Archive | stories

The importance of joy in the spiritual life

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Bahir was a very old disciple, but in the evening of his life, he was getting a lot of inspiration from visiting disciples and ashrams around the world.

On one occasion, Bahir visited an Ashram in a beautiful town. They had invited disciples from many other countries to come and participate in a weekend of spiritual activities. During the weekend retreat, the disciples had organised meditations, soulful singing, readings of the Master’s writings and a few meetings to talk about how they could spread their Master’s light.

After the final meditation, the main organiser announced.

“Now we are very lucky to have Bahir today. Bahir has been following the spiritual life for 60 years [cheers from the audience!] and he spent considerable time with the Master in the physical. Now Bahir is kindly going to come up and share a few stories.”

Bahir felt a knot in his stomach; nobody had told him this was on the programme. He didn’t mind speaking to groups of five or six people. But, telling stories to 600+ people was something he definitely had not prepared for. But, before he had time to think and run for cover, his old friend Malin was leading him up to the microphone.

Bahir looked out at the 600 expectant faces, and thought ‘O dear.’

Not knowing what to say Bahir began by sincerely appreciating the energy and enthusiasm of the disciples.

“It has really been a marvellous weekend, and I feel re-energised in my own spiritual life to feel such aspiration and feeling of oneness with the Master’s path.”

“I have truly enjoyed this weekend of spiritual activities but – if there is one thing which would add even more to the weekend – it would be to have a few fun games. As you know, I’m a very old man, but I like games because – at least for a short-time – I can pretend to be a seven-year-old boy again! As you know, our Master definitely appreciated when we had these weekend retreats because he saw how much they helped our spiritual life. But also, he often mentioned the value of having games because they are an opportunity to bring to the fore our childlike qualities. No matter how old we are, if we can participate and enter into the spirit of the games – our anxieties and worries disappear. The Master would often say when the disciples had this kind of innocent joy, it was such a weight off his shoulders.” Continue Reading →

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Reincarnation

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Many years ago there was a spiritual Master who had quite a few disciples. As a general rule, this Master did not believe in showing occult power as he felt the only force which could help transform human nature was divine love, divine concern and divine compassion. However, sometimes the Master would use his intuitive capacities to tell interesting stories and, on occasion, give his disciples hints about their previous incarnation.

However, after a few years, the Master felt even this practice was not helping his disciples, but could cause problems of jealousy and pride. On one occasion, the spiritual Master asked for spiritual questions but to the Master’s disappointment, quite a few disciples were wanting to ask about their past or future incarnation. The Master responded to one of these questions by saying:

“The spiritual life is all about the present moment. It doesn’t matter what we achieved last week, last year – to say nothing of what you might have done in your last incarnation. The important thing is to aspire to be more sincere and soulful in your present spiritual life. Knowing about past incarnations mainly feeds our curiosity. So from now on let us not worry about the past or future but concentrate on the golden opportunity we have in this present moment.”

***

Arjun came to the spiritual path a few years later, and he heard these stories second-hand from other disciples. Yet, he was also intrigued by the subject and inwardly held a desire to know about his past incarnation.

A few months later, Arjun was at a meditation function with his Master.

It was a most soulful atmosphere; time seemed to pass effortlessly as if the thin veil between heaven and earth had momentarily lifted. Arjun felt transformed to another state of consciousness where the usual attractions and anxieties of the world lost their lustre, leaving him feeling perfectly calm and inwardly still. It was a rare feeling to be so at peace with the world. Continue Reading →

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Misunderstanding and communication

Hiran and Advik were good friends in the spiritual life but they had different interests and temperaments. As a result, they often saw things from different perspectives.

On one occasion, their Guru gave a short, informal talk on how the Supreme often put people together who had differing personalities. The Guru explained that when we live and work with people of contrasting personalities, it can force us to face up to our own weaknesses. Even if we find it difficult living and working with certain people, it can help us to transform a part of our nature, we would otherwise ignore.

Their Guru also taught that real spirituality is not just seeking peace in meditation, but trying to slowly and steadily transform our human nature. Finally he warned that – rather than trying to avoid difficult people – we should see the potential the situation gives for our own personal growth.

