By Nandini Sarkar
Befriending the Divine within offers us the best possible companion for keeps, says Nandini Sarkar
Hey, I’m in good company!” I discovered recently, as I sat in my little verandah, soaking in the comforting winter sun. In the background, my cell played a favorite uplifting number, Gagan Mandal Mein Hansa Dole, Sohum, Sohum! Various species of migratory birds warbled, whistled and cooed with the murmuring breeze of the lake, creating a celestial symphony. From the distance, sounds of my children laughing drifted into the verandah, adding to my feeling of wellness. I was alone, but not lonely, enjoying the grand spectacle of life from the periphery, as a detached witness.
Who makes us lonely?
A story by Swami Rama floated into my mind. A prince, who had been trying to meet his Master, Bengali Baba, for a worldly favour, was finally granted an audience in the Master’s cave.
“Master!” the prince exclaimed solicitously, “You appear lonely, all by yourself, in this remote cave.” The Master said, “Yes, because you have come. Before you came, I was enjoying the company of my Friend within. Now that you have come, I am lonesome.”
Who makes us lonely? Swami Rama goes on to ask. Those who claim to know and love us, or those whom we love make us dependent on their company. When we cultivate the Friend within, the Pure Self, we are able to enjoy human relationships without becoming dependent on them. Loneliness is a disease, but being alone happily means, enjoying the constant company of the Self.
The prince was impressed with the lesson and contemplated the teaching. He started practising meditation. Over time, he realised that it is possible for everyone to be free from the self-created misery of loneliness and to enjoy life in its right balance.
Mastery of the sages
Human company can be uplifting, tormenting or neutral, depending on how far we ourselves have journeyed, spiritually. On the surface, any relationship can have all three shades. Sometimes we love our friends, sometimes we hate them, and sometimes we are bored by them. A relative, who married after a whirlwind romance, had this to say, when I asked how the marriage was faring: We sit on the sofa and stare blankly at each other. We’ve run out of topics to discuss!
The internet is our new best friend, but this too has cast its shadow, with the ugly phenomena of cyber bullying and cyber infidelity. Facebook-triggered suicides are being reported and one out of 20 divorces in India are being attributed to online affairs. At the tender age of 14, my daughter told me she had realised there was no point in having a gaggle of friends; it was too depleting emotionally, she said. It was better to engage with a couple of likeminded friends, while being cordial with the rest. Folks on the spiritual path have another type of complaint – people at the workplace don’t share their spiritual interests; people they meet are materialistic and self-centred and life outside the “Sunday” spiritual community is hard to cope with. Paradoxically, monastics too report that the company in ashrams is often stifling and “political”. How could we expect it to be otherwise? The needle of our mental compass is constantly pointing at others, finding fault, being judgmental. How then can we draw peace and fulfilment from human company?
There’s a breathtaking answer from Mooji. He calls it, the Mastery of the Sages. Unknown to us, we have a very important power – the power of our attention to register or not to register something as experience. Anything can appear in our consciousness but if we don’t identify with it then it has no power!
Simply by recognizing: I am the Awareness, everything else is a tourist, every thought, and every emotion that arises in the body is a tourist! This body is not a hotel; nothing should leave a footprint in the memory. The human experience is like flowing water. The ocean is infinite; when waves rise on its bosom, this rising is called time; when it roars, we call it life; when it subsides, we call it death. But through all its changing forms, it is only water. So who dies? Name and form and belief die. From our true position of awareness, we understand that this is a thought world or a concept world, so we can ignore it! This, says Mooji, is the great Mastery of the Sages. This is not a negation of life, but an awareness of how to live it, with freedom from mind games.
No man is an island
“No Man is an Island”, a famous line from poet, John Donne, mirrors our need for good company, on this journey to self-awareness. The mind is so habituated to action that it refuses to allow the attention to be centred in solitary awareness. Earlier, students of spiritual traditions would undertake lonely meditation in deep forests. Today, in the digital age, we can easily summon the company of the masters, at the click of a mouse, into our homes. We are not alone in our efforts. Online guided meditations and meditation courses are easily available. Live satsangs are streamed effortlessly to us, like divine light pouring down from the ether, on self-demand. The master, Poonjaji, tells the inspiring story of a celestial gem. A stonecutter used to spend hours in the sun each day, cutting away at stones and collecting little bits of amethyst, emerald and the like. His hard labour in the sun continued for years. One day, a celestial gem, perfect in weight, shape, size and brilliance landed near him. He picked it up and thought it looked amazing! But, doubting that such a marvellous gem could come to him so easily and assuming it to be ordinary glass, he strung it on a thread and tied it around his donkey’s neck! An onlooker, who was observing his ridiculous actions, approached him and offered to pay Rs 10,000 for the donkey.
