Facing Life’s Tests, Part 2




In recognizing the intrinsic value of spiritual law, life will be a light to shine for the benefit of others. We only fail in the search for enlightenment when we stop trying. Learn and respond to mistakes; adjust the flow of feelings such as guilt back into a harmonious condition. The one goal of the journey on this Earth: Self Realization. Perform penance, prayaschitta, to get rid of guilt from misdeeds. Unfold in yoga, open the mind into it’s fullness, live on the mountaintop, extract lessons from experiences and walk through the rain of suffering without getting wet.  “Master Course Trilogy, Merging with Śiva,” Chapter 15.


Text of talk:


gururbrahmā gururviṣṇuḥ gururdevo maheśvaraḥ guruḥ sākṣāt parabrahma tasmai śrī gurave namaḥ


Good morning everyone.


We are continuing in “Merging with Śiva” Chapter 15, “Facing Life’s Tests” an early inspired talk drawn from “The Master Course” 1967 edition assembled by the monks at Gurudeva’s Mountain Desert Monastery along with “Changing your Circumstances”, given in San Francisco in 1964.


So these are basically material from the 60’s.


Lesson 102:


“On the Edge of the Mountain


“Knowing the law puts you at a psychological disadvantage, in a way. It is not quite as bad when you act for the first time out of ignorance, in any situation. Suppose you are riding with a friend in a car and he passes through a red light and gets a ticket and a scolding from the officer, and you say to your friend, ‘Oh, that’s all right, you didn’t know. You haven’t been driving long and your lesson may cost you some money.’ You are forgiving of your friend’s error. Two months later, in riding with him again, he passes through another red light. And, what do you know, he gets another ticket and a scolding, and you sit back and say, ‘There is no excuse for that; you knew better. You saw that red light, didn’t you?’ This time you are not lenient with your friend, because you know he is aware of the law.


“You will behave with your own mind in the same way subconsciously if you depart from the spiritual law once you recognize its intrinsic value. Through concentration on life’s basic principles, you will become subconsciously aware of these laws, and then it will be easy for you to maintain them without effort, and the example of your life will be a light to shine for the benefit of others.


“Have you ever stood right at the edge of a mountain cliff? You were very careful about falling over the edge, weren’t you? But have you ever experienced that tendency in your nature that makes you a little shaky at the edge of the mountain, that makes you wonder what it might be like to be falling over the cliff, even if, even if the first ledge, shall we say, is not too much of a drop? (Read that one again for the tape here.) But have you ever experienced that tendency in your nature that makes you a little shaky at the edge of the mountain, that makes you wonder what it might be like to be falling over the cliff, even if the first ledge, shall we say, is not too much of a drop? What is it that makes you want to experience falling over the edge? Some people say they experience this feeling. Others may have not. But let anyone stand on the edge of a mountain precipice and then say there is not something occurring within them that makes them be quite careful.


“If you deliberately fall, even a short distance, you could not climb back to the top without having some kind of scar or bruise on your physical form—maybe only a blow to your pride. But you would carry back with you the results of the fall. It is the same with the spiritual law. Once you are aware the operation and you deliberately allow yourself to fall, you can return to the path with effort, scarred by the memory and strengthened with the influx of renewed energy as you again search for enlightenment, remembering that we only fail when we stop trying.”


That’s a great line, hmm? “We only fail when we stop trying.”


“Concentrate each night upon the events of the day and see how close you have come, either consciously or subconsciously, to deviating from your newly established yoga principles. Your span of life here is only a short time, and it benefits you to live it the best way that you can.”


I’m going to weave in some points from my “Publisher’s Desk” on “Mistakes.”  And the idea in the “Publisher’s Desk” is there are four progressive reactions that naturally ensue when one makes a mistake.


“A common first reaction is to become upset, to become fretful or angry about it, or if it is a serious mistake to become deeply burdened and even depressed. This is a natural first reaction, but if it is our only reaction, it is not enough. To progress, we need to cope with the emotional reaction to the action and move on to the learning stage.” (Which we’ll look at in a few more paragraphs here.)


