Ordeal of Devotion In A Worn Path; ..

To fill up these broad outlines which are set to guide us to the narrow ancient Path, we may find a mass of details in the various scriptures of the world, but what is specially needed just now, is the way in which people living in the world, bound by domestic ties, and ties of occupation of every sort, how these people may have a method by which the spiritual life may be gained, by which progress in real spirituality may be secured. It is true that in all the different religions of the world there has been a certain inclination to draw a line of division between the life of the world and the life of the spirit; that line of division, which is real, is, however, very often misunderstood and misrepresented, and is thought to consist in circumstance, whereas it consists in attitude - a profound difference, and one of the most vital import to us. Owing to the mistake that it is a difference of circumstances which makes the life of the world and the life of the spirit, men and women in all ages have left the world in order to find the Divine. They have gone out into desert and jungle and cave, into mountain and solitary plain, imagining that by giving up what they called “the world”, the life of the spirit might be secured. And yet if God be all-pervading and everywhere, He must be in the market­place as much as in the desert, in the house of commerce as much as in the jungle, in the law-court as much as in the solitary mountain, in the haunts of men as well as in the lonely places. And although it be true that the weaker souls can more easily sense the all-pervading life where the jangle of humanity is not around them, that is a sign of weakness and not a sign of spirituality. It is not the strong, the heroic, the warrior, who asks for solitude in his seeking for the spiritual life.

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Then come, in more constant physical communication with men, the Gurus who are the immediate spiritual teachers of those whose faces are turned to the steep path that leads to the heights, to the snowy mountains of human perfection. Still marred by weaknesses though they be, these have advanced sufficiently beyond their fellowmen to serve as their guides and helpers; and for the most part the earlier stages of progress are trodden by devotion to them. Further, as they are near the threshold of liberation, they will shortly pass into the class beyond them, and, as spiritual links are imperishable, will then be able, with added force, to draw their devotees after them. Love given to them strengthens and expands the nature of their lovers, and there is no surer path to devotion, in its highest meaning, than the love and trust given to the earthly Guru. Nowhere has this been realised so strongly as in the East, where the love and service of the Guru have ever been held as necessary to spiritual progress. Much of the decay of modern India is due to the ignorance, the pride, the un-spirituality of those who still wear the ancient name while devoid of all the qualities once implied by it; for as the best wine makes the sharpest vinegar, so is the degradation of the highest the lowest depth.

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How shall devotion, then, be evoked and nourished? Only by meeting in the outer or inner world a fit object of devotion, and by yielding fully and unreservedly to the attraction it exercises. The glad and cordial recognition of excellence wherever found, the checking of the critical and carping spirit that fixes on defects and ignores virtues, these things prepare the soul to recognise his Guru when he appears. Many a one misses his teacher by the mental habit of fixing the attention on blemishes rather than on beauties, by seeing only the sun-spots and not the Sun. Further the recognition of excellence shows the capacity to reproduce it; sympathetic vibrations are given out only by a string tuned to produce by itself a similar note; the soul knows his kin, even though they be elder than himself, and only those akin to greatness are awakened by the great to response.

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Seventh - Rama Avatar - The Rama Incarnation Part 2

First comes the well-known fact of the quickening of karma, once a man has set his face resolutely towards the portal of the Path. We need not dwell on this, for it has been often explained, and it plays a comparatively small part in the bringing down of the darkness. One element, however, perhaps less often alluded to, may be mentioned here. Pleasure and pain, connected with the emotions and passions, belong to the astral world and are experienced through the astral body; consequently a very large amount of karma belongs, by its very nature, to the astral plane, and is there exhausted. Bad karma can, therefore, be largely worked out by suffering, apart from events; the suffering which normally accompanies misfortunes, disasters of every description on the physical plane, has its habitat on the astral, and we suffer on the astral while we are passing through our troubles on the physical. Now this astral suffering can be disjoined from the physical events with which it is normally associated, and can be passed through apart from those events. In the quickening of karma this result is largely brought about, and some of the darkness experienced by the aspirant is due to this cause; he is working out his bad karma by enduring the suffering that belongs to events not yet ripe for manifestation on the physical plane; and if he observes his own life, he will find that, later on, he passes through events that would ordinarily be regarded as of the most distressing character with a calmness and indifference that surprise himself. The fact is that he has already borne the suffering normally attached to them, and he meets on the physical plane the mere shells and semblances, the empty forms, which are all that remain when the astral consciousness that normally vivifies these forms has been withdrawn. (Students may be reminded - though the subject is too large a one to be entered on here - that man’s consciousness is astral, at the present stage of evolution.) The aspirant may therefore comfort himself when an apparently causeless gloom descends upon him with the knowledge that he is exhausting some of his karmic liabilities, and that the payment of karmic debts is never demanded twice.

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John Donne, a 17th century poet, experienced great pain. Because he married thedaughter of a disapproving lord, he was fired from his job as assistant to the LordChancellor, yanked from his wife, and locked in a dungeon. (This is when he wrote thatsuccinct line of despair, "John Donne/ Anne Donne/ Undone.") Later, he endured along illness which sapped his strength almost to the point of death. In the midst of thisillness, Donne wrote a series of devotions on suffering which rank among the most poignantmeditations on the subject. In one of these, he considers a parallel: The sickness whichkeeps him in bed forces him to think about his spiritual condition. Suffering gets ourattention; it forces us to look to God, when otherwise we would just as well ignored Him.

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You read my parable. There is no failure where the commander-in-chief is the Divine architect of the universe, no failure, but inevitable success; and shall it not be a pride to anyone who is called to sacrifice in order that the plan may be carried out? And there is no failure, for victory is ever on the Divine side. What matters it if you and I look like failures; what matters it if our petty plans crumble to pieces in our hands; what matters it if our schemes of a moment are found to be useless and are thrown aside? The life we have thrown into them, the devotion with which we planned them, the strength with which we strove to carry them out, the sacrifice with which we offered them to the success of the mighty whole, that enrolled us as sacrificial workers with the Deity, and no glory is greater than the glory of the personal failure which ensures universal success. That is only for the strong. I grant it. That is only for the heroes. It is their work and their delight. But even to be able to see the beauty of it is to bring some of the beauty into every one of our lives. For to see a thing to be noble is to begin to incarnate that nobility in your life, and the mere recognition of the splendour of an ideal is the first step towards becoming transformed into its image.