Hiran inwardly smiled; he knew intuitively the Guru’s philosophy was absolutely true – even if, in the heat of daily life, it was a challenge to actually practice. He also wryly smiled as he thought of the different attitude his housemates had to keeping the house tidy!

***

One day, Advik sent Hiran a text message about a new idea which he thought could be a more efficient method to organise the Ashram.

Hiran didn’t know how to respond to this text message because he didn’t think it was a method their Master would have wanted. Their Master was no longer in the body so it wasn’t absolutely clear cut. But, unable to articulate the nuances of the issue and feeling a bit put out, Hiran left it and didn’t reply – though it stayed in his mind and he ruminated on the issue for several weeks. Continue Reading →

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Inspired by sleeping disciples

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Hari had been following the spiritual life for many years – when outer circumstance left him in poor physical health. Previously he used to get tremendous joy from running and becoming less active was quite challenging.

With more time on his hands, he took to trying a bit more meditation during the day. After a few weeks perseverance, he felt a real sense of newness and joy in his meditation, and it started to fill the gap left by the end of his outer running. Encouraged by the glimpse of inner joy, he made greater efforts to focus on his meditation. For quite a few months he strived to deepen his concentration and awareness – though, on his own, progress could feel slow.

A few times a year, he travelled with his fellow seekers to a foreign country for a spiritual retreat. It was a mixture of meditation, food, music, plus other spiritual activities.

On one particular holiday, his rhythm of daily practice and japa went out of the window, and he didn’t have the chance to practise his usual meditation exercises.

Yet, despite making relatively feeble efforts and being concerned with some outer problems, in the function room, he started to feel a surge of joy coming from the heart.

No matter what was happening outwardly – formal meditation, plays or music (of differing standards) the joy was the same.

Towards the end of one late evening function, he couldn’t help but notice how many of his fellow brother disciples were fiddling with their phones or falling asleep for the final meditation. Usually, this behaviour would be discouraging and distracting, but on this occasion, the joy of the heart made outer events all but insignificant, like passing birds leaving no mark on the sky.

It was no personal effort or achievement, but felt like the grace of his Master was accentuated by the presence of his brother and sister disciples.

For Hari, it was a valuable lesson – it is easy to be frustrated with outer imperfections, but when you meditate well, all these problems fade into insignificance. It was also a reminder of the importance of the sangha (spiritual community.) Never had such grace been present in his lone meditation. But, even the sleeping disciples seemed to bring forth, with greater intensity, the very tangible presence of his Master.

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Correcting others of their mistakes

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Hari was a good disciple. He led a disciplined life and tried very sincerely to follow his Master’s guidelines. However, he also felt it was his duty to tell his fellow brother and sister disciples if they came up short and did things in the wrong way. When Hari travelled to an ashram in another city, he created a bit of a stir because he told quite a few disciples what they were doing wrong, and it didn’t go down particularly well.

Hari was also prone to periods of mild depression and frustration. He lived the strict spiritual life but felt he wasn’t always getting the joy he should be getting.

After ruminating on these issues for a few weeks, he requested a private interview with his Master where he hoped he would be able to air his grievances about what was happening in his ashram. He was fairly confident the Master would take his point of view.

When Hari went to meet his Master. The Master offered him a blessingful smile which really melted his heart. After a period of soulful silence, the Master began.

“My dear Hari, what I would like from you is for you to be happy. You must feel that in your happiness is your spiritual progress. If you are unhappy and depressed, it is like a dead weight that you are placing on top of yourself, and you will make no progress. Continue Reading →

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Devotional singing

A few thousand years ago, there was a spiritual Master who lived in India, with quite a few devoted disciples. This Master had also composed a few devotional songs – and he taught his disciples that if they sang his songs devotedly and soulfully, it could equal their highest meditation.

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At the Master’s weekend meditations, he also encouraged his disciples to perform his music as part of the evening function.

One evening, a new group of disciples came to visit their Master for the first time. They had been following his path for just over a year, but living many miles away they had not had the opportunity to come before.

