“Shall we continue our class now?” Gopal asked after a few moments of uncertainty.
“Monkhood is the best possible life. No anxieties but only service to God and humanity. It’s a simple life, you sleep on the ground, eat the simple food except on special occasions like this retreat, and we carry no money but service as our possession”
“But then why do monks leave the ashram sometimes?” a young monk from the Pune center asked.
“That’s because sociologically it’s an abnormal life. Spiritually it’s glorious but to live without a companion is artificial, unless of course you are strongly fixed on a transcendental plane. Some realize after a few years in the ashram that they’d be better off serving outside. And it’s not a failure to leave the ashram. The training here for as long as they stay is only an asset that helps the former monks lead a life of discipline and service even as householders. Guruji always tells us to encourage the monks leaving the ashram, to be happy outside. And he also declares that they have now graduated to the householder ashram”
“But we see some older monks get cranky and irritable” Venky asked
“As we get older, we have to be careful not to allow any negative thoughts to overwhelm us. We are obsessed with the ‘No’s’ so much that we ignore the positive possibilities in the monastery. Even people staying outside, they get trapped by the thinking addiction. Constantly worrying about their finances, home, partner, family, they fail to live in the present moment. They trade the simple happiness of life for some imaginary worries. And that makes them irritable”
“But aren’t the brahmacharis’ worries of loneliness and lack of security in old age a harsh reality of monk life?” Venky braved to ask this.
He was thinking of Parameshwar whom he had often seen at the beach eating roadside savories and wander off mysteriously away from the ashram at early hours on some days.
Gopal now raised his voice, “It may be a reality but do we have a choice? We have to be hopeful. It’s our subconscious mind that makes or breaks us. Externally and even internally we may psyche ourselves to believe that we are focused and strong in our spiritual practices. But the subconscious mind which stores over sixty percent of all our impressions and desires runs the show. And most often we are not even aware of it. So if we add positive thoughts always, then slowly this piles up and shows up on the conscious awareness level as well. A monk therefore has no choice but to improve his mental hygiene by absorbing the positive”.
Gopal paused, slipped into a smile and said, “Since we are going to play cricket soon, a cricket example may make sense. Two batsmen play the same shots, they are equally good, and they carefully survey the players of the opposite team, see the gaps in the fielding positions, and then hit the ball hard. Yet one of them hits the ball straight to the waiting fielder while the other steals runs easily through the gaps. Has anyone wondered why this happens?
“That’s because although both are determined to score runs, and both carefully study the opposite team, it’s their subconscious mind that does the trick. One of them tells a negative story to himself, ‘Oh these are the players standing here. I have to ‘not’ hit the ball to them but the gaps’ Little does he realize he attracts the same situation that he dreads; he hits the ball to precisely those places where he doesn’t want to.
The other batsman also sees the same fielders stationed at critical spots but his subconscious mind takes in the gaps. He has a positive story to tell himself, ‘hit the ball right there, in the gaps’. He sees the obstacles, but his inner world has taken the opportunities-the gaps-within this challenge.
To be continued…