by Meenakshi Suri and Suma Varughese
If life on the path is meant to be effortless, why do we face so much struggle? Here we look at the basic struggles in a seeker’s life and how it gets transmuted into freedom and growth.
Is life a struggle? What could be a greater struggle than placing a soul into a human body? Of the soul agreeing to almost forget its origin? And then, through the suffering and joys of countless human lives, to return to the reality of its own divinity? Before becoming the Buddha, Prince Gautama struggled to find a way to end human suffering. Finally, after realizing that austerities did not work, and repelling the seductions of Mara, he was able to attain enlightenment. If our struggles bring us closer to that goal, is there anything to complain about?
On the other hand, the Buddha taught that right effort involves no struggle. It is to accept and work with things as they are, without struggle or strife. Did he mean that there is nothing to struggle against, or that we have to develop an inner non-struggle response? But how can we learn to do that? And could it be that the goal of the spiritual journey is to reach that stage of no struggle? Are we supposed to evolve from our stance of struggle and resistance to the calm acceptance of surrender in which all that confronts us has our active consent and becomes an instrument of our growth?
Taking this as the trajectory of the spiritual journey resolves many of the contradictions that the word struggle conjures. On the one hand, there is the New Age notion that life on the spiritual path is an effortless flow and that the term struggle arises out of a sense of scarcity and resistance and must not be recognized. On the other hand, there is the indisputable evidence that the spiritual journey requires the most strenuous of efforts. To transform our lower nature into an abode of bliss and peace is deeply effortful. ‘The lower Sophia…struggles in her alienated condition. She grieves and rages; she sorrows and longs for her original estate.’ – Hoellers in Gnosticism.
To shine the light of consciousness unrelentingly within ourselves, face the darkness within and endure the period of transition from darkness to light calls for an uncommon level of courage, acceptance and patience. Above all, to endure the huge gulf between what one is and what one can be is pain of such an exquisite nature that only the diehard seeker can succeed in it. Understanding that struggle exists and that it can be used to reach the stage of no struggle, helps us to straddle this contradiction and also see the journey as a process.
To begin with, then, there is the struggle. Says Swami Vivekananda, ‘It is the tragedies, the hurts, the fears,
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