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Thoughts from Lockdown

On my desk is a calendar with quotes from Rumi. The one for this month of April says, “When the world pushes you to your knees, you’re in the perfect position to pray.” For several weeks now, each one of us has been challenged by the doings of this little thingamabob, alias coronavirus. It is turning our world upside down, or outside in....

As seekers on the path of Truth, we’re called upon to surrender our ‘selves’ to an ever greater degree than before to our satguru, to our guide to the Truth, to Love, to that which is real, eternal, blissful, and unchanging.

Many of us are familiar with the letters written by Baba Jaimal Singh to his disciple, Sawan Singh, in the late 1890s and early 1900s; we have read them or heard them quoted in satsang countless times. They represented an inspiring ideal, but our lives were carrying on in their usual pattern – so surely that degree of surrender was not expected of ordinary disciples like us? In letter after letter, Baba Jaimal Singh reminds his “obedient son” to please do his bhajan and simran, to understand that nothing belongs to him, that everything was given to him in the first place by the satguru, not to concern himself about whether he will have enough money or not for that particular year, that instead he should do more bhajan and simran. And he also says, “I am very pleased with you, my son, ... more precious to me are you, my son, than even the breath of my very own body.”

So, right now, all this education in being a true disciple resonates with us far more deeply. And this process of surrendering, of letting go, of trusting, is happening at different levels of our being, and it can be painful. More for some, less for others. And the degree of our attachment to this world is quite a revelation. All those little pleasures of life – visiting parents, children and grandchildren, a cup of tea with old friends, a walk in the mountains or on the beach, a trip to the garden centre to buy plants for one’s garden, or a visit to a museum or an art gallery, a game of golf – whatever it is that give us that special little treat, all this right now is out of bounds. But even more is asked of us. Some may be finding themselves in the heart-breaking situation of being unable to be at the bedside of a dying parent, or child, or husband, or wife, or any dearly loved one – or to visit a close relative in hospital, or being the one in hospital not allowed any visitors.... At every step, we are being confronted with our total helplessness.

One is reminded of a book, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, ‘dictated’ by the chief editor of Elle magazine after a major stroke had left him completely paralyzed. He could only move one eyelid, but thanks to a speech therapist who taught him how to ‘spell’ by blinking, he was able to communicate from his personal ‘lockdown’. He says that the two most painful things he had to face were being unable to hug his children or to crack a joke with friends. And he had no spiritual practice and understanding to sustain him. So, in comparison, let us be truly grateful for what we have been given.

In letter 9, Baba Jaimal Singh writes: “‘Look upon the hour of pain as a blessing,’ as pain or pleasure comes from the Lord himself. Since it comes by His command, why should we treat it as bad? The Lord, ever present, watches over us, and if our good lies in suffering, He sends us suffering; if it lies in happiness He sends us happiness. Both, beloved son, are within His will. So now you are not to have any worry; the suffering will come to an end very soon.”

And a contemporary Moroccan Sufi, Faouzi Skali, reminds us to be always grateful:

O friend, stop trying to figure out
  the why and the wherefore.
Put an end to the ceaseless spinning
  of your being.
Right here, where you are,
Right now,
Everything is given to you
  in the most perfect way.
Accept this gift;
Squeeze the juice of the present moment.

So we are being called upon to make that extra push to discard the cocoon and let the butterfly emerge. So let us learn to fly!