That’s like saying, “I have complete faith that if I eat this food I won’t be hungry anymore, but I don’t eat it.” What should you do then? Be hungry. If you’re not eating, it means you are not really hungry. If the true hunger is there, even if somebody tries to stop you, you will grab the food and eat it. That kind of need must be there. Necessity is the mother of invention.
You probably don’t feel the necessity of it. You admire it as something beautiful, but you have the feeling: “Wonderful. It’s there. But I’m fine, so what’s the rush?” You can be certain that at some point Nature will create that necessity for you. Then you will say, “Ah, I should have done this long before.” There are certain things you should do when the time is ripe. Don’t wait until you are too old and weak to do anything. When the body is young, do it. Do it now. “D.I.N.” as Master Sivanandaji used to say. Do it now when you still have strength in the body, strength in the mind. Don’t postpone it. Tomorrow may not come.
It is hard at first. Spiritual practice doesn’t taste delicious in the beginning. You must cultivate that taste. It’s like cutting a new groove in the brain. It wants to run in the same old groove. Think of how much work it is to cut a road through stumps and rocks. There are ticks and wild animals. It takes tremendous effort to make a smooth road. If you realize how important it is, you can educate the mind to accept that. Once the mind is convinced, you will enjoy doing the practices; it won’t be a burden. Don’t think you are doing it for someone else, your friends or your teacher. “Oh, what will my Guru think if I don’t do this?” That is the wrong attitude. You are doing it for your own benefit. Your Guru is not changed by your practice or your lack of it. Don’t simply copy others; understand what you are doing and why.
It’s nice to have the support of others, but you cannot depend on that. If you do these practices simply because your friends are doing it, one day they may decide to give up. Then where will you be? You are not doing this to satisfy anyone else; you will never make it if you are. You are alone. You came alone. You didn’t come into this world with other people. You won’t be leaving it with others. All these things should be based on self-conviction. When you have that conviction no one needs to be after you saying, “Hey, get up. It’s time for meditation.” Just think of how much people work to achieve even worldly goals. Someone who wants to win the Boston Marathon dreams of it day and night. For many hours he or she will practice. Every day, without fail, no matter what the weather, you will see them running and running just to achieve one day of glory.
We should have that kind of conviction for spiritual goals, the permanent goals. All the scriptures say that, “Put God first.” That is the first and foremost thing to achieve. All the rest is nothing. God is the reality; everything else is unreal. Everything else comes and goes; you cannot depend on that. Still, it seems much easier to work for things outside than to turn within. How shallow our values are. The whole world runs after these external things. Why? Because they haven’t been bitten enough. When you have been bitten enough by running after externals then you will understand how shallow they are, how temporary. When you reach that point, you will not go after those things. If they come, fine; but they won’t distract you. “No, you don’t tempt me,” you will say. “I know what you’re worth. I’m not interested. I just want God.” When the world begins to taste bitter, you will recognize the sweet taste of God.
Until the world gets a bitter taste, you’ll be saying, “God, why do you make me get up so early in the morning for these practices? There are more tasty things in life. Why should I rush?” Don’t worry, the world itself will teach you to turn to God. Unfortunately if you learn that lesson too late, you won’t have enough stamina to do anything towards experiencing the real sweetness of spirit. We have to apply our intelligence soon enough to understand that. And persistence is vitally important. In the beginning, a spiritual seeker is filled with enthusiasm. But after some time, the mind runs into the same old grooves again. You start with a big thirst, an earnest desire to realize God. Then it slowly fades. If the interest is really there, you will persist in your practices and make a good, smooth road through that jungle in your mind.
Question: But don’t we have to look after our families?
Sri Gurudev: I’m not saying that you should deny your family or renounce them. It’s fine to be with them, care for them. You have a certain responsibility. But at the same time, take care of yourself. You have to save your soul. Nobody else can do that for you. Don’t say, “I have to use all my time to take care of this person; I don’t have time for meditation.” By your meditation you will be even more help to that person. If you become spiritually strong, you will be the greatest aid to all.
Nothing, nothing, nothing should stop you in your spiritual practice. Use your intelligence in this. Nobody has left this world with the money they loved so much, with the fame that meant so much, not even with the loved ones. History confirms this. How often do you hear about a former president now? Just a short time ago while he was in the position you knew his every move. The newspaper would say, “The President sneezed twice today. The doctors attended him, and he seems to be fine.” Now, even if he’s in bed with the flu, we won’t hear about it.
Remember this. All the worldly things have their limitations. Develop that true detachment. The mind will play all kinds of tricks: “I have so many responsibilities. How can I shirk my duty?” Your greatest responsibility is to take care of your spiritual growth. Without that you cannot fulfill your other responsibilities. If you are depressed, moody, or sick how will you fulfill your obligations? To be a good husband, wife, friend, and citizen you should be in good shape physically and mentally. How are you going to do that if you don’t follow the practices?
If you haven’t been practicing regularly, don’t start by demanding too much of your mind. You must slowly, slowly train it. If you suddenly start waking up at 4:00 in the morning and meditating for two hours, in a few days your mind will rebel. Instead, set simple, realistic goals and very gradually increase them. Achieving small goals will increase your self-confidence, and the mind will happily respond. May God bless you in your practice, Om Shanti.
(From the February 2012 IYTA Newsletter)