When we are initiated, we are given an opportunity to discover an ocean of bliss, but we will not be able to actually carry out this journey if we remain scared of losing sight of the shore. In order to take steps towards embracing our mysterious reality, we will have to slowly start walking away from the comfortable and secure illusion we currently live in, and more often than not, this requires an enormous amount of courage.
We often mistake courage with fearlessness. Yet, courage is not the absence of fear but the mastery over it. If there is no fear, the question of having the courage to face it will also not arise. It has been beautifully said that courage is the art of being the only one who knows that you are scared to death.
All of us have our share of fears and worries; all of us have our own shortcomings and weaknesses. When we hear about the bravery and courageousness of the perfect saints and their ardent love for the Lord, we find ourselves so inadequate in comparison. But then again, discipleship is not about being perfect; discipleship is about striving for perfection.
It is not easy, though, to bring back our attention over and over again in meditation when the mind keeps dodging us and escaping. It is not easy to accept the hard blows of life that take place because of our karmas, but which are difficult to bear nonetheless. It is not easy to put up a front and smile for the world, when the heart and soul are deeply aching for something more meaningful.
All our Master expects from us is that we put up a strong fight against the mind, but the result of that fight, be it success or failure, is equally welcomed by him. Sometimes we will be able to control the mind and sometimes it will control us, which is why, as disciples, the greatest test of courage is to keep struggling without losing heart.
The question then is: how does one develop this kind of courage? There are no schools or colleges of bravery so to speak, and nobody has ever learned the art of being courageous through reading books. Courage is a quality that is developed within us as we keep practising it, just like a muscle that becomes stronger with constant exercise. Initially, we pretend to be courageous and eventually such courage culminates in an unwavering and heartening inner strength. Times of misery and distress are actually our biggest benefactors in that sense, because this is when we are given the opportunity to build that muscle of courage.
Times of calamity and distress have always been producers of the greatest men. The hardest steel is produced from the hottest fire; the brightest star shreds the darkest night.
Andy Andrews, The Traveller’s Gift
Similarly in our life, which is now a life of discipleship over and above anything else, there will be many a challenging moment. What we must remember though is that each of these moments will come with scores of great opportunities – opportunities to experience our Master’s unrelenting grace and protection, opportunities to put our faith in Master’s love to test and turn it into conviction, and opportunities to show the kind of courage that will one day undoubtedly be rewarded with a real sense of freedom and fearlessness.
So let’s take each heartache in meditation, each moment of hopelessness, each instance of doubt and each anxious cry and turn them into them into flowers of courage – flowers that will entice our Master to embrace us, no matter how unworthy we may be, as we stand carrying them before him every morning in our meditation.