exerpts from “Spiritual Maturity: Nurturing Our Soul Awareness” (devotee notes) by Brother Achalananda
This is a very interesting subject, because one thing we continue to do is grow older. (Laughter from the audience)…As egos, we may have grown older, but we may not be very mature…Master gave us the most comprehensive phrase for spiritual maturity: “One who knows how to behave in all situations.”…
Think about this – have you ever known anyone who wanted to be unhappy? But if we are not spiritually mature, the opposite thing occurs – we cannot be truly happy. Sri Yukteswar told Mukunda, “LEARN TO BEHAVE.” It sounds simple until you try to do it…
Master said, “…Spiritual consciousness lies in absolute victory over human consciousness. To meditate, on the one side, and be angry or lead a desultory life on the other, is like putting your feet in two boats going in opposite directions.” Obviously, we will be faced with a decision fairly quickly! (Laughter from the audience)…we need to keep on growing – there is always more to do.
Learning to behave requires right attitude… Usually when we think of people changing, it is wanting other people to change to suit us. In ego consciousness you are engaged night and day in the thought of self…
Brother told a story: In 1993 at the Council of World of Religions, he and another monk were serving at an SRF booth book sale. They had a good chuckle because the most popular booklet they sold was How to Change Others. (Laughter from the audience) Brother thought, “Boy, what a surprise they’re in for when they read it!” (More laughter)
A story ~ The Guru provides opportunities to learn Wisdom
Sri Yukteswar told Mukunda that to learn to behave was a most difficult thing to do, and said, “Allow me to discipline you.” It takes tremendous willpower to become attuned to wisdom – it takes much willpower to overcome our own bad habits and thoughts. But when you attune yourself with a true guru you will be guided by WISDOM. And the guru will provide plenty of opportunities for us. (Laughter from the audience) It’s hard to follow wisdom, even when it’s there. Master will help us overcome our lower nature. He will use other people – so keep your eyes open – and you will see this happening in your life.
Once Brother went to Twenty-nine Palms with Brother Premamoy to deliver some items there. Brother began to notice that it always seemed like the same three monks were invited to the retreat there for satsanga. He wondered why it was always the same three monks, and he became a little jealous. Then one day Daya Mata said to him, “Never be envious of anyone else.” Brother thought, “Well, that’s easy for you to say,” (Laughter from the audience), “but I am envious.” But her words nevertheless started something happening inside, and Brother began to introspect and analyze. Finally he came to realize that those who are going are there because..
They need it, or they deserve it. And those who don’t go – same thing… They need it, or they deserve it.
His conclusion was “Okay, I can deal with that”, and then there was no more problem.
Then one day Brother was talking to Brother Turiyananda, who had been one of the monks who got to go to all those satsangas. He told Brother A, “You thought that going to those satsangas was such a good thing – but boy! were we ever getting hammered with heavy duty discipline!” So sometimes we are envious and we don’t even know what’s really going on – and if we did, we might run the other way! (Laughter from the audience)
“Twenty-six Ennobling Qualities that Make Man God-like.”
TO BECOME GOD-LIKE – Paramahansa Yogananda expressed it so clearly in the Gita when he gave the “Twenty-six Ennobling Qualities that Make Man God-like.” [see Chapter XVI, God Talks With Arjuna: The Bhagavad Gita]…
Number one is fearlessness. Brother found it fascinating that Master put fearlessness as the very first quality. Master wrote, “Fearlessness is mentioned first because it is the impregnable rock upon which the house of spiritual life must be erected. Fearlessness means faith in God.” If we have full faith – full trust in God – we will be fearless. How could we have any fear if we have faith in God – His protection, His justice, His wisdom, His love, His mercy, His omnipresence?…It is easy to say, but hard to put into practice.
A Technique for overcoming fear
Some eleven years ago Brother Achalananda and Brother Dharmananda were on retreat together. Brother D. told him that when they returned, Brother A. was going to be put in charge of the SRF printing press. Brother said his initial reaction was, “No way!!” and there ensued a tussle of wills that went on for four hours. Finally Brother agreed to assume the responsibilities. But he had difficulties in dealing with the problems and the pressures that followed, and he actually felt a tightness in his heart. This was because he was not spiritually mature enough at the time.
Then one day an envelope came, and in it was a copy of a letter from one of the gurus that told of A TECHNIQUE TO OVERCOME FEAR:
Put your hand over your heart, next to the skin. Rub from left to right and repeat, “Heavenly Father, I am free. Tune out this fear from my heart radio. Master said, “Just as you tune out static on an ordinary radio, so if you continuously rub the heart from left to right and continuously concentrate on the thought that you want to tune out fear from your heart, it will go; and the joy of God will be perceived.”
Brother practiced this technique repeatedly, and after a few weeks his fear left him completely and never came back.
Another quality is patience, or fortitude, which…
“enables the devotee to bear misfortunes and insults with equilibrium. Outward events cannot shake him, nor can occasional inner turmoil serve to deflect him from his chosen path and goal: Self-realization. By stability the God-seeker learns to adhere under all circumstances to noble activities in the outer world and to retain the perceptions of truth that come to him during his meditations… Patience, or fortitude expands the cup of his consciousness until it can hold within it the ocean-vastness of Divinity.”