Back to Gurudeva’s text, Lesson 103:


“Transcending Pettiness


“Your journey on this Earth has only one goal, Self Realization. You are here to attain the highest possible states of consciousness. You are not here to react to the petty incidents that occur in the valley of the subconscious. You are here to learn to control the mind and live on the mountaintop. If you fail yourself, you are the one who must suffer your failure. Often, in retelling their failures or their sufferings, people react to or re-enact the original experience all over again. But learning to extract the lesson from the experience is like walking through the rain without getting wet.”


So that’s the idea of the lesson and my ‘Pub Desk’ commentary here:


“A good second reaction to a mistake is to think clearly about what happened, why it occurred and find a way to not repeat the mistake in the future. Perhaps we were not being careful enough, and simply resolving to be more circumspect next time will prevent the problem from recurring. Perhaps we lacked some important knowledge, and now we have that knowledge, which we can simply resolve to use next time.


“Perhaps we created unintended consequences that caused significant problems to us or others. Now that we are aware of the consequences, we certainly won’t repeat the action. Those who are striving to live a spiritual life are self-reflective and learn quickly from their blunders. In fact, one way to tell a young soul from an old soul is to observe how quickly he cognizes his error and learns not to repeat the same mistake.”


Heard echo, agreed there.  Okay, don’t repeat the same mistake.




“We have to hold a constant vigil and keep our feet firmly planted on the spiritual path at all times, knowing that we can fall off the path until we have attained full illumination, or Self Realization, in this or future lives. By taking a stand within yourself on small issues, you can always find a different way, a way which we will open the door to new opportunity…(read that again). By taking a stand within yourself on small issues, you can always find a different way, a way which will open the door to new opportunity, selflessness and serenity. But, to the degree that we are unable to restrain the inclinations of our lower mind, to the degree that we find ourselves incapable of entering into positive observances, so do we open ourselves to inferiority complex, jealousy, hatred, self-indulgence, lust, fear, greed and all sorts of mental and physical ailments. Being aware of the laws of life allows an uninhibited and natural unfoldment, just as a bud unfolds into a flower.


“People sometimes say to me, ‘I am a little fearful on the path of classical yoga unfoldment, because I don’t want to lose the way I am.’ Of course, these people are not really happy with the way they are. Look back at your baby pictures and you will see that most naturally you lost and left behind the form that was yours at that time, and assuredly this will happen in the future. As you unfold in yoga, you will lose the way you are. You will mature as a bud matures into a flower, fulfilling its evolution, but it must leave behind its original shape, and open. In this same way, through discipline, your mind will open up into its fullness.


“Here is a visualization exercise. Bring before the vision of your inner eye the qualities and attributes which you would like to unfold in your nature. Visualize yourself being the kind of person you want to be, doing the kind of things that are going to benefit mankind most. Look back over your day and find out how close to the edge of the mountain you came. Train your subconscious mind to keep you away from the edge of the mountain. Make the yamas and niyamas meaningful habit patterns to your subconscious, as they were meaningful to your intellect.”


In other words make them strong habits. So I know you all couldn’t leave without knowing what the third and fourth steps are to responding to a mistake that are in my “Publisher’s Desk” so I’ll read those as the last part here.  So the first one was getting stuck in negative emotion and “I’m a terrible person.”  Second one is learning from the experience, how not to repeat it.  


So the third one:


“A third remedy may be needed if the misstep involved other people. Perhaps we have hurt someone’s feelings or created a strain between us. A direct apology can fix this if we know them well. If we are not close enough to the individual to be able to apologize, a generous act toward them can often adjust the flow of feelings into a harmonious condition. For example, hold a small dinner party and include them among the guests.


“A fourth remedy may be needed if one commits a major misdeed: for example, if we did something that was dishonest. Even if we have resolved to not repeat the misdeed and apologized to those involved, we may still feel guilty about the transgression. By performing some form of penance, prayaschitta, we can rid ourselves of the sense of feeling bad about ourself. Typical forms of penance are fasting, performing 108 prostrations before the Deity or walking prostrations up a sacred path or around a temple.”


As I like to say in Hinduism we’re not supposed to feel guilty.  We’re not trying to feel guilty.  If we feel guilty it means we need to get rid of the guilt.  How do we get rid of the guilt?  Through penance.


Have a wonderful phase.  


Aum Namah Śivaya. 

File Type: mp3
Categories: Bodhinatha Talks
Author: Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami
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