A commentary on a poem by Sri Chinmoy and what it means to be a spiritual seeker. This poem suggests for long-term spiritual progress, we need to retain the ability and willingness to change – retaining a sense of newness and enthusiasm, but also with a self-giving spirit which transcends the need for outer praise and attention.
The Master said in public:
“My hope and my faith
Are centred in my young disciples.”
The old disciples groaned:
We are leaving you for good.”
The Master then said:
“My real disciples are those
Who have denied themselves.”
The young disciples roared:
“Master, we are leaving you, immediately.
We have done so much for you.
Your shameless ungratefulness
Deserves us not.”
Only children, Children of the Himalayan caves
For the Transcendental Palace.
– Sri Chinmoy, Dance of Life #14
Sri Chinmoy said that the concept of old and young disciples were not necessarily related to physical age. It is the attitude of the disciple that is important. In this sense old means a complacent, static attitude, with no aspiration to change, but seeking comfort in an easy life. An old disciple is one who has surrendered to his own weaknesses.
A young disciple has the enthusiasm to practise spiritual discipline and strive to change his nature. We can be eighty years old, but if we still have this enthusiasm, willingness to change and willingness to serve – that is the attitude of newness and a ‘young disciple’. However, if we are 20 years old, but have no intention to try and change our nature or make any effort, we are as good as old.
We can be old in physical age, but if we can still gladly accept the scolding of our Master without jealousy, if we are still open to changing our nature, we can make tremendous progress.
Sri Chinmoy always encouraged us to find new seekers – people with that new willingness and enthusiasm to pray, meditate and engage in selfless service. However, enthusiasm and willingness is a good start, but more is needed to mature in the spiritual life. For real lasting progress in the spiritual life, we need to combine this dynamism with a self-giving spirit.
“my real disciples are those who have denied themselves” – this means that the real seekers, the real disciples are striving to overcome their pride, jealousy and ego. It is those disciples who are willing to aspire and serve – unconditionally without any outer praise or recognition. This is the real disciple, who serves and gives not for reward, but because they feel this is the right thing to do. True service is its own reward.
In the spiritual life, many may come and go, but for lasting success we also need to retain a cheerful childlike attitude; in particular we need to transcend the demands of the vital and ego which can lead to frustration. To develop this selfless-ness and childlike attitude is something which all Masters say is the essence of a real seeker.
What kind of seeker are we? At every moment, we can choose which to represent. There is part of our nature which tends towards the old – the attitude of complacency and comfort with the material world. But, equally, at every moment, we have the opportunity to choose newness, willingness and the aspiration for genuine spiritual change.
Also, if we perform any action, we can always choose whether to serve with ego or without. So, we have all potential choices within. But, the real secret of the spiritual life, is to let go of all desire for name and fame and discover the inner source of silence and happiness.