Asha Praver's Monthly Letter
September 2006

Dear Friends,Asha Praver photo

In the Southern California town of Claremont, where my parents lived, there is a unique retirement community called Pilgrims’ Place. It looks like an ordinary neighborhood of modest homes, but everyone who lives there is a retired Protestant missionary or a church worker of some kind.

Once a year, that community hosts a Pilgrim’s Festival to which the whole town is invited. Among other events and activities, many of the residents set up display tables on the sidewalks in front of their homes. Through photographs, artifacts, and their personal stories, the ex-missionaries share the many adventures they have had sharing the “Good News” in countries all over the globe.

Every year, my father would attend the Pilgrims’ Festival. Even though he was Jewish, what he particularly enjoyed was talking with the retired missionaries.

The Festival is held during the dry season in Southern California, but one year there was an unexpected rainstorm. It was a warm rain, and considering the conditions many of the missionaries had lived under, a little rain hardly deterred them. They donned raincoats, covered their displays with plastic, and carried on as usual.

Making a joke of the weather, my father said to one of the missionaries, “Considering how much you have given to God, it seems the least He could do for you is give you good weather for this Festival.”

Without missing a beat, the retired missionary replied, “Weather is a decision made by Management. My career was in Marketing.”

I’ve always been charmed by both the wit and the wisdom of that answer.

Every week in our Purification Ceremony, the Lightbearer conveys to the devotee this promise from Master: “Open your heart to me and I will enter, and take charge of your life.”

The devotee gratefully accepts these words and the blessing that comes with it. Yet, after the Purification Ceremony is over, how many of us live as if Master were in charge?

One day I was feeling a kind of low-level anxiety about certain situations in my life that I didn’t know how to resolve. Suddenly it occurred to me, that if I truly had faith in God, anxiety about this, and, in fact, every circumstance of my life would simply vanish. For a time, by an effort of will, concentrating my attention at the point between the eyebrows, I was able to experience what it is like to be completely free of self-concern. This is the state of consciousness of the masters. This is our destiny.

“My Lord, in Thy Presence,” Swamiji writes in one of his songs, “I live without fear.”

We are always in the Presence of the Lord. Sometimes, however, we forget.
I was speaking with a young woman who was anxiously waiting to hear whether or not she had been accepted at her first-choice college. A few months earlier, she had become a disciple.

In an effort to ease her anxiety, I gently reminded her, that as she was a disciple, her life was not her own. Master was in charge. Even if she had her preferences in the matter, it was certain that her guru was looking out for her, and whatever happened would be for the best.

She is very sincere, and this thought provided her some comfort. The habit of the ego, however, is not so easily overcome. Again and again, we fall into the familiar delusion that our happiness depends on outward events falling into line with the ego’s desires. In fact, sometimes we measure God’s love for us according to how many of our ego’s desires He fulfills.

She did not get into her first-choice college. God has other plans for her. All of us have a long list of ego-desires God has neglected to fulfill. And yet, at the same time, as the years pass, and we continue faithfully to follow this path, our joy in God, and our faith in Him expands.

“My ways are not thy ways saith the Lord.” God knows what is best for us. This is not merely a pious axiom. This is the living truth as we have all experienced it

At the same time, it is only natural to have preferences, especially where the welfare of others is concerned. Even if we bravely face our own tests, it is not easy to see our loved one’s suffer. To me, one of the most touching incidents in the life of Christ is his prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane.

Jesus knows he will soon be arrested and crucified. He grieves—but not for himself. His grief is for those misguided souls who have, once again, rejected the bliss God would give them.

“Lord,” Jesus fervently prays, “let this cup pass from me.” His heart is breaking with love that the world will not receive. Still, Jesus lives only to fulfill the destiny God has given him. So with his next breath he prays, “But Thy will, not mine be done.”

In this he is an example for all of us. Our wish that life be different than it is may be motivated by more selfish concerns than what moved Jesus. Still, we must be utterly honest with ourselves and with God.

Many times, we reach the limit of our courage and our faith and cannot help but ask God for a specific outcome. But once that prayer has been articulated, let us also surrender it, as Jesus did, with our expression of his immortal words, “Thy will, not mine be done.”

In this way, step-by-step, gradually we escape from the confines of the ego. Only in soul freedom will we find the bliss our hearts crave.

Joy to you,
David & Asha