Richard (now Radhanath Swami) was beginning to find spiritual life natural and his previous lifestyle and interests a distraction. He found it strange and uncomfortable talking to a friend he had known in London whom he now met at Delhi. Sean’s mannerisms, language and interests were repulsive to Richard; he soon realized that it wasn’t Sean who had changed but he himself had changed due to his spiritual associations and experiences. Richard however cautioned himself from criticizing Sean for his ‘material’ outlook to life. Richard realized that being judgmental of others is detrimental to one’s spiritual progress. Richard also realized that the association and environment we chose molds our character down to the fundamental views of life. Richard saw his own heart undergoing a change and felt the potency of his spiritual learning.
Radhanath Swami reasons that this is the power of a genuine spiritual path. “Spiritual life is not a path of negation”, assures Radhanath Swami, “rather it is a system of transformation.” Spiritual life transforms our hearts and replaces the negative forces of lust, envy and greed in our heart with the positive forces of love and service. He gives an example to explain the point. A caterpillar may not be beautiful but when it transforms into a butterfly, it becomes one of the most attractive insects. Similarly our heart has much negativity but these forces can be transformed to a beautiful butterfly. Radhanath Swami says although the positive transformation of the heart is required, it only comes when we abandon our egoistic conceptions of wanting to be the enjoyer and instead fix ourselves as the servants of God and all living entities. Radhanath Swami observes that real heart transformation comes about when we have the proper attitude to strive for that which is real. That is the spiritual platform. Radhanath Swami urges all spiritual aspirants that before we die, we have to ensure that our false ego dies. “Death means to let the false ego go and live on the light of real truth.” When we live such a life our lives are full of meaning not only to ourselves but we also lend meaningful substance to others’ lives. This transformation is for real and desirable.
However Radhanath Swami is quick to clarify that spiritual life doesn’t bring about a change in the personality. We are unique and retain our individualities in spiritual life. The transformation we experience is subtle; it’s a subtle transformation of our desires, motivation and attitudes. This transformation requires hard work and a desire to change.
I heard a nice story in this regard. Once there was a man who looked at his entire life through a distorted mirror. He was actually very ugly, but because of the distorted mirror he looked beautiful in the glass. Finally, a relative decided to help him see reality and gave him a proper mirror. The man became so disturbed when he looked into the real mirror that he threw it down and went back to his old mirror.
Unfortunately, this is exactly what happens sometimes when we come into spiritual life and see for the first time what needs to be changed in our attitudes and behaviour. Often we find it so intolerable that we prefer to abandon the spiritual path. The Native Americans have a very interesting saying: “If you say the truth you need a quick horse.” This saying shows how unwelcome the truth sometimes is for us. When we hear it, our ego rebels and then the one who told the truth needs a quick horse.
Radhanath Swami implores that let us not make this mistake of denying the reality that we have negativities in our heart and we need to change. Rather let us happily accept the changes we have to make. They are for our good. These transformations bring us closer to God and give us real and lasting happiness.