Asha Praver's Monthly Letter
June 2006

Dear Friends,Asha Praver photo

The charming stupidity of the two characters—Frank and Ernest— in the cartoon of that name, gives the cartoonist scope to explore some of the deepest questions of life in a way that often hits the mark.

In the latest talk by Swamiji issued by Treasures Along the Path (a marvelous service from Ananda Village where each month subscribers receive one of Swamiji’s classic talks chosen from the many thousands he’s given over the decades) he describes one such cartoon.

Frank—or perhaps it is Ernest—is exhorting God to answer his demand to be given the key to happiness. Finally, God responds. The “key” God offers, however, is to live simply, be selfless, giving, humble, and self-controlled.

Frank contemplates this answer for moment, then says (frankly) to God: “Is there anyone else up there I can talk to?”

In other words, “I don’t like this advice. I want to be happy and do things my way.” The cartoon is funny because it is so true.

Every week in the Festival of Light we address exactly this same issue—in a slightly different way, of course! The story of the little bird is an allegory of the soul’s journey from ignorance to wisdom, from suffering to joy.

The second stage of that journey is called “The Revolt.” God gives the bird clear instructions, but the bird decides that it knows better than God and declares reality to be what it wants reality to be. “What else is wisdom,” the bird asks, “except to keep what is mine for myself?”

The problem, however, is the bird doesn’t have the power to make creation different than it is. The bird is a slow learner, however, and clings to its delusion even though “repeatedly it lost everything it had.” Sound familiar?
So it is with us. God’s will is that we live in bliss. But He cannot break His own Divine Laws to give it to us. It is we who must discover those laws—the third stage of the journey, which is called the Quest—and then live in harmony with them. Which brings us, as the Festival describes it, “To the fourth and last stage, the Redemption.”

It is a long journey. Over time we don’t lose faith so much as we lose patience. We want it to be over. We want happiness to be ours without the effort required to correct past errors and come into the light of God—the only place where that happiness can be found.

As St. Augustine said, “Thou has made us for Thyself and our hearts are restless until we find our rest in Thee.” Everything else that we cling to with such misguided determination sooner or later disappoints us.

The power of faith is not only knowing where we are going—into the bliss of God—but also where we have been—in the endless disappointments of this world.

Often, when a great Master approaches the end of his earthly incarnation, he does a little “house cleaning,” challenging his disciples in ways that he hasn’t done before. The Master knows that, after he is gone, a deeper level of attunement will be required and he wants to help his disciples become strong enough to remain loyal.

It was for this reason, among others, that Jesus issued the confusing (at the time) commandment that his disciples had to “eat my body and drink my blood.” It was an esoteric reference to the AUM and the Christ consciousness, but Jesus didn’t explain it. And there was no Catholic Church at that time to comfort the disciples with the lesser ritualistic definition that is commonly accepted now. The disciples had to understand intuitively. And many of them couldn’t understand, and, as a consequence, left him.

Jesus said to Peter, “Will you also leave me?”

Peter spoke for all devotees for all times when he said, “Lord, where would I go?”

His meaning was: “I may not understand with my mind, but I know you with my heart. You are my Friend in the way the world could never be. I have cast my lot in with you and here I stay.”

In the Festival of Light, Swamiji describes the same dilemma. By this point, the little bird has learned a little something and is flowing with the wind instead of fighting against it. Then conditions change again: night falls.

“How can I fly in this darkness?” the bird cries. In other words, “I need to stay in control.” No such luck. Night comes and human eyes cannot pierce the darkness. We can Revolt as much as we like, but that’s the way it is!

“Surrender to me,” the Night says. “Peace awaits you in the unknown.” And “after a time,” as the Festival puts it, the “tiny rebel surrendered, and found the Night’s counsel true.” How long before the surrender takes place? That is up to us.

A friend of mine faced a very difficult test when her husband was stricken by a wasting disease that eventually took his life. At first, she comforted herself by simply denying that it was happening. But after a few years, his deteriorating condition made that game impossible.

One very unhappy day she happened to see Swamiji. She had the sudden thought that perhaps he could talk to “Somebody.” God, Master, Divine Mother—it was all the same to her. As long as that Somebody would do something to change what was happening.

When she appealed to Swamiji for help, he said simply, “You will get stronger.” At first she didn’t understand. The whole point was that she didn’t have the strength to face it. It was her version of, “How can I fly in this darkness?”

Then, gradually, she realized Swamiji had given her perfect instructions that she could follow. Put one foot in front of the other. “I can do that,” she thought to herself.

Eventually her husband died, just as the doctors told her he would. But by perseverance, and continuing faith in God, she discovered, as all of us eventually must, the “Peace that awaits in the unknown.”

So often in satsangs over the years, when it comes time for questions and answers, someone will act out the role of “Frank.” After hours of instruction or discussion of Master’s teachings, whoever is “Frank” that day will ask a cleverly masked question, that is nothing more than, “Isn’t there Someone else I can talk to?”

In other words, “Do I have to cooperate with God’s plan or can I do it my way?”

You don’t have to cooperate with God’s plan. His plan includes giving us the free will to stay in the stage of life called the Revolt for as long as we choose. The only difficulty is, when we live for Ego we get the Ego’s reward—which, may feel good at the beginning, but in the end, causes us endless suffering.

By contrast, as Krishna promises us in the Bhagavad-Gita, “Even a little practice of this inward religion frees one from dire fears and colossal suffering.”

Many years ago after a particularly deep and inspiring satsang, Swamiji gazed out at the small group of us gathered in his living room. His body was right in front of us, but his consciousness embraced infinity.

“You are going to get it right sooner or later,” he said in a voice filled with divine sympathy, “why waste millions of years?”

Put one foot in front of the other. It is not really such a hard instruction.

Blessings and joy,
David & Asha