During the evening function, some of the Master’s older disciples, who happened to be accomplished musicians, performed his music. They had been practising their arrangement for quite a few weeks and had raised the standard to a high musical level. During their performance – as he often did – the Master went into a trance, and even as the performance ended the Master barely seemed to come down from his Heavenly state. After a few moments of precious silence, he offered a faint smile, with eyes still half-closed. This was quite common as the Master rarely commented on performances, preferring just to meditate.

Next to perform were the new group of disciples who sang the Master’s song with no instruments, just singing. Although not always quite together, they sang with great enthusiasm, dynamism, simplicity and joy. Continue Reading →

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No Compromise – a short story

A story reflecting on how seekers can be at different stages of devotion and surrender. When following the spiritual path, we may start by seeing how it can improve our life, but as we progress, we try to transcend our personal likes and dislikes and live a disciplined life.

A divine surrender
Is
A supreme freedom.

– Sri Chinmoy [1]


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Many thousands of years ago in India, Kalo was a relative newcomer to his Master’s Path, and since joining he had been most inspired by those disciples who had been with the Master since the early days of his mission. He felt these disciples had really imbibed part of his Master’s light.

There was also a part of him that wished he had been born just a few years earlier, as his Master had a much closer outer relationship with these disciples. Yet although these thoughts came into his mind, he also just felt grateful to be on the path and felt his Master really valued the inner connection much more.

In many aspects of the spiritual life, his Guru could be very strict. He set very high standards and gave specific instructions on many things, which were not necessarily printed in his books. Sometimes it was a challenge to live up to these standards. His Master had a remarkable knack for discouraging those options which were easy and convenient for the human mind! But, at the same time, Kalo saw in his Master’s teaching the concern and compassion of his Master who saw all the subtle influences affecting a disciple’s consciousness.

One thing Kalo observed was how his Master could treat different disciples in very different ways. To some, the Master would scold for seemingly little rhyme or reason, whilst others would receive the kindest encouragement and highest praise. He felt this was a fascinating aspect of his divine Master – treating each soul according to its needs, capacity and Will of the Supreme. Continue Reading →

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The Master’s indifference

This is a short story which is semi-autobiographical. It touches on issues relating to expectation and seeing beyond outer appearances.

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There was a spiritual Master who had many disciples. At times, he would express great concern about their health or spiritual progress. Sometimes, no detail was too small for the Master’s concern – be it work, health or their own meditation. At other times, during weekly meditations, the Master would be lost in trance – deep in communion with the Highest Reality.

When a new seeker called Rakhal joined the path, he was surprised to find his Master appeared indifferent to his new arrival. As the disciples filed past the Master, the Master would offer broad smiles to his established disciples, but when it was Rakhal’s turn the Master closed his eyes and seemed to look the other way.

To some extent, Rakhal was puzzled; he expected his Master to treat everyone in the same way, yet it appeared the Master was showing favouritism to his older disciples. However another thought also came to Rakhal’s mind – despite the outer indifference, he felt inner peace and happiness while coming into the Master’s presence – even if he was outwardly ignored.

Over time Rakhal became used to this differing treatment and no longer expected to get a smile from his Master. He realised that outwardly the Master treated everybody in a different way, depending on what the individual disciple really needed.

Gradually, Rakhal felt even the Master’s indifference was an important lesson – the Master was wanting to teach Rakhal to let go of expectation, but instead develop his inner faith and inner connection.

After a few years, Rakhal had largely overcome his own expectations of how his Master should treat him. But then, when he least expected it, his Master would offer a divine smile or offer short words of encouragement. Rakhal was happy – both to receive the outer attention of the Master, and also because he had learnt to be detached about whether the Master spoke to him or not.

Then, out of the blue, the Master passed to the other world, and Rakhal was deeply upset to lose the outer, inspiring presence of his Master. But, now more than ever, the disciple was grateful for his Master’s lessons in detachment and learning to value the inner essence of spirituality.


Photo top: Sri Chinmoy meditation 1970s

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