In 1974, I stopped by Calcutta to say goodbye to Dipa Ma [a modern Buddhist teacher]. I told her, “I’m going back to America for a short time to get my health together, to get some more money, and then I’ll be back.”

She shook her head and asserted, “No, when you go back to America you’ll be teaching meditation with Joseph [Goldstein].

I said: “No, I won’t,” and she said, “Yes, you will,” and I said, “No, I won’t.”

Finally, she just looked me in the eye and declared, “You can do anything you want to do. It’s only your thought that you can’t do it that’s holding you back.” She added, “You should teach because you really understand suffering.” – Sharon Salzberg [1]

God is expansive and all encompassing in His vision. He is ever changing and infinitely flexible in His Ideas and Plans. He manipulates people and events in creative and totally unexpected ways.

We, on the other hand, are predictable in our actions – fixed and concrete in the vision that we have of our lives and ourselves. Our physical brains and bodies fill us with desires that are bound to the material, aspirations that are uninspired, and goals that lack any real belief in the power of a human being to transcend his lower nature. Our physical consciousness distorts our whole perception of reality, even our conception of God.

We overcome the limitations of our material nature by learning to work from the higher consciousness of the soul, rather than our lower physical mind. Soul consciousness provides us with a broader understanding of the nature of life in this world. It gives us a glimpse of the Divine Plan and Purpose. It changes our angle of vision so that we see ourselves, as well as everything else around us, as part of one vast living unity of Life.

A true spiritual teacher lifts us into soul consciousness. They open us up to the spiritual possibilities before us. They pinpoint the mistaken self-conception that makes us doubt our abilities; then they fill us with the willpower we need to forge ahead.

We incarnate into this world to experience, learn and gain wisdom. Nothing we do is lost; nothing is wasted. Each step we take is a spiritual event. Everything we do has the potential to move the world forward, to expand the Heart and Mind of the Great Life that is overshadowing Earth.

Our goal is to bring the light of God into the night of physical existence. From the moment that we first take up a physical form, we are illuminating the life of matter with the light of Spirit. We continue on with our journey until a time comes when we become a blazing light in the darkness. This is the purpose of our existence and the reason that we left our “Father’s House” so many lives ago.

Each of us is at a different stage in the journey of our soul. The task before each of us is unique. Some of us are very old souls who are approaching the end of our journey. Others are just “newly born” – baby souls taking the first steps along the path. Yet no one is greater or more important than another – each of us contributes to the Greater Life. Each of us is beloved of God, and of those on the higher planes who watch over and guide us.

In the Ethics of the Fathers 4:3, Ben Azzai said: “Do not regard anyone with contempt, and do not reject anything, for there is no man who does not have his hour and no thing which does not have its place.”

When we see someone else take a great leap forward, we should not be jealous or become downcast about our own slow progress. Who knows how many lives this person has worked to reach this point in his evolution? Who knows what trials and tribulations he has suffered in some past incarnation? We cannot see how many spiritual disciplines he has practiced, how many acts of loving-kindness he has performed.

We are unable to judge what will happen to anyone in the future by present appearances.  One person may appear to be struggling, while another person is on top of the world. But ten years further on, the one who seemed to be floundering may be surging ahead, and the world of his companion may have come tumbling down. We can never know what opportunities God will put before us, or what difficulties will appear along our path.

It is imperative that we take advantage of whatever opportunities come to us, and put all of our heart, mind and soul into fulfilling them. We cannot put off our spiritual life until some distant, perfect moment when the circumstances will be amenable. Such a time may never come, or we may no longer be able to take advantage of the opportunity. As Swami Turiyananda used to say: “He who wishes to think upon the Lord after all his engagements have been finished, is like the fool who wishes to bathe in the sea after the waves have subsided.”[2] If there is a spiritual opportunity before us right now, then we need to jump into the sea and begin to swim.

This is not a call to impulsive behavior or to wild extreme acts. Each of us must be true to who we are, and realistic about our circumstances. At the same time, we need to strive for the highest aspiration that we are capable of – the most expansive and profound vision of our life. This vision needs to embody a deep faith in the power of God, and a profound belief in the tremendous strength, wisdom and beauty that lies at the core of every one of us. If we can learn to live our life from that sacred place, then anything is possible within the Universal Mind of God.

 

Copyright © 2013, by Yoel Glick

 


Acknowledgements    (↵ returns to text)
  1. Amy Schmidt, Dipa Ma, The Life and Legacy of a Buddhist Master, p. 57-8
  2. Swami Bodhasarananda, Spiritual Talks, p.185

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