“In the valley of sorrow till thousand years or till tomorrow, My Lord I want only You, You, You, just You. My heart’s aflame, my soul’s afire, just to see You, You, You, just You.”
These heart-touching words are of a song by Paramhansa Yogananda that convey to us with utmost clarity the heart-cries of a sorrow-stricken devotee whose only aspiration is to unite with the Divine whether it happens just the next day or he may have to wait for a thousand years!
The Divine Search
Is life a bed of roses? Not at all. As we experience many pleasure-some moments in times of upswing, there are distressing moments of sheer sorrow and despair as this inevitably happens when life’s swing is downward. For most of us our spiritual journey begins, in all its earnest, at times when our circumstances are difficult, posing formidable hurdles that we cannot manage on our own. This challenge forcibly makes us search for Divine help, invariably as a last straw for our rescue, though seemingly intangible and unknown.
But the question is that why do most people do not have a yearning to seek the Divine in their good times? Well, good times for most people mean being overly engrossed in material pleasures and simply forgetting the innumerable gifts of God. This is just like a child who is so much engaged in playing with the toys that he forgets the parent who is long waiting for him. But what happens if while playing, that toy breaks and its sharp, broken edge injures the child? Yelling out loud for help, the child naturally runs back to seek help from the parent. In the same way, we remain oblivious to the countless gifts of God, bestowed on us right since we took our first breath and stepped into the drama of this world stage, till moments of distress strike!
The boundless love of God for us, His children, is indescribably the hallmark of our very existence. Right from the gift of breath and an astonishingly well-orchestrated body machinery to our mental-emotional well being, we are gifted with parents, siblings, family members and friends. Not to forget, we are blessed with unending gifts in the form of the air we breathe in, the water we drink, the food we eat, the home we live in, the clothes we wear, and everything else we can name has a stamp of the Divine! Engrossed with the pleasures of all these gifts, literally toys, we forget God till we get beaten by life’s challenges, just as a child when hurt from a broken toy rushes back to the parent crying. Such moments of pain and suffering are commonly experienced in times of ill health when the physical body is gripped by disease or there is mental suffering as in anxiety and depression. Deep sorrow may afflict us due to broken relationships, unfulfilled expectations from loved ones, failing careers, deceitful friends and mocking relatives to name a few. In moments of experiencing these hard blows. there is no option left for most of us but to turn towards the Divine, wishing a miracle happening through His grace and mercy.
Learning From Sorrow
Yoganandaji said, “Sorrow is something that nobody wants but without sorrow we would never learn to be better. Sorrow is the way to true happiness.” How is it so? Well, each blow of sorrow-filled, heart-breaking episode of life could be likened to climbing a higher step of an evolutionary ladder that poses a challenge for rising up on this new step, for it requires an effort, leaving behind the lower step or the present situation in life. For the spiritually minded, such moments call for a deeper understanding of the Divine Truths. That is why Master said that, “Sorrow is a great teacher if you learn from it. It was given so that you do not remain attached to this world.” The lesson, for sure, is to make sincere efforts to grow spiritually.
A person having faith in God rises up firmly on the higher step of this ladder for he/she reconciles with the new situation, accepting the changes that are effected by the sorrow. A great suffering is a harbinger of spiritual rise only if we remain steadfast on tuning in with and accepting God’s will in our hard times, and moulding ourselves to fit in better in those circumstances, rather than trying to change other people. For this, one needs to practice tolerance, forgiveness, acceptance and willingness to change oneself.
Unfortunately,not many people learn from sorrow as despite having faith in God they do not make necessary spiritual effort or exercise needed patience to rise above those down-pulling moments. Therefore, unable to face the challenges, they may succumb to these conflicts and pressures of life that appear to them seemingly insurmountable. This adversely affects their body and mind, becoming the cause of many illnesses.
Yoganandaji said that, “Sorrow is a blessing in disguise. When sorrow comes, you must learn the lesson behind it. No sorrow can trouble you as soon as you give everything to God.” By giving everything to God means that we surrender to God in all humility and make necessary spiritual effort for changing ourselves and thus seeing life from a different perspective. This happens by raising our consciousness and meeting all challenges squarely or head-on, thus stepping higher on the evolutionary ladder of self realization. It is by the meditation technique of Kriya yoga that the seeds of past karmas, which are the cause of our suffering, can be destroyed as they are devotionally offered into the Divine Light. That is why Swami Sri Yukteshwarji said that, “Kriya Yoga is an instrument through which human evolution can be quickened.”
Sorrow Opens Our Eyes to Delusion
A blow of hard times teaches us the futility of living in a world of delusion that is beset with many ups and downs without lasting happiness. As most of us search for happiness in outward activities such as making a lot of money, rearing a family and in appeasing human relationships, the blow of sorrow teaches us that true happiness comes only from soul consciousness. The duality of this material world keeps us entangled in the dual opposites such as pain and pleasure, health and disease, life and death and so on. So there comes no assurance of lasting, permanent happiness as we keep riding these waves of delusion, lifetime after lifetime. Sorrowful moments surprisingly come as Divine grace in our life as then dawns in us the realization to change ourselves for the better, provided we do not succumb to its pressures. As we progress on the spiritual path we finally reach the highest state of our evolution,where our soul merges into the Infinite Spirit. Called the state of Samadhi, we get free from the cycles of birth and death and thus, stop riding the waves of delusion. As Yoganandaji beautifully describes this state in His poem entitled Samadhi, “Tranquilled, unbroken thrill, eternally living, ever-new peace! Enjoyable beyond imagination of expectancy, Samadhi bliss!” That is what we are all trying to seek.
Remembrance is the Key
The journey to the Divine is, for sure, long and arduous for the heavy karmic baggage most of us have to work out before we merge back into the Infinite Spirit.As good times return after a spell of hard days, it is important to firmly hold onto the memories of sorrow in order to remain steadfast on the path of spiritual growth. Otherwise, if we forget our hard times and the lessons learned during that period, it is easy to fall back again to our old ways of thinking and behaviour that were the cause of our suffering in the first place. These moments of darkness were instrumental for bringing in us the urge to search for the Light. That fiery urge in us, yearning to unite with the Divine, can be kept alive only through its remembrance at all times particularly the good times when we are most likely engrossed in the pleasures of this world. If that happens, then we may not suffer in the valley of sorrow for a thousand years but shall unite with Him, may be, as soon as tomorrow!