One time Brother was in India traveling on a train – a 25 hour trip. He was trying to sleep on the seat that had been reserved for him – a short, thin bunk. The ticket master noticed his discomfort and offered him a bigger bunk, which he gladly accepted. He fell asleep for a time, but was awakened by loud voices and a poke in the ribs. A man was yelling at him with fire in his eyes, “You have my seat!” Brother gave no argument – he apologized and returned to his old seat, but the man continued muttering to himself, still enraged, as if he couldn’t quite believe how easily he had regained his seat. The point is, don’t be disturbed when these kinds of experiences happen.
Another quality is forgiveness.
“Forgiveness is holiness; by forgiveness the universe is held together; forgiveness is the might of the mighty; forgiveness is sacrifice, forgiveness is quietness of mind. Forgiveness in the man of God consists in not inflicting, or wishing to inflict, punishment on those who harm or wrong him. He knows that the cosmic law will see to it that all injustices are rectified; it is unnecessary and presumptuous to attempt to hasten its workings or to determine their form. Retribution at the hands of the immutable law of karma has for its proper and far-seeing purpose the eventual spiritual redemption of the sinner. Even if justice does not seem to prevail, the karmic law will not fail to balance the scale.”
The Mahabharata says, “One should forgive, under any injury. Forgiveness and gentleness are the qualities of the Self-possessed. They represent eternal virtue.”
In reality, this is hard to do. It takes some effort on our part. You may try to forgive, but later find you haven’t. What to do? Do it again and again and again, until the inoculation takes and you are immunized. (Laughter from the audience) You will find the freedom that comes with forgiveness is unbelievable!
Why do we forgive? Because in forgiving someone, we forgive ourselves. Otherwise, it churns in us like a corrosive acid. We need also to learn to forgive ourselves.
Brother had a difficult period practicing forgiveness. Someone, in a cruel way told him something that another person had said of him. He was very hurt. But then he got to thinking, “Well, but that person is a great soul.” Then he thought, “Perhaps the person delivering the message may have changed it to fit his own desires.” Later he saw the “great soul,” and she simply gave him a clunk at the spiritual eye and said, “What took you so long to figure it out?” …
Another quality is compassion toward all beings. Develop more compassion for others. Daya Mata is a true example of this – a true mother of compassion. Brother said that when he first came to the ashram he didn’t have a clue that quality even existed. (Laughter from the audience)
“It’s been a thing I’ve really had to work on – compassion for others”
One time, before he came on the path, his friend, (now Brother Dharmananda) called him – it was a collect call and Brother almost didn’t take it! (Laughter) He was calling from a hospital in New Orleans. He had been in a car accident – he had broken bones and was all banged up. He was asking Brother A. to pick him up and take him home. Brother was feeling pretty reluctant – he had other things to do! – but he finally came for him, full of reluctance.
It was a painfully slow ten minute journey as Brother D. limped to the car, with Brother A. impatiently following behind – to him it was like watching someone in slow motion and seemed to take forever. Finally they made it to his apartment and Brother A. said, “Okay, I’m outta here.” But Brother D. said, “But aren’t you going to help me into bed?” Brother A. sighed, and impatiently helped him get ready for bed. Then Brother D. tried to get into bed. He bent half-way over and found he couldn’t get all the way in – he was stuck half bent over and couldn’t stand back up straight either! By then Brother A. was totally frustrated and he took one finger and gave Brother D. a little push!! (laughter from the audience) Brother said, “It’s been a thing I’ve really had to work on – compassion for others.”
Ethics – the specific moral choices people make
Being moral and ethical does pay, although it’s not always immediate.
Once there was a devotee who was hired as an accountant for a big company. He attended all the big management meetings and one time at a meeting a decision was being made that the devotee did not think was ethical, or even legal. Although he was obviously outnumbered by all the others in the meeting who wanted to go ahead with the plan, this devotee’s sense of ethics gave him the courage to speak up about it. Then he asked for time to look into other ways that it might be accomplished in an ethical and legal way.
Sometime later the same scenario happened a second time, and the devotee spoke up again. The next day the president of the company called for him and he thought, “Oh boy, this is the end of my career.” But when he walked into his office, the president embraced him and said, “I’ve been looking for you for twenty years. You are more ethical than I am! You are a man I can trust – you won’t stab me in the back.” …. and he made him vice president of the company.
Guruji said, “Change yourself and you will change thousands.”
We must never give up our efforts. No spiritual effort is ever lost. Keep on keeping on and all will be yours in time. Invite the guru into your life in an ever greater way. Ask for his guidance. Ask for him to flow through you in everything you do. Mold your life into his. Anandamoy Ma said, “The disciple merges his consciousness in the guru’s consciousness, and then is merged into God.” Lahiri Mahasaya used to say, “Striving, striving, one day – the divine goal.”
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