Asha Praver's Monthly Letter
April 2006

Dear Friends,Asha Praver photo

A friend came to me with two questions. The first was how to have the right attitude toward her health. The second was how to spend her free time. The two questions seemed unrelated, but in fact they sprang from the same source.

My friend is a good devotee, and she is conscientiously working to mold her life according to Master’s teachings. She had fallen, however, into the common misunderstanding, that spirituality is something you impose on yourself from the outside rather than growing like a flower from inside your heart.

Years ago, Swamiji visited a convent and one of the nuns was showing him around their fine facility. She had absorbed the idea that nuns are “supposed” to behave in a certain way. So she was dutifully “being a nun,” speaking in hushed, reverent tones, especially whenever she mentioned the name, (sigh…) “Jeeeesus.”

Then right in the middle of the tour, another nun came by with a huge box of chocolates that had just been given to the convent. At the sight of the candy, the nun forgot about “being a nun” and became a nun, exclaiming with spontaneous enthusiasm, “Oh! Chocolates!”

Swamiji said later there was more genuine spirituality in her joy over the candy than there was in all her pious comments about “Jeeesus.”

It is not that chocolates are better than prayer. It is simply that our sainthood is built from the raw material of who we actually are. In one of the prayers in Whispers from Eternity, Master makes the intriguing statement that whenever we experience a bubble of joy, whatever causes it, we should keep expanding that bubble until it becomes infinite.

God molds us and shapes us the way a gardener prunes a tree, tuning in to the natural shape of the tree and then snipping and cutting until that perfection is revealed. A peach tree will bear peaches. That is how it is meant to be.

Some saints are outgoing and involved with people, some live as hermits. Some express devotion through music, others through art, some do nothing outward at all. We each have our own way. When you are a saint, you will still be yourself, just more of it and better.

A devotee once became so obsessed with doing the spiritual path in the “right way” that he projected upon God prohibition after prohibition. Dutifully, almost desperately, he tried to conform himself to one outward restriction after another.

Finally, Swamiji warned him, “Don’t make the spiritual path so narrow that you fall off of it.”

Of course, you can’t just give in to every unwholesome inclination that crosses your mind. Some so-called “spiritual teachers” over the last few decades have presented that alternative and have been wildly popular as a result! “Keep on doing whatever you are doing and call it spiritual” is how someone characterized that particular brand of false teaching.

The true path is subtle. That’s why the company of other devotees, especially those with more experience than yourself, is so important for spiritual growth.

It is hard to see oneself clearly. Almost everyone needs someone you can trust to help you sort it out, not from book-learning, but from actual commonsense experience on the spiritual path. Master said that if we just do 10% of what he taught, that is enough. Each devotee, however, takes a different 10%, he said, that’s why he taught so much.

Master was also putting thoughts and teachings into the ether that will guide the world for centuries to come. Someone once brought Swamiji a statement from Master’s writings in which he said we should do a few hours of work a day then spend the rest of our time in meditation. The devotee was genuinely confused, because it was impossible at Ananda to follow that particular teaching.

Swamiji said, “That guideline is for a future age, not for now. This age is too rajasic [active and restless]. And we are here to establish a ‘beachhead’ of Master’s teachings in the West. Future generations will be able to live in that way, not us.”

The goal of the spiritual path is to become completely yourself. To do the job that God has given you to do. The longer you stay on the spiritual path, the more eccentric you become, in the sense that you are truly Self-motivated, rather than the product of everyone else’s opinion.

When Swamiji was a young monk, Master guided him toward a life of teaching and writing and service to others. Master didn’t impose this on Swamiji, rather he was responding to Swamiji’s own inner impulse.

Once when Swamiji fell into a mood, Master guided him out of it by saying, “No more moods. Otherwise, how will you be able to help people?” That was the right incentive for Swamiji. Someone else would have been motivated by the thought of how it would interfere with seclusion. But that wasn’t Swamiji’s destiny.

Master told Swamiji that his life would be one of “intense activity and meditation.” Swamiji notes that Master mentions meditation, but he speaks first of activity. Swamiji has been faithful and deep in his meditation, but looking back over his sixty years of discipleship, you can see that it has been one of intense activity, just as Master said it would be. And we are part of Swamiji’s mission, so it is no surprise that our lives, too, are intensely busy.

Once when a devotee at Ananda was feeling a little discouraged, Swamiji said to her, “Practice devotion, service, and meditation, and everything else will follow in relatively short order.”

(Of course, that woman has contemplated the words “relatively short order” many times, before deciding it just doesn’t matter.)

Swamiji tuned in exactly, because devotion came naturally to her. That is the flower that grows in her heart. Service comes next for her, meditation is more of a challenge. He didn’t let her off the hook, he simply said, “Go with your strengths.” Be natural in your spiritual life. Don’t try to become anything, just try to be what God has already made you. Everything else will follow, in relatively short order.

Blessings and joy,
David & Asha