“I am more than my scars”
– Andrew Davidson
When a herd of elephants pass by on the other side of the river, a pack of dogs would bark ferociously. However if the elephants were to stroll on this side, the dogs wouldn’t dare to bark at the herd. In fact, they would quietly make good their escape. But a lion or even a tiny cub wouldn’t fear an elephant; he would challenge. He’s after all the king of the jungle. A dog might bark animatedly at a stranger, yet his ability to confront you is limited. As the saying goes, ‘barking dogs seldom bite’.
A true spiritual seeker has the spirit of a lion. He faces obstacles head on. It’s one thing to give eloquent discourses on how to face difficulties in life, but when this world knocks heavy blows at you, most people abandon a spiritual path. It’s like the dogs running away when the elephants are nearer. When the obstacles-elephants- are on the ‘other side’- affecting someone else’s life- it’s easy to extoll the glories of courage and determination. But when temptations and distractions confront a seeker, or he faces repeated failures, that’s the real test. A true spiritualist is known by his ability to face disappointments without getting discouraged; he shows self-control and patience in his practices. The French playwright and actor, Moliere, considered as one of the greatest masters of comedy in Western literature, put it eloquently, “The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it”
How do we develop the spirit of the ‘lion’? Two things are critical.
First step is to adjust our expectations from others. We can’t live in a utopian world free of troubles and misunderstandings. This world is what it is; harsh at times and no one is spared. If we are honest about our spiritual level and also realistic about the nature of this world and its inhabitants, we’d less likely be shocked when things don’t measure up the way we want to. That’s not to say you get pessimistic. You do hope for the best, yet prepared for the worst.
The second thing is apply this principle by keeping our spiritual practices strong. A daily mindful practice of chanting, praying and service keeps our spiritual batteries charged.
The combination of ‘adjusting expectations’ and ‘mindful practices’ keeps one strong and guarded. It’s like the soldiers in the army. They work hard and sweat it out, not because they want to fight a war. Yet, they are ready, and they know the more you sweat in peace, the less you bleed in war. To expect the enemy to love is utopia. Similarly the material world is the antithesis of our spiritual existence. To expect freedom and eternality in the sphere of death and bondage is pure fantasy. However mindful and consistent practice of hearing and chanting helps one remain grounded and bravely face unexpected challenges. Chanting of God’s holy names develops our spiritual muscles. Prayers help us see through the harsh winters of life. The Chinese-American author Ming-Dao Deng said, “Those who don’t know how to suffer are worst off. There are times when the only correct thing we can do is to tolerate our troubles silently until a better day”
An old Bengali saying tells you that if you really want to see a prostitute, you should see her early morning. That’s when all the synthetic beauty that she had put on the previous night is withered away. Morning time is when she’s devoid of her glamorous looks and make up. Similarly if you want to see a person’s true character see how he faces life when nothing seems to be going his way. When life is in control, it’s easy to be nice and respectful to others. But when you are insulted or misjudged or you face a failure, how you chose to respond reveals your inner beauty.
Therefore let’s get an accurate understanding about life; if we expect life to be easy, trials seem impossible to overcome. But if we expect tribulation in our life’s sojourn, we’d find life easy. And if we keep our practices strong, we’d surely find diamonds even as life throws stones, day in day out. And that’s a true lion, marching on bravely, regardless of the odds against him.