If spirituality doesn’t make you stronger, what good is it? Not much. Yet often people lean upon religion as if it were a crutch. Instead of walking on their own they hobble along, dragging the weight of dogma, ritual, and slavish dependence with them.
Yesterday I got an email message from “Joe.” He said that I could share his thoughts if I cleaned up his syntax, English being his second language. I’ve done just that below.
Joe makes some important points. He’s addressing himself to members of Radha Soami Satsang Beas (RSSB), the group that both he and I have been associated with for many years. However, strength through self-reliance is a universal spiritual virtue.
“God,” however this term is conceived, is almost universally conceived as the ground of our being—Atman, soul, consciousness, whatever you want to call it. So the “self” in “self-reliance” is much more than the individual ego. It is the Whole Shebang—Brahman, God, Buddha-nature, whatever you want to call it.
If years of spiritual practice/devotion aren’t leading you to greater self-reliance (or rather, Self-reliance with a capital “S”), then you’re not going in the right direction. Which is, of course, no direction, because the Self is right here, right now.
“That thou art.” “Atman is Brahman.” “Be still and know that you are God.” “Soul is a drop of the spiritual ocean.”
Spiritual masters, like other sorts of teachers, point the way. But as Joe says, they aren’t the way. The goal of a master should be to help others become similarly mastered. A master musician who isn’t able to get students beyond playing scales mechanically isn’t much of a master.
His protégés should eventually be able to play music on their own, to compose, to improvise. And yes, to sound their own wrong notes. Similarly, spiritual growth won’t occur when people remain passively dependent on a guru or master.
Every master once was a disciple, and the goal of every disciple should be to become a master. By which I mean, to attain the same spiritual realization (whatever that might be) of the teacher, just as a music student should aspire to be as competent a musician as the person he or she is learning from.
Here’s Joe’s message, edited slightly for clarity:
I read your articles once in a while and I am amazed at how many satsangis [RSSB initiates] feel really betrayed. I was initiated in 1986 and in 1992 I realized that the path was feeding my own misery in three dimensions. As the Master said in one of his books, "misery is the worst karma...."
I consequently said to myself: “Joe, (which is not my name) if you cannot personally take care of yourself, who will?” As I slowly came back into this world I realized my own mistakes. As satsangis we believe that the Master will take care of everything in our life.
As many of us know, this is not true. So my first thought is that those who are initiated have to understand that the Master is in your life, but is not your life. This is a big subtlety.
Each of us has to deal with the physical world in all of its facets. The Master mentioned many times that what he did to the initiates was “only” to connect him/her to the Sound Current [spirit] and after that “it is all in His hand” (meaning the Lord). We cannot have any expectations concerning the Master. This is our life.
My second thought is that if as a human being we have the potential to become like God, the many trials must serve the purpose of making us stronger, not weaker. This means that we need to stand for ourselves and accept only the acceptable according to our own wisdom at the time. There is no place for guilt or any other negative feelings. We are growing because we react. We are not living a book; we are living our life.
My third thought is that as satsangis we need to stop accepting spiritually what we would not accept in this world. For example: Would you keep going daily to the University to attend a lecture with a professor who never shows up? Same applies spiritually if your Master is not showing up.
Let go. The Master is there waiting for us to master ourselves. Who wants to deal with the weakest? Certainly not the Masters.
If you think that this article may help, please feel free to correct the syntax (English is my second language) and publish it.
Kind regards, Joe