Gains and Losses
Growing up is a challenge for many of us. We are often confronted with situations in which we are forced to give up things against our will. As children, we may remember having lost a best friend to someone else, or a favourite toy or piece of clothing. As we mature, we realize that life presents losses that are at times irrecoverable, such as our health, our hearing or our eyesight. Sadly, when least expected, we may face the loss of someone close to us, someone we thought we had an eternal connection with.
Life is dished out to us in a series of gains and losses, something that can lead to quite a bumpy ride if we are not careful. If we had a choice, we would surely all vie for smooth sailing, holding on to our rose-coloured glasses for our entire journey. Who really wants to navigate a life full of surprises, especially when things are taken away abruptly or the status quo is upended for no apparent or fair reason? Or when we experience a financial setback or don’t get that promotion we were sure was ours but given to someone else we thought to be utterly undeserving?
On the one hand, it is natural that we try to organize and manage our lives. Yet maturity shows us that, more often than not, situations can spiral out of our control, leaving us feeling helpless and vulnerable. How must it feel to lose everything material one has ever owned as a result of a natural disaster such as a tsunami or an earthquake? Such losses are hard lessons for us mortals, partly because we tend to disregard life’s repeated lessons and partly because of our blurry and scattered vision. The thing about us humans is that we seem to be hard-wired to grab and hold. When events and people come parading into our lives, we wish to retain complete control and ownership over them, as if our life depends on it. But it doesn’t.
The stronger our desire to hold on and possess, the more difficult the process of letting go becomes.
When we come to Sant Mat, one of the most important lessons we confront is our need to detach ourselves from the world and its objects, and the sense pleasures that constantly lure us at every turn. The trickiest part is that the venom in the snake’s tongue takes time to act, poisoning us slowly, lulling us into a false sense of security. Before we know it, we are caught-up in the snare of our attachments and desires once again.
In our effort to contact the Shabd within, we endeavour to detach our mind’s attention and attach it to its spiritual source. We do this while living in the world and taking care of our businesses, responsibilities, and obligations. When things take an unexpected turn, we usually are able to take life’s setbacks and jolts gracefully and with equanimity. To make this possible, Master gives us our simran, the only tool we need to accomplish this monumental task and to remind us of the importance of turning back to our source, our spiritual home. As we begin the journey back to our true home, we gradually discover the extent of our worldly attachments and their hollowness.
Through the daily practice of simran and the technique of meditation taught to us at the time of initiation, we strengthen our faith in our Master. We learn – maybe the hard way, the only way – how to accept what is beyond our control. We go from paying lip service to the teachings to building deep trust in his will and in the knowledge that he knows best. And if that means we need to give things up along the way, then we try to do so gracefully and whole-heartedly.
What is the difference
Between your experience of Existence
And that of a saint?
The saint knows
That this spiritual path
Is a sublime chess game with God
And that the Beloved
Has just made such a Fantastic Move
That the saint is now continually
Tripping over Joy
And bursting out in Laughter
And saying, “I surrender!”
Whereas, my dear,
I am afraid you still think
You have a thousand serious moves
Hafiz, as translated in I Heard God Laughing: Poems of Hope and Joy
How wonderful it would be to truly believe that whichever move the Beloved makes is the right move. But we still think we’ve got a thousand moves up our sleeve that are going to give us a sense of control. Unfortunately, they only end up binding us tighter to this tangled web of illusion and confusion.
Only those who truly put their faith in their Master and attach themselves to the truth within are able to burst out with laughter and say, “I surrender!”
The Greek philosopher Alcmaeon explained that men die because they cannot join the end to the beginning. We perish not because our lives come to an end, but because we leave without ever finding the reason for being here in the first place.