emotions better, which doesn't mean perfectly, you know, it just means better. We get angry less often now then we did two or three years ago. We get angry for a shorter period of time now then we did two or three years ago. That's progress! You know, we need to be realistic. If we have a problem we can't expect it to go away immediately but we can expect it though to improve if we strive.

"Fifth Challenge: Interpersonal Conflicts.

"When serious disagreements, quarrels or arguments occur, we have a choice to hold a grudge and perhaps even shun the person or to resolve the matter and keep the relationship harmonious."

Course that's one of the big challenges in life is keeping interpersonal relations going smoothly because they tend to become problematic. So, on our side, it's very important not to end up in the state of mind where we hold a grudge. If the other person ends up holding a grudge we can't do anything about that but we don't want to. We need to let the matter go.

"Sixth Challenge: Gossip and Backbiting.

"When those around us indulge in gossip, rumors, backbiting and intrigue, we have a choice to join in or to not participate and even, among those close to us, make it clear that we do not approve."

So that's a matter of controlling the mind and understand that we influence the people we're talking about. They feel our thoughts. If we're sitting there gossiping about someone in a negative way we're projecting negative thoughts to them and they will feel them. Maybe not consciously but it will impact them and they won't do as well because we're sitting there. And depending on the strength of it and depending on their sensitivity the impact will vary. But, it's definitely harming someone. So, we need to control that and there's so many wonderful soap operas on television, you know, what's the need to create our own soap opera?

We had a television interview in Malaysia, I think, I forget the name of the station. And it's a station that runs the Sun TV programs from India. So we had to wait about an hour before they recorded us so there was just a lot of small talk going on and one of them was, one of the devotees there, was explaining that there's about three hours of Tamil soap operas that come on from 9 to 12. No 9 to 1, I think, 10 to 1. Then there's an hour break for lunch and it keeps going again. And you can just watch these Tamil soap operas all day long an some of the husbands are complaining that their wives aren't getting any housework done anymore. Nothing happens, they come home and they've been watching all the soaps on TV. So there's plenty of soaps on TV even in the Hindu world and there's no need to create our own. That's what I call gossip and backbiting. It's like creating your own soap opera. So, you don't need to. If you need a soap opera there's plenty on television both of many languages and many cultures. So you can just watch them and realize it's a tendency. It's amazing tendency to gossip and backbite that we have. And, as I say: The key is harnessing it. And one of the ways to harness it is to realize we're actually harming the person. Or, harming them in the sense of: They're not going to do quite as well as they would have if we weren't gossiping about them in a serious way. They will be slightly impacted negatively by it. So it's better to talk positively about them and then of course they would do better then if we weren't thinking about them. If we send them positive energy then that will help them do better in the world.

Thank you very much.

Aum Namah Sivaya

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