Important things in the spiritual life

A story by Sri Chinmoy – ‘Four most important things in life’. Plus a commentary on these four spiritual precepts, mentioned by the spiritual Master Balananda.

One day Balananda said to his disciples, “I know all of you want to become my good disciples, but it is quite a difficult task. Each of you needs to develop four most important things in your life. You need to develop the capacity to tolerate the world and to tolerate your own life. You need to develop the capacity to sacrifice everything that you have and everything that you are. You need to cultivate the capacity to remain silent even when you are mistreated mercilessly, without rhyme or reason, by a hostile world. You need to develop the capacity to remain calm, quiet and tranquil without being completely shattered when you lose in the battlefield of life or extolling yourself to the skies when you succeed in the battlefield of life.”

The disciples said to him, “Master, is it at all possible to do all this in one incarnation?”

Balananda said, “Why not? Why not? I, too, was once upon a time a disciple in this incarnation. In this incarnation I realised God. You also can realise God, provided you always do the right thing at the right time, with the help of the right Master.”

Four most important things from: India and her miracle-feast: come and enjoy yourself, part 9. at Sri Chinmoy Library.


1. Tolerate the world

The world might be full of frustration and injustice, but thinking about this injustice does not help improve the world, and it is does not help our life to reach its potential. To tolerate the world does not mean we ignore the world; real toleration is to love the world in a divine way. It means we are aware of the divine potentiality hidden in the world, but with a detachment about the invariable mistakes and problems. It is when we can accept the world and have faith in its possibilities, that we are in a better position to offer something worthwhile.

If we concentrate on the negative qualities of people, we won’t help the world make progress. But, if we are able to look beyond the current imperfections, we have the capacity to bring their good qualities to the fore.

I shall tolerate the world,
I shall.
Only by tolerating the world
Shall I be able to help
My mind to ascend
My heart to transcend.

Sri Chinmoy [1]

2. Tolerate ourselves

Sometimes we are worst critic, at other times we lack a critical self-awareness. Both extremes can be problematic. To tolerate ourselves is to have patience and also the determination to improve our life. When we tolerate our current imperfections, we don’t get weighed down by feelings of inadequacy, but instead we can cultivate the inner determination and long-term aspiration to transcend our present state of mind.

3. Sacrifice

The term sacrifice can make the human in us afraid of losing those things we are attached to. However, a seeker can learn that – we are actually sacrificing a fleeting pleasure for a more fulfilling, abiding sense of satisfaction. If we are willing to sacrifice the demands and desires of the ego, we can discover the inner, Supreme self. It is this inner self which understands selflessness is not sacrifice, but an opportunity to gain identification of a vaster consciousness. It is this expansion of consciousness from a limited thought-bound self to a feeling of oneness, that gives real joy.

4. The capacity to remain calm

The capacity to remain calm and detached is a valuable life skill. It is something we can practise and cultivate through meditation – where we learn to detach from meaningless thoughts and worries which enter our mind.

However, the real calm and detachment isn’t just a mental habit and rejection of doubt, but also comes through cultivating faith in God and the Divine Lila – Cosmic game

For example, when we gain a serious illness or become aware of our mortality, the human in us feels a big loss. But, through the practise of yoga, we learn that this life is not the only chance. In fact, we have eternal time to seek the infinite and real.

The Bhagavad Gita tells us that the soul is immutable and unchangeable.

“The soul is ancient, permanent, eternal, immutable and all-pervading. Weapons cannot cleave it. Fire cannot burn it. Water cannot drench it. The wind cannot dry it.”

– Sri Krishna [1]

Whatever happens in the outer life, it is this inner soul that is the real in us. If we can gain a glimpse of our own inner soul, then this spiritual calm and detachment is no longer just a mental philosophy, but something that becomes part of our approach to life. We can then cultivate the faith that there is a divine purpose behind the stumbles and falls of the world.


Balananda gives us a very simple and short philosophy. But, for his disciples, the real test is not just to learn this philosophy, but to live, understand and practise it in their daily lives; for this, we need a lifetime of spiritual aspiration.

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