Let nothing disturb you,

Nothing frighten you.

All things are passing,

God never changes.

Patience gains all things.

Who has God wants nothing.

Alone God suffices.

Saint Teresa of Avila

We all have worries that disturb our peace of mind. We all carry fears that unsettle us. We are worried about our careers, our health, and our financial security. We are afraid of losing friends, family and possessions. But the truth is that everything in this world is transient – everything is in a state of constant flux. What seems sure today may well be in doubt tomorrow. The only thing that is certain is that one day, everything will pass away. Only God never changes, only God always remains the same.

After receiving his father’s blessing, the patriarch Jacob was forced to flee his father’s house to avoid the wrath of his brother Esau. With a heavy heart, he set out from Be’er Sheva for his uncle’s home in Padam Aram.

As darkness filled the sky, Jacob found a secluded spot and lay down to try and rest. He was frightened and confused. In only a matter of hours, his whole life had been turned upside down. Gradually, he overcame his anxiety and fell asleep.

That night, Jacob dreamed a most powerful and vivid dream. In the dream, he saw a ladder stretching from the earth to the heavens with angels ascending and descending upon its rungs. At the top of the ladder stood the “Lord God of Israel” looking down from above.

In the text Olelot Ephraim, we are told that the ladder that Jacob saw is a symbol for life in this world: life in this world is ever changing, we are always moving up and down. We ascend a little ways towards the heavens, and then fall down again towards the earth. But throughout all of this movement there is one thing that remains constant: God standing upon the top of the ladder, watching over us all.

Sri Ramakrishna used to compare life in this world to young children who are spinning round and round, while holding on to a pole. If they continue to hold on to the pole, then the children will be all right. But if they release their grip, then they will lose their balance and fall. Similarly, if we hold on to the pole of God amid the dizzy, spinning events of the world around us, then we too will keep our inner balance and not fall into pain and despair.

How do we learn to live our life in this way?

Swami Chidananda states:

“This should be the firm conviction in the heart of a believer, in the heart of a devotee… Even if I have everything in this world, but have not God, I have nothing, I am lost, and I am finished. But if I have God, even if the whole world is against me, I have everything.” [1]

Such a conviction is more than a belief or an intellectual ideal; it is a complete approach to life. To live by such conviction requires a strong will that does not care what anyone else says or thinks. It demands great courage. It demands a determination to follow our own heart – even if the whole world is against us.

The prophet Habakkuk (2:4) declared: “the tzaddik lives by his faith.” It is the firm conviction of Swami Chidananda that he had in mind. When we live by our faith, we look at all activities through the “eyes” of God. We see our efforts as part of something larger and greater than ourselves. We trust that all will come to fruition in the right moment, no matter what obstacles may lay across our path. We let go of all earthly security and find our refuge in the arms of God.

“Who has God wants nothing. Alone God suffices.”

The Hasidic Master, Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, teaches that the person who is looking for worldly enjoyment always feels that he is lacking. Even if he has one pleasure, he is soon longing after another. The person who serves God, on the other hand, is whole in everything. As it states in the Psalms (34:11), “Doreshai Adonai lo yichasru kol tuv” – “Those who seek the Lord will not lack any good thing.”

The reason the person of faith experiences this sense of completeness, Rebbe Levi Yitzchak explains, is “because the Ein Sof, the Absolute, is full in all manner of fullness. Therefore, the person who binds himself to the Ein Sof, [to God] also lacks nothing and is full in all fullness, whole in complete wholeness.” [2]

To become whole, then, is to become so bound to God that the Divine Spirit permeates our entire being. Once we have experienced this unity in Spirit, we realize that we are one with all that is. We understand that everything that happens is part of the unfolding of God’s Eternal Plan. We see that our natural state is one of peace and inner stillness. In this state, where we are “bound to the Absolute”, as Rebbe Levi Yitzchak calls it, we become literally “full of God” – full of life, full of love, full of peace. In this lofty state of consciousness, we readily let go of all our desires and are content with whatever God sends our way.

A woman once came to Sri Ramakrishna and complained “I have no one in this world.” When he heard these words, Sri Ramakrishna began to dance with joy. Then he told the woman: “He who has nobody has God.” [3]

As long as we think that we have someone or something to hold onto in this world, then we will not really have God. Once we have understood that there is nothing for us to hold onto except God, the All Compassionate One will make us His/Her very own.

We will have God, when we want nothing else. We will have God, when we realize that only God can make us feel complete to the very depth of our being. We will have God when we know, like Saint Teresa, that “alone God suffices.”

 

Copyright © 2008, by Yoel Glick

 


Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)

  1. Swami Chidananda, Divine Life Society Website – Thought for the Day
  2. Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, Kedushat Levi, Torah portion Tsaveh
  3. Swami Chetanananda, Ramakrishna as We Saw Him, p. 306