|Chapter 7.0 from "Study Circles for Divinity"|
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7.0 SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINE- INTRODUCTION
Since time immemorial, human beings have yearned for something indefinable, something which feels like 'coming home' or the 'peace beyond understanding'. Mostly we seek to find this joy and peace by attaching ourselves to people and other objects in the world, and by maximising the satisfaction of the innumerable desires of our sense organs. Experience tells us each time that the desire-filled path leads only to temporary happiness, and is followed by misery when the desire fades, or the object of our desire eludes us or even after it is attained. Regardless of our experience we continue to run up this blind alley of sensual and egoistic attachments again and again, only to find that it ends in yet another wall of dissatisfaction, pain and sadness.
Eventually, through God's Grace and the mystery of Divine discontent, we feel impelled to listen to our conscience or to the words of a spiritual Master. When that happens, we have started on the journey towards Union, towards realisation of the Self, of experiencing the Universal 'I' and the all-inclusive 'We'. This path is the path of the Spirit, of religious obligation - it is the journey of the stranded fish earnestly seeking to return to the water; it is the rushing of the river, after its long journey, towards its source, the ocean, and the inevitable destiny of becoming One with All.
Sooner or later, in this life or the next, all of us will return to where we began the journey. This chapter is an opportunity to explore the various pathways which can lead us Home. Lord Sathya Sai Baba has devoted so much of His time to showing us these pathways - illuminating and clarifying the spiritual practices which can be of most benefit in this age, this Kali Yuga.
Each section in the chapter offers a life-time's study and practice in itself, as we examine the quotes from His discourses and writings. Swami says that if we adopt even a single one of His teachings and put it into practice in our daily lives, we will be fulfilled.
In the Study Circle on the topic of 'Devotion', we are inspired to reach out for and yearn to be an instrument of the Teacher, of God; yet being reminded that we are opening a door into our own heart so that we can truly be who we are - Divine beings like Lord Jesus, Lord Krishna, Lord Buddha and Lord Sathya Sai Baba.
When we explore 'Faith', we are really discovering that we can have faith in ourselves, in our true Self. This Self-confidence is the same as faith in God; it is that state in which we can say, in all humility, "I can do anything", 'I' being of course the 'Universal I', the One, the Omnipresent and Omnipotent God.
In an age where there are so many material attractions tempting the senses, repeating a Name (of God) comes as a life-boat to a sinking ship. In the section concerning the 'Name' we turn our collective focus on how to utilise this ever-so-valuable tool for finding God in everything and everybody. Lord Sai tells us that saying the Name of God and visualising His Form (any divine Name and any Form) is the most effective method for taming the mind in this age. Then the mind becomes like an animal tethered to a stake in the ground, so that its wanderings are limited to a chosen area. Sai Baba likens the mind to a thorn in the foot, where we use a thorn to get rid of the thorn; so with repeating the Name of God, we can use the mind to get rid of the mind and its illusions.
The Study Circle on 'Prayer' teaches us that "words must be said", that speech is given to us so that we might awaken the sleeping God within. We are to ask God for forgiveness, for peace of mind, to have our needs met, for the "ability to know what is right and the courage to follow the path of righteousness", for God's Love and for a vision of God. All these and more we are to ask for, as a child asks its mother for food, comfort and protection.
When we focus on the topic of 'Spiritual Practice', we discover a rich kaleidoscope of activities, each one of which can play a vital part in sounding the notes that resonate with our heart and conscience, so that we can find our way home through the darkness of our attachments, fears and ignorance.
The final section in this chapter examines 'Surrender'. The Study Circle is led into a yearning to surrender, at the same time discovering that we cannot surrender that over which we have no control (our habits, bodies, etc.) or that which we do not own (for what is not God's?). All that we can surrender or let go of is the belief that we are this body, that we are the doer, that we are the possessors, that we are separate from everyone and everything, that we were born and we will die. These we must surrender, the ego-feeling of 'I' and 'mine'. The end result is the sweet music that comes when the flute lets go of the belief that it is the one playing, that it is the one creating the sweet music. Finally we can say, "Yes, Yes, Yes. Play me. Play me".
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