Those Who Bend Are Great
“Those who bend are great” is a wise Chinese proverb which, if applied to our own lives, would bring balance and harmony. We’re all in need of some tranquility and peace of mind to help us focus on our Master, and there is deep meaning in these words.
Bending involves being flexible, accommodating, and cooperative. This attitude is linked to humility. Through practising humility – even though our mind resists – it becomes part of our lives and then genuine humility develops. The Master loves humility in his disciples. In Philosophy of the Masters, Maharaj Sawan Singh tells us:
One who desires communion with the Almighty Father should first of all wash the dirt from his mind with the water of love.
The way to wash away our dirt and ego is by attending to meditation with devotion and commitment. Then we may find that we are given learning situations that help us to see our mistakes; we will learn to let go and be flexible rather than turning small things into big issues. The Master encourages us to do physical seva at the satsang centres, and be helpful in our families and communities. Serving, giving, and adjusting help us to overcome our selfish habits.
The ego cleverly uses the idea that we should not be a doormat. Our selfish tendencies force us to take care of our own needs first. We might put up unnecessary barriers to protect ourselves. We can become rigid, closed, possessive, and proud of our opinions. We could even start to dislike others who do not follow our way of thinking or acting. This prevents us from being happy and blocks our spiritual progress.
If we find difficulties in seva, we soon realize that it is because we want things our own way – we want to receive instead of to give, we expect things to comfortably fall in line with our own concepts and beliefs, thinking we are right and others are wrong. When we refuse to understand, bend and harmonize, we make ourselves unhappy and stressed. The answer is to try to realize these situations as the Master’s gift. When our ideas, desires or traditional ways of thinking are upset by others, he is using the other person to highlight our rigidity. He is giving us the opportunity to chip away at our ego. He is teaching us humility.
This does not mean that we should not calmly stand up for what is morally right. It certainly does not mean compromising on the Sant Mat principles, and we should have no fear of public opinion as far as this is concerned. Sticking to the principles ensures that we keep clean, pure and strong, so we should never bend these rules. The Masters know that we all need a structure to protect us from the mind and senses that constantly try to take us away from the inner path. To live each day on the spiritual path, we always ensure that we keep the four vows – adherence to the vegetarian diet, avoidance of alcohol and mind-affecting drugs, living a moral life and carrying out daily meditation. If we stick to these principles then we can safely bend to all else.
Once we see that the Lord is the doer, the planner and the architect, we can trust that whatever others do to us, good or bad, right or wrong, pleasant or painful, is coming from him. He will support us when we have the sincere intention to follow the teachings. If we have faith and trust in him, the boon of flexibility and contentment will develop within us. “A heart full of love is contented and sweet”, says Maharaj Sawan Singh.
Sant Mat is so simple. Stick to the four principles and adjust to our life circumstances. Focus on the Master, trust him – all else is illusion. We can do this when we put our meditation first. When we meditate we will become relaxed and happy and that will enable us to leave it all to the one who loves us.
Once a dervish came before Sikandar (Alexander the Great), with the bowl of a beggar and asked him if he could fill it. Sikandar looked at him and thought, “What is he asking of an emperor like me? To fill that little bowl?”
But the bowl was a magic bowl. Hundreds and thousands and millions were poured into it but it would not fill. It always remained half empty, it’s mouth wide open. Sikandar asked, “Dervish, tell me if you are not a magician? You have brought a bowl of magic! It has swallowed my whole treasure and is empty still.”
The dervish answered, “Sikandar, if the whole world’s treasure was put into it, it would still remain empty. Do you know what this bowl is? It is the want of man.”
Be it love, be it wealth, be it attention, be it service, be it comfort, be it happiness, be it pleasure, be it rank, position, power, honour or possessions in life, the more man can receive, the more he wants. He is never content, he will be never content. The richer man becomes, the poorer he becomes, for the bowl that he has brought with him, the bowl of want, can never be filled.
Inayat Khan, as quoted in A Treasury of Mystic Terms Part 2, Vol. 7