Exulting in his good luck and thinking that the onlooker was mad, the stone cutter happily agreed to part with his donkey. The onlooker rode away with the donkey and the fabulous, priceless gem – for only Rs 10,000!
Similarly, in the New Age, the gods have handed the celestial gem of self-realisation to us on a platter, but we do not believe it could have happened so easily, we do not believe we are worth it! Frequently, it takes suffering, rather than common sense, to drive us back to the centre of awareness. The Devotions were written by John Donne as he recovered from a serious, unknown illness. Having come close to death, he started to pen the journey of illness that culminated with him becoming closer to God. For Swami Kriyananda, founder of the Ananda International Community, it was a growing sense of emptiness with worldly life that brought him back to the centre. In his brilliant autobiography, The New Path, he mentions that before his shift, New Year Eve parties used to be one of forced merriment, forced drinking, forced smoking; indeed, a desperate kind of socialising. With awareness, the quality of relationships transformed and became spontaneous, natural, joyful and liberating! He continued to enjoy friends, friendships and parties, but from the centre of deep awareness.
Practicing the Presence
Brother Lawrence, one of the most admired monks of the Catholic Church, is famous for The Practice of the Presence of God, a book of his collected teachings and conversations. The first conversation recounts that Brother Lawrence felt a deep esteem for God, at age 18, when, “in the winter, seeing a tree stripped of its leaves, and considering that within a little time, the leaves would be renewed, and after that the flowers and fruit would appear, he received a high view of the Power of God.” Lawrence worked for a time as a soldier and was crippled, so he entered service. He describes himself as “a great awkward fellow who broke everything”, so he desired to join a monastery, where he would be made to suffer for his awkwardness and sacrifice his life to God. But God surprised him and filled his life with complete satisfaction. In the beginning, Lawrence found the spiritual life very difficult. He often passed the time appointed for prayer, he tried to reject wandering thoughts but fell back into them. He could never regulate his devotion with “methods”, as other monks did. At this juncture, he made the discovery that the shortest way is to go straight to God with love, and do all things for His sake. He decided to start a daily conversation with God. He did not expect a response because he felt that his sins were too many, and would come between him and God. But God spoke back to him, granting him abundant favors. Brother Lawrence was assigned duties in the kitchen which he hated at first. But when he accustomed himself to doing everything there for the love of God, and spoke to God for His grace to do his work well, he found everything easy. During his kitchen stint he also found that communion with God need not happen only during fixed times of prayer, but that God was an enduring presence with whom we should commune, every moment of our lives. When he failed in his duties, he only confessed his fault, telling God he would not repeat his mistake and that “You must hinder my falling, and mend what is amiss”. After this, “he gave himself no further uneasiness about it”.
The eternal companion
Brother Lawrence recommended that we ought to quicken and to enliven our soul connection with God. He lamented that we have so little faith, that instead of taking to inner communion, we amuse ourselves with trivial devotions, which change daily. He said that in order to keep company with God continually, we must at first apply to Him with some diligence: but that after a little commitment, we would find His love draws us to it, without any difficulty. The poet Rabindranth Tagore echoes his sentiment. Once, he was in a crowd of people, feeling lost and desolate, when suddenly, he saw the Lord smiling at Him. Recognizing God as his Eternal Companion, he sang with spontaneous love: Nayan Chere Gele Chole, Ele Shokol Majhe!
You vanished from my vision, then revealed Yourself suddenly,
In the public place;
My Friend, I may lose you often, but never do You lose sight of me!
About the author : Nandini Sarkar is Co-founder, C-Quel, a management services company. A lover of the spiritual Masters she is a follower in the Kriya Yoga tradition. firstname.lastname@example.org
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