Humanity has grappled with the meaning of life since the beginning of recorded history. Much ink has been spilled on answering questions such as: “Why are we here?” and “Is there anything beyond this life?” As Tolstoy once poignantly wrote, “Is there any meaning in my life that will not be destroyed by my inevitably approaching death?”
The saints come to this world not to ask philosophical questions but rather to lead us to the logical conclusions that arise from them. The one certainty we all have is that the vicissitudes of life will come and affect us. Even if we follow a spiritual path, even if we perceive ourselves to be ‘good’, even if we do our meditation – the one certainty in our life is that we have to go through our destiny and face our inevitable appointment with death.
Without getting into the free will versus destiny debate, the saints give us practical advice on how to approach life. They tell us we must make the effort to do our best and leave the results to the Lord. As Maharaj Charan Singh once said to a disciple:
At this stage we can never know what is destiny and what is a future seed. So we should approach every event and every step of life as if we are taking a new step, sowing a new seed. But still, if in spite of our best effort something happens, then you can say it is your destiny.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
In this context, what matters is our reaction to unexpected events that arise in life and our ability to maintain balance in facing them. But we are only human. And while we may intellectually understand that the events in our life are the result of our destiny or karma, it is still difficult to accept them and retain our balance.
In such difficult times, we would do well to remember the prayer of the medieval Christian mystic who said, “Tell me not why I must suffer. Assure me only that I suffer for Thy sake.”
We must learn to truly appreciate that the Lord knows what is in our best interest more than us. To keep our balance, we must remind ourselves that perhaps it is our concept of grace that is misplaced. Maharaj Charan Singh once said to a disciple:
Our concept of his grace is something very different. We think that if he gives us a very good partner and a good house and a lot of money and a good reputation in this world, if we are worshipped by people, then the Father’s grace is very much on us. But his grace may come in a different way. He may take your wife from you or your child or your friend. And you may become frustrated by this world and turn back to the Father. That may be his grace, to pull you out of all the attachments of the world and make you realize the reality, which you never would have thought about otherwise.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
Even in the depths of our despair, if we look at the bigger picture, we will realize that we have a lot to be thankful for in life. It is remembering this gratitude for what the Lord has given us – rather than what he has not – which will help us when we face periods of uncertainty in our life.
One is reminded of the prayer by the disciple who prayed not for delicious food, but for hunger; not for a car, but for strength in his legs; not for a comfortable bed, but for sleep. The point of the prayer is that the most delicious food is of no use if we are not hungry; and we cannot benefit from the most luxurious mattress if we cannot fall asleep.
Eventually, our meditation is nothing but a quiet expression of our gratitude to the Lord for what he has given us. It is a sign of the gift of love that he has bestowed on us. A disciple once went to Hazur Maharaj Ji and said she did not have any question but she just wanted to thank him for his love. Hazur beautifully replied:
To love is nothing but giving thanks. It is all his grace that he gives us his love, he gives us his devotion, and our words are too inadequate to express that feeling, that depth, that gratefulness to the Father.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
So in the end, the attitude we must cultivate is that of recognizing what happens in our life as the Lord’s gift to us. If we truly believe that the Lord is giving us everything we need, then it leaves us little choice but to focus in the quiet solitude of our meditation and face our life smilingly. As the beautiful Urdu couplet goes:
Far more than my destiny allows
From your gracious hands I receive;
Yet even my destiny
Is but a gift from you to me.
Legacy of Love