Don’t Shoot the Messenger
A satsangi sister was facing a turbulent time in her life, leaving her feeling quite despondent. An elder satsangi offered her advice, proposing a fresh perspective. We can all draw some inspiration from the encouragement he gave her when we, too, come across situations that we don’t like or feel are negative in some way.
He reminded her that life can be seen as a play and that we should view our life as forming part of a divine design. Perhaps when something or someone upsets us, we should step back for a moment and be still. Instead of becoming ‘up-set,’ we should switch the syllables around and realize that it is all a ‘set-up.’
If all life and all events are indeed a set-up, then maybe the person that was the cause of the upset is a messenger sent by the Lord. In The Dawn of Light, Maharaj Sawan Singh explains, “Whatever good or bad happens to you, through whatever person or object, directly proceeds from our loving Father. All persons and objects are but tools in his hand.”
So, instead of ‘shooting the messenger’, we should receive him or her gladly. Viewing the message as a gift, we should thank that person and bid him goodbye. Then we can turn our attention to the ‘gift’, which not only helps clear our karmas, but may also contain a valuable lesson, such as detachment or obedience. For instance, Muso Kokushi, a Buddhist mystic, said:
When people are unsympathetic to you and the world does not go as you wish, this should be a help to detachment of feelings from the repetitious cycle of becoming and decay, gaining and losing.
As quoted in Buddhism: A Path to Nirvana
Besides clearing karmas, perhaps life’s interactions and events also act as a mirror in which we can see ourselves. They help re-shape our thinking, help us choose the lens through which we view life.
We could therefore use our interaction with the messenger as a way of practising humility, or living in the will of the Lord. In Spiritual Letters, Baba Jaimal Singh says, “However much someone maligns you, you should not be offended.… Acquiesce in the will of the Lord and be cheerful wherever he places you.”
These are, however, fairly lofty ideals to live up to. More often than not, our initial reaction will be painful, giving rise to a cocktail of emotions such as anger, fear, grief, or disappointment. We need to stop for a minute, acknowledge them and then let them go. Think of all the energy that goes into these negative emotions. Wouldn’t it be more productive to transform it into love and understanding? If we did, we would support our spiritual growth and become better human beings.
Yet in the midst of emotional turmoil, it is easier said than done to convert pain into love and compassion. Our ego is too strong for us to be able to ignore the experience of powerful emotions; that’s why they can disturb us so deeply. To rise above them, we need the helping hand of the ultimate Messenger, our Master. More precisely, we must act upon his messages, the most fundamental being that we do our meditation.
There are many stories told about misfortunes experienced by saints. They were able to endure extreme difficulties because of the strength of their spiritual practice and the faith in God they had developed through it. We should learn from them and do our meditation diligently to help us mitigate the impact of our own misfortunes that, at this point, are deeply unsettling to us.
Meditation is a form of communicating with God in his language, a channel through which his love and grace flows. So, the more we do, the more we will feel his love; our view of life will become brighter, more joyful and peaceful. Life will not then get many chances to upset us. Rather, we will be calmer, allowing the ups and downs to flow through us like water through reeds. The pendulum of our emotions will not sway furiously from side to side but remain balanced.
What would happen if we made an extra effort to do our meditation with love and devotion, stripping away all excess thoughts and focusing only on our Master? Let’s try it, and find out for ourselves. Is it not time for us to stop shooting the messenger and get the message?
The surrounding situation may not be so friendly, it may even be hostile, but if your inner mental attitude is right, then the situation will not disturb your inner peace. On the other hand, if your attitude is not right, then even if you are surrounded by good friends and the best facilities, you cannot be happy. This is why mental attitude is more important than external conditions. Despite this,… many people are more concerned about their external conditions, and neglect the inner attitude of mind. I suggest that we should pay more attention to our inner qualities.
There are a number of qualities which are important for mental peace, but from the little experience I have, I believe that one of the most important factors is human compassion and affection: a sense of caring.
The Dalai Lama’s Book of Love and Compassion