Caught on the Path - the Master Trap
We generally seek spiritual success through our own efforts, yet find sooner or later the end of our rope, and an ever-deeper need for reliance on a Higher Power. In short, Grace, in ways we often do not expect, must take a hand in the affair and show us the way beyond the conceptions, expectations and limitations of core wounds, deeply ingrained habit patterns, mind, ego, and erroneous thinking. The following are a few quotes for contemplation from various traditions to help us understand and endure this predicament.
"Hope indeed is misery greatest, Hopelessness a bliss above the rest."
Shrimad Bhagavata Purana
“Ibrahim said, “I saw angel Gabriel in a dream once. He had a book in his hands. I asked him about its contents. He said that he was noting down in it the names of the friends of God. I said, ‘Will you not put down my name in it?’ He remarked, ‘Ibrahim, you are not His friend.’ I answered, ‘True, but at least I am a friend of His friends.’ Gabriel was silent for some time. Then said, ‘I have received orders from the Lord to record your name at the top of the list, because in the path of spirituality hope is born out of hopelessness.’”
Attar, Memories of Saints
“The child cries and [the mother] comes to give him something to eat and again goes away. Again he cries until nothing satisfies him but the mother taking him in her arms. When you want nothing else Other than Him, He comes. Just as mothers always have pity, grace for the child, so it is with Master's Love. With His little thought, you weep like anything. Do you follow?”
Sant Kirpal Singh, unpublished talk
"There will come a day when you will feel totally helpless, a mere pawn of destiny, and then you will begin to realize that God alone is your haven of security."
Paramhansa Yogananda, Journey to Self-Realization
, Vol. III, p. 4
"When one cries one's inside become cleansed, just as water cleans the outside. I said: "I am unable to do what you tell me to do. I simply do not know how. The only thing I can do is cry." She said: "By this all will be achieved."
Atmananda, a devotee of Anandamayee Ma, Death Must Die
"If the Overself did not lead him into and through the final dark night, where he becomes as helpless as an infant, as bereft of interior personal possessions as a destitute pauper, how else would he learn that it is not by his own powers and capacities that he can rise at last into enduring illumination?"
"Only when the ego, thwarted and disappointed, hurt and suffering, finds that it cannot sufficiently change its character, is it ready to beg, out of its helplessness, for Grace. So long as it believed that by its own power it could do so, it failed. And the way to ask for Grace is to sit perfectly still, to do nothing at all, since all previous doing failed."
“When such a mood of powerlessness overwhelms us utterly, we begin at last to cast all further hope for victory upon Grace alone. We know that we cannot save ourselves and we look to the higher power. We realize that self-effort is absolutely necessary to our salvation, but we discover later that it is not enough for our salvation. We have to be humbled to the ground in humility and helplessness before Grace will appear and itself finish the work which we have started."
"As soon as he believes he is foolish and sinful, the higher self will begin by its grace to help him overcome these faults. Then when his humility extends until it becomes a realization of utter helplessness, the moment has come to couple it with intense prayer and ardent yearning for divine grace. And this humility towards the higher self must become as abiding an attitude as firmness towards the lower one. It must persist partly because he must continually realize that he needs and will forever need its grace, and partly because he must continuously acknowledge his ignorance, folly, and sinfulness.
"Success ultimately depends not on the conscious efforts he puts forth but on the mysterious reaction to those efforts. This does not of course mean that the efforts are valueless in themselves for without them there would be no reaction. It means that the over-consciousness gets to work independently upon him at a certain stage. When this actually manifests itself it will not be during any of his struggles to obtain it but during the periods of cessation from those struggles, not during positive concentration but during the absence of concentration. It becomes articulate not during thinking about it but during the intervals of not thinking about it. Henceforth, whatever has to be done, will not be done by himself. Instead, it will be done to him. He will be taken by the hand, as it were, and led into the profound stillness that guards the threshold of the Overself. Across that threshold he will receive the reply to the question: What Am I? Like a loving mother the Overself will takes its progeny up into itself at this wonderful moment of initiation and thus the inner rebirth will occur. It will come as the culmination of long striving but it is not itself an act of striving. For only the divine grace can bring it about."
