Don’t Look Down
Nancy Pope Mayorga (1894 – 1983) was an American writer who kept a diary to describe her experiences in meditation and her meetings with her guru, Swami Prabhavananda. The following extracts are taken from this diary, entitled Hunger of the Soul.
Movement in spiritual growth is by no means steadily up. There are not only slumps, but also wide plateaux – peaceful but unprogressive rest periods. There are times, too, of desperate clinging, to hold the foothold won. And then, of course, periods of depression, periods of doubt. Spiritual depression is terrible, dark and bitter. But I believe doubt is worse. Because in depression you know you’ll come out of it sooner or later. You even know that the fight out of it will leave you better, higher. But when doubt comes, when you begin to wonder, “What am I doing? Is this all nonsense? Does it really lead anywhere?”– That is a very bad time.
It is a bad time because you have already been convinced that the ordinary life of the world is sterile. There is no going back. If the new life you have chosen is a delusion, then you are caught between, dancing at the end of a rope with your feet in the air. Doubt is much harder to conquer than depression. Nothing works. Conviction can come only from within, and within is hollow with doubt. But Brahmananda says: “Doubt will come until you have realized God; therefore you must hold fast to God and pray.” And Prabhavananda: “What you must do is pray. Pray for knowledge, for light, for guidance. It will come.”
Last night I asked Swami Prabhavananda this question: “What do you do when you are depressed?” I wanted to trick him into some admission about his private feelings. But he does not reveal himself easily. He laughed a little, and then said, “It is true that all along the path to liberation there are periods of depression. This is what to do about them. Life, as I have often told you, is made up of the three gunas, or energies – tamas, rajas, and sattva. Liberation has to come through the tranquillity and light of sattva. Now when tamas takes hold of you with inertia and depression, don’t allow it to possess you. Get up and act, do something helpful for other people, make yourself active, rajasic. Then when you have conquered tamas by rajas, sit down to your meditation and let the tranquillity of sattva take over. This is the way to overcome depression.”
He: You think you are independent of God. As long as you have the sense I am the doer, you enjoy or suffer according to your deeds, and God just keeps watch, waiting for you. But when you take one step toward Him, He takes thousands toward you. As soon as you say ‘Not I, but Thou’, He takes interest in you, and takes away your suffering. When you think of yourself as the doer, He says ‘All right, child, do.’ From that standpoint He is indifferent. But He is not unaware. It is said that He even listens to the footsteps of an ant. So there is great efficacy in prayer, yes! He can wipe out your karma. But you have to come to Him. Prayer is important, And prayer is answered … it doesn’t matter where you are placed in life. Learn to be contented with your outward condition, but not with your spiritual growth. Contentment outwardly, divine discontent within.