Meditations on The Journey Home – Lesson from Chapter 2
Inspirations from ‘The Journey Home ‐ Autobiography of an American Swami’
Richard savoured each session during the ‘World Yoga Conference’ and waited with anticipation for the grand finale. Three thousand people thronged for the closing session, each seeking knowledge, and blessings from such an august assembly. The organizer, Christopher Hills reminded the audience about their special good fortune to get association of so many spiritual teachers. He also announced that the programme must conclude at sharp 7.00 p.m. Richard wondered how could a programme of so many Swamis end on time; after all that meant not all would get a chance to speak. As the deadline approached and it became clear that not all would speak, some of them began barraging Hills with insults. As tension built up and one yogi began chanting Om to signal the conclusion of the session, there was uproar; many yogis fought to grab the microphone. As they rambled aggressively like politicians, the yogis’ behaviour shocked the audience. The men supposed to bring peace and harmony to the world, were fighting bitterly on stage, right in public eye.
Richard’s innocent expectation was disappointed. Later he felt consoled by Swami Satcitananda who in a tender voice said to Richard that all are struggling at their respective level of progress, and we can’t expect all to be perfect. He warned of a trap in spiritual life, of judging others for their faults. It’s better to work on our own spiritual practises sincerely, and put faith in those of good character.
Having known Radhanath Swami personally for over a decade, I find a refreshing quality in him- refusal to find faults with others, whatever the provocation. Whenever I have pointed out faults of others, he has expressed irritation, and helped me see the good in the other person, and insisted I focus on my own spiritual practises. His golden words reverberate in my heart, “Fault finding is a vicious weapon of the illusory forces that wants to divert our attention from what we have to do in life, and that is to clean up our own hearts. Physician heal thyself.” He repeatedly points out that when we look for faults, our heart gets contaminated. “But”, I wondered, “what if the faults are obvious, and is affecting others’ spiritual lives?” “Then, while addressing the fault, do not judge the person”, answers Radhanath Swami. “We should remember a spiritual practitioner has entered a hospital. We are all getting cured here for our negativities. Some are responding to the treatment of spiritual practises fast, others take time, and in some cases the symptoms or even the disease relapses. Be sympathetic while administering the treatment.”
Monk Thomas Kempis addresses this question of fault finding in his thirteenth-century work Imitation of Christ:
“Try to bear patiently with the defects and infirmities of others, whatever they may be, because you also have many a fault which others must endure. If you cannot make yourself what you wish to be, how can you bend others to your will? We want them to be perfect, yet we do not correct our own faults. We wish them to be severely corrected, yet we will not correct ourselves. Their great liberty displeases us, yet we would not be denied what we ask. We would have them bound by laws, yet we will allow ourselves to be restrained in nothing. Hence, it is clear how seldom we think of others as we do of ourselves.”
On one occasion Radhanath Swami gave the example of bathing under a shower. We are all dirty due to material consciousness and are bathing under the shower of spiritual practises. Some may have got cleansed of the dirt and others are just beginning to take a bath. We can’t criticize others for having dirt. Appreciate their attempt to get cleansed. While giving others’ time, we need to work diligently on our own weaknesses. Radhanath Swami says our original nature is pure, and in the purified state we see everyone superior to us. Presently we are trying to purify ourselves with spiritual practises so that we can revive this original nature of ours. However when we are lax in purifying ourselves, we go further away from our pure nature and finding fault becomes our second nature.