"Eventually we reach a point, a very advanced point, where the ego sees its own limitation, perceives its helplessness and dependence, realizes that it cannot lift itself up into final illuminations. It should then surrender itself wholly to the Overself and cast its further development on the mercy and Grace of the power beyond it. It will then have to go through a waiting period of seeming inactivity, spiritual stagnation, and inability to feel the fervour of devotion which it formally felt. This is a kind of dark night of the soul. Then slowly, it begins to come out of this phase, which is often accompanied by mental depression and emotional frustration, into a higher phase where it feels utterly resigned to the will of God or destiny, calm and peaceful in the sense of accepting that higher will and not in any joyous sense, patiently waiting for the time when the infinite wisdom will bring it what it once sought so ardently but what it is now as detached from as it is detached from worldly ambitions. After this phase there will come suddenly unexpectedly and in the dead of night, as it were, a tremendous Realization of the egoless state, a tremendous feeling of liberation from itself as it has known itself, a tremendous awareness of the infinitude, universality, and intelligence of life."
Paul Brunton, Notebooks
, Vol. 15, 3.54; Vol. 12, Part 2, 5.121; 5.131; Essays on the Quest
, Vol. 16, Part 1, 2.55; The Wisdom of the Overself
, 1984, p. 425
"The down cycle is absolutely essential for spiritual realization. You must have failed deeply on some level or experienced some deep loss or pain to be drawn to the spiritual dimension. Or perhaps your very success became empty and meaningless and so turned out to be failure."
Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now
“I do not know that my essential wish - to escape from the dualistic illusion, generator of anguish - is in process of being realised in me by something other than my personal ‘me’; I do not believe that I can count on anyone but on myself: I believe myself therefore obliged to do something. I take fright in believing myself alone, abandoned by all; necessarily then I am uneasy and my aggitation neutralises by degrees the beneficial work of my deeper self...Perfect Felicity does not await me above, but below; it does not await me in that which I see actually as a triumph, but in that which appears to me actually as a disaster. My perfect joy awaits me in the total annihilation of my hopes...One must thoroughly understand that the total disaster in the middle of which satori awaits us does not necessarily coincide with a practical exterior disaster. The realising disaster, the satori disaster, consists in an understanding...in the clear vision of the nullity which is at the end of all of our hopes. The realising disaster does not consist in the practical ruin of hopes which would continue to exist in us (this would lead to suicide, not to satori), but in the annihilation of the hopes themselves. The man that one habitually calls ‘desperate’ is definitely not desperate; he is filled with hopes to which the world opposes a flat refusal; therefore he is very unhappy. The man who has become really desperate, who no longer expects anything from the world of phenomena, is flooded by the perfect joy which at last he ceases to oppose.”
Hubert Benoit, Zen and the Psychology of Transformation -The Supreme Doctrine
, p. 106, 114-115)
“Most of us don't let ourselves deeply feel our helplessness because we think it is a bad thing—that it means that there is something wrong with us personally. So we judge it, are ashamed of it, and don't let our-selves feel it. But when you recognize that the helplessness is not about you personally, but is just the human condition, and that if you completely accept it, it becomes a positive state since it ushers you into Being, then you will welcome it whenever it arises.”
A.H.Almaas Facets of Unity
, pp 282
“This state is usually the fruit of long years of combat and effort. The soul finds itself entering it when God, satisfied with the diligence with which it has labored to die to all things, sets His own hand to the work to make it pass through the death to which the total privation of all things created leads. He strips it thus of all pleasure, even to that which is spiritual, of all inclination, of all light, to the end that, thus, it may become freed from the senses, dull, and as though annihilated. When God bestows this grace on a soul, it has hardly anything else to do than endure in peace this harsh operation, and to bear this gift of God in the profound interior silence of respect, adoration and submission. This is your task; in one sense a very easy one, since it means nothing more than to act as a sick person confined to his bed, and in the hand of his doctor and surgeon. He will suffer quite patiently in the expectation of a complete cure. You are in the same kind of position, in the hand of the great and charitable Physician of our souls, and with a better founded certainty of a cure.”
