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Self-effort and Self-surrender
(continued from previous issue)


Practice of Self-surrender coupled with Self-effort (Continued)

    2. Not thinking of what is inauspicious or unfavorable: Avoiding negative thoughts is as important for a devotee as thinking positive thoughts. Despite facing adverse circumstances, a devotee does not feel weak but strong in the strength of God, who he knows abides in him. Nor does he doubt his capacity to be steadfast in his spiritual practices. Sri Krishna teaches in the Bhagavad Gita (6.5): “One should uplift oneself by oneself; one should not belittle oneself.”

    Thinking negatively about oneself does not help one to better oneself. Sri Ramakrishna teaches how to refrain from negative thoughts: “By repeating a hundred times, ‘I am a sinner’, one verily becomes a sinner. One should have such faith as to be able to say, ‘What? I have taken the name of God; how can I be a sinner?’ God is our Father and Mother. Tell Him, ‘O Lord, I have committed sins, but I won't repeat them.’ Chant His name and purify your body and mind. Purify your tongue by singing God's holy name.” A part of our impure mind continues to revel in past misdeeds, so dwelling on the negative side of our character does not help us to undergo transformation.

    Swami Vivekananda’s inspiring words from his “Paper on Hinduism” at the Chicago Parliament of Religions (1893) are a great antidote to negative thoughts: “Ye are the Children of God, the sharers of immortal bliss, holy and perfect beings. Ye divinities on earth—sinners! It is a sin to call a man so; it is a standing libel on human nature. Come up, O lions, and shake off the delusion that you are sheep; you are souls immortal, spirits free, blest and eternal; ye are not matter, ye are not bodies; matter is your servant, not you the servant of matter.”

    His words provide inspiration for diligent struggle in spite of failures: “Never mind the struggles, the mistakes. I have never heard a cow tell a lie, but it is only a cow—never a man. So never mind these failures, these little backslidings; hold to the ideal a thousand times; and if you fail a thousand times, make the attempt once more.” He was never tired of emphasizing that weakness cannot be a cure for weakness, but strength: “Being reminded of weakness does not help much; give strength, and strength does not come by thinking of weakness all the time. The remedy for weakness is not brooding over weakness, but thinking of strength. Teach men of the strength that is already within them. Instead of telling them they are sinners, the Vedanta takes the opposite position, and says, ‘You are pure and perfect, and what you call sin does not belong to you.’ Sins are very low degrees of Self-manifestation; manifest your Self in a high degree. That is the one thing to remember; all of us can do that. Never say, ‘No’, never say, ‘I cannot’, for you are infinite. Even time and space are as nothing compared with your nature. You can do anything and everything, you are almighty.”  He taught that in strength lies life, not in weakness: “The weak have no place here, in this life or in any other life. Weakness leads to slavery. Weakness leads to all kinds of misery, physical and mental. Weakness is death….This is the great fact: strength is life, weakness is death. Strength is felicity, life eternal, immortal; weakness is constant strain and misery: weakness is death.”

    The spiritual seeker has to have the right view about the inevitable adversities of life. Neither the scriptures nor any realized soul ever promised that we will live in a world free of adversities because we are devoted to God. Sri Krishna teaches that this world is ephemeral and an abode of misery. (Gita, 8.15) A devotee learns to look upon adversities as opportunities to pray to God and grow strong in devotion to Him.

 (To be continued)                                                           —Swami Yuktatmananda


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