Most of the pain, let me say ninety-five percent of the pain, that we are feeling about any situation is not the pain of the situation itself. It is the pain of our negative reaction or our attachment to that situation. So is it fantasy to say – I can control my reaction. Is it fantasy to say – I can control my thinking about something. Is it fantasy to say – oh it didn’t happen, that isn’t true – but the real angst that we have is not in the situation, it’s in our reaction to the situation. Yogananda ji said that all situations are neutral. It’s our reaction to them that make them either positive or negative. And so, the difference between fantasy is to dreamily say – ‘Oh I wish it would go away’ or ‘Oh everything is fine’. That doesn’t have any energy to it. It is not fantasy to say – I don’t like the way that I’m feeling, I’m in control of my own feelings, let me do something about it. That addresses the problem at the level that it is – which is our own reaction and our own attachment to having things in this way.
Now I’m not saying that it’s easy because we are attached to things and we do want things to be our way. Sometimes, even the things that aren’t pleasant, we have to finally get to the point where we say – Well I’m not in control here – God you’re in control. I give this problem to you and I have faith that you will help. But, I will do my part in trying to be as solution oriented as I can.
I’ll share more on a personal level – not only my own experience, but by watching other people. The spiritual life is really for people of great strength and courage, and if you don’t have it, but if you are sincere, believe me, you will develop it along the way. Because God will test you. He’ll say okay you’re doing pretty well. Now I’m going to give you this situation. Okay – you handled that pretty well, now I’m going to give you this situation….. until finally there’s nothing that can happen that is going to throw your peace of mind.
Master told the story in one of his recorded talks. It was the story of Saint Anthony, who was a great Christian saint. He was one of the early Christian fathers. He lived in the desert, in Egypt, and Christ was his ishta devata – that was the form he worshiped. But the forces of darkness were testing him. He would be living in the caves in the desert and the force of darkness would come and try to overwhelm him but Anthony would just stay firm in his faith. Then finally, it was the last great showdown, similar to the Mahabharata – the last great battle between Duryodhana and Bhima. The dark forces of Satan were overwhelming him and Anthony was in this cave and it was crushing down on him. He heard Satan’s voice, which said “Denounce God and worship me” Anthony was sorely afraid, Master said. But he said: Never!! I will only give my love and my allegiance to God”. Just in that moment, all of this test faded and Christ was standing there before him. Anthony said “Lord, where have you been?”. And the way Master tells the story on this recorded talk he said “Anthony, I was just the same with you” meaning I was always there.
So, that’s what we need to remember. No, it’s not going to be easy. The spiritual life is not easy but it’s the best game in town because it helps us become who we really want to be and to find our own true potential. So we need to say “Yes this is not easy, but yes I can do this. And I am strong enough to face whatever comes my way”.
And what a great opportunity. I don’t know a single person who’s been on the path, and we’ve known devotees who have been on the path for more than 50 years, I don’t know a single one who hasn’t been tested to the core of their being. But they came out victorious and now at this point, in so many of their lives, I can see nothing’s going to touch them anymore.