“When you’ve become, by grace, insupportable to yourself, and find not the least satisfaction in your good works, nothing remains by to put up with yourself and to use towards yourself the same kindness and clarity that you employ towards your neighbor. It is St. Francis of Sales who gives us this advice.”
“What most delights the heart of God is that you should hope against all hope; that is to say, against the apparent impossibility of seeing what you hope for realized...You will only attain to this hope when God shall have completely destroyed your self-confidence, root and branch, and this cannot be affected without retaining you for some time in the utmost spiritual poverty...The loss of hope causes you more grief than any other trial. I can well understand this, for, as during your life you find yourself deprived of everything that could give you the least help, so you imagine that at the hour of your death you will be in a state of fearful destitution. Ah! this is indeed a misery, and for this I pity you far more than for your other sufferings. Allow me, with the help of God’s grace, to endeavour to set this trouble in its true light and so to cure you. What you want, my dear Sister, is to find support and comfort in yourself and your good works. Well, this is precisely what God does not wish, and what He cannot endure in souls aspiring after perfection. What! lean upon yourself? Count on your works? Could self-love, pride, and perversity have a more miserable fruit? It is to deliver them from this that God makes all chosen souls pass through a fearful time of poverty, misery and nothingness. He desires to destroy in them gradually all the help and confidence they derive from themselves, to take away every expedient so that He may be their sole support, their confidence, their hope, their only resource. Oh! what an accursed hope it is, that without reflexion you seek in yourself. How pleased I am that God destroys, confounds and annihilates this accursed hope by means of this state of poverty and misery. Oh! happy poverty! blessed despoilment! which formed the delight of all the saints and especially of St. Francis of Sales! Let us love it as they loved it, and when by virtue of this love all confidence and hope, all earthly and created support has been removed, we shall find neither hope nor support in anything but God, and this is the holy hope and confidence of the saints which is founded solely on the mercy of God and the merits of Jesus Christ.”
“In spite of your darkness, want of feeling, and stupidity, your faith does not lack an immovable, although unfelt support; since, following the example of Jesus Christ, you have a great desire to abandon yourself to the very One by whom you believe yourself to be abandoned and forsaken. This is an evident sign that in the midst of your supposed destitution and apparently abandonment, you recognize by pure faith interiorly that you have never been, in the main, less forsaken, nor less friendless than now. Does not the spiritual affliction which the fear of not being able to abandon yourself in all things, nor as well as you desire, occasions you, prove the deep and hidden intention which is rooted in your heart, of practicing this total abandonment and abnegation that are so meritorious? Does not God behold these desires, so deep and so hidden, and do they not speak for you to God more than any words you could utter?””
“Faith, abandonment, confidence, hope, against hope; these are the most powerful aids you can have. However if God should deprive you of the consolation of feeling these virtues, nothing remains but to abandon yourself entirely, without limitation, and even without any help that you can feel or perceive. Then will God sustain you in the depths of your soul in an incomprehensible manner; but the poor soul, being unable to feel any kind of support, and imaging itself completely forsaken, experiences a mind of grief that makes this state a kind of hell...But this is so purifying, and so filled with treasures of grace, that I pray God not to take you out of it until He has enriched you with treasures for eternity, and rendered you as pure and bright in His sight as so many saintly souls have become by virtue of these same trials.”
"I know how much suffering this operation entails. The poor soul feels as if it would become utterly annihilated, but for all that, it is only nearer the true life. In fact the more we realise our nothingness the nearer we are to truth, since we were made from nothing, and drawn out of it by the pure goodness of our Lord. We ought therefore to remember this continually, in order to render by our voluntary annihilation a continual homage to the greatness and infinity of our Creator. Nothing is more pleasing to God than this homage, nothing could make us more certain of His friendship, while at the same time nothing so much wounds our self-love. It is a holocaust in which it is completely consumed by the fire of divine love. You must not then be surprised at the violent resistance it offers, especially when the soul experiences mortal anguish in receiving the death-blow to this self-love. The suffering one feels then is like that of a person in agony, and it is only through this painful agony and by the spiritual death which follows it that one can arrive at the fullness of divine life and an intimate union with God."
“I well understand that the state in which it pleases God to place you is very painful to nature, but I am rather surprised that you should not yet comprehend that in this way God desires to effect in you a death that will make you live henceforth a life wholly supernatural and divine. You have asked Him a hundred times for this mystical death, and now that He has answered you, the more your apparent misery increases, the more certain you may be that God is effecting that nudity and poverty of spirit of which mystics speak...Remember that God sees in the depths of your heart all your most secret desires. This assurance should be sufficient for you...Leave off these reflections and continual self-examinations about what you do, or leave undone; you have abandoned yourself entirely to God, and given yourself to Him over and over again; you must not take back your offering. Leave the care of everything to Him...God ties your hands and feet to be able to carry on His work without interference; and you do nothing but struggle, and make every effort, but in vain, to break these sacred bonds, and to work yourself according to your own inclination. What infidelity! God requires no other work of you but to remain peacefully in your chains and weakness...I see nothing more simple, nor more easy than what you should do at present, since it consists in letting God do everything, and remaining passive yourself. It must be owned, however, that this state of inaction is the most cruel torment for our accursed nature which, living only for itself, fears the loss of its activities as much as death and annihilation.”
Jean-Pierre deCaussade, Spiritual Counsels
, Book Seven, Letters I, IX
"The utter annihilation that
[Paul Brunton] speaks about is not like the annihilation that you experience when you're going to die. Because when you die, there's almost a hidden certainty that you won't die - something like the ego knows it won't die, it'll just reappear, come back again in a different form. But the utter annihilation he speaks about is that the very root-nature of the ego faces its own extinction. It's a different kind than when a person dies. A person dies with hope; there, there's no hope."
"You have to find out that you are impotent to change yourself. And you're not going to find out unless you try, and you really have to try because you can't kid the Soul. You'll never know what the limits are until you try. You have to exhaust whatever potentiality you have before you can say, "I give up." You can't say, "I give up," before you've started; that would be phony. But you're actually going to have to reach the point of satiation with frustration. I think I must have called on that higher help a thousand and one times. It doesn't hear me. It says, "Try harder."
[“The very purpose of evolution would be defeated if he were to be deprived of the opportunity of tackling his problems and troubles for himself; it is only so that his capacities can stretch out and his understanding enlarge itself.” - PB (Vol. 2, 6.562)]
Anthony Damiani, Standing In Your Own Way
, p. 220; unpublished class notes (The Fallacy of Divine Identity), 7/13/83
"You should be in a state of total helplessness; then the answer will come."
“Your ability is completely gone, even as a dry twig cannot gain sap and sprout by its own ability so that it might enjoy itself again among the trees, likewise you cannot reach God by your own abilities; you cannot change yourself into your first angelic form, for you are dry and dead to God as a twig without life or sap. You are only an anxious and dry hunger.”
Jacob Boehme, The Way to Christ, Treatise Eight
"Therefore, O spiritual soul, when thy seest thy desire obscured, thy affections arid and constrained, and thy faculties bereft of their capacity for any interior exercise, be not afflicted by this, but rather consider it a great happiness, since God is freeing thee from thyself and taking the matter from thy hands. For with those hands, however well they may serve thee, thou wouldst never labour so effectively, so perfectly, and so securely..as now, when God takes thy hand and guides thee in the darkness, as though thou wert blind, to an end and by a way which thou knowest not."
St. John of the Cross, The Dark Night of the Soul
"I cannot help admiring the goodness of the cross. We are worth nothing without it. It makes me tremble and convulses me as soon as I begin to feel it. All that I have said of its helpful operations vanishes away before the agony it brings to my inmost heart. But as soon as it gives me time to breathe, I open my eyes again and I see that it is worthy of praise. Then I am ashamed to have been so overwhelmed by it. The experience of this inconsistency is a deep lesson for me."
“The yoke that God gives us is easy to bear if you accept it without struggling to escape. You make life more painful for yourself when you resist God in the least way.”
"When God honors a soul by being jealous of its love, the greatest favor He can confer upon it is to gradually deprive it of everything that could turn its love away from Him; because never would it have sufficient courage and strength to detach itself."
“Whose hand is it that must pluck you out of the mire? Your own? Alas! you are buried deeper than you thought, and cannot help yourself; and more, this very slough is nothing but self; the whole of your trouble consists in the inability to leave yourself, and do you expect to increase your chances by dwelling constantly upon your defects, and feeding your sensitiveness by a view of your folly? You will in this way only increase your difficulties, while the gentlest look towards God would calm your heart. It is his presence that causes us to go forth from self, and when He has accomplished that, we are in peace. But how are we to go forth? Simply by turning gently towards God, and gradually forming the habits of doing so, by a faithful persistence in it, whenever we perceive that we have wandered from Him.”
"And so all our good things need purifying, so that they will not foster a merely natural life in us. Our corrupt nature finds a very subtle food in the graces that are most opposed to nature. Self-love is fed, not merely by humiliations and austerities, by fervent prayer and mortification - but even by the fullest self-renunciation and utter sacrifice. There is an infinite amount of moral strength in the thought that we have no strength at all and that amid such a horrible trial we are still yielding ourselves up unreservedly. And so, to make the sacrifice real, we must give up even our sacrifice in our sacrifice! The only way to find God truly is in readiness to part with all his gifts, this thorough sacrifice of self and all inward resources. God's exceeding jealousy exacts it, and you can easily see how we never lose ourselves in him until all else fails us. A man who is falling into an abyss is not completely cast down as long as he can clutch hold of the sides. And self-love, even when God overthrows it, clutches in its despair at every gleam of hope, like a drowning person grasping at straws."
“Dying is necessarily painful. Stimulants are a cruelty to those being tortured. They do not want more strength - they only long for the fatal blow. If it were possible to aid one one being tortured by weakening him and hastening his death, his suffering would be shortened. But he can do nothing. The hand that tied him to his torture rack is the only one that can finish him off.”
Fenelon, The Complete Fenelon
"Unless you make tremendous efforts, you will not be convinced that effort will take you nowhere. The self is so self-confident that unless it is totally discouraged it will not give up. Mere verbal conviction is not enough. Hard facts alone can show the absolute nothingness of the self-image. When you demand nothing of the world, nor of God, when you want nothing, seek nothing, expect nothing, then the Supreme State will come to you uninvited and unexpected."
Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
"When God becomes very impatient to have somebody, he at once throws in his way all sorts of insurmountable difficulties, one after another, in quick succession; the person simply gets tired and disgusted with everything. In fact it is God who meets him first in the form of all the ailments and difficulties. Ailments and difficulties are very essential for a person who is sincerely desirous of attaining Godhead. Even a Satpurusha cannot take you to God. From my personal experience I can tell you that the greatest pain and difficulty - physical and mental - alone are able to take anybody straight to God."
Shri Upasani Baba
"For whatever reasons, the fact remains that true conviction comes only after the lack of meaningful alternatives have been vividly, and intensely experienced. The entire structure of one’s existence must necessarily be dramatically questioned and undermined. It is not that the mind is being convinced in this affair, it is being destroyed. This insight is not a mindful one, but an intuitive one, an incredibly deep grasp of the idea of non-alternative, hopelessness, death. One must vividly see the absoluteness of his fear, his avoidance..This crisis is the heart informing the mind. It is not an insight of wisdom, but of profound ignorance, an insight of darkness, of death. There is no place to go. It is the ‘bottom of the pit’; end.”
Jah Jae Noh, Do You See What I See?
, p. 62, 152, 155
"You do not let go of anything. That is another trick of the ego's designed to keep it (seemingly) in charge of the show. Everything is taken from you."
Shawn Nevins, TAT
"If the longing is there, Realization will be forced on you even if you do not want it. Sadhanas [spiritual practices] are needed so long as one has not realized it. They are for putting an end to obstacles. Finally, there comes a stage when a person feels helpless notwithstanding the sadhanas. He is unable to pursue the much-cherished sadhana, also. It is then that God's Power is realized. The Self reveals itself."
Ramana Maharshi, Talks
, p. 182, 101-102
"By their failures lovers are made aware of their Lord. Lack of success is the guide to Paradise."
"Failure is the foundation of success, and the means to achieve it."
“You should know that every Christian who is called by the Lord to the inward way is, nonetheless, a Christian who is full of confusion and doubt, and one who has failed (and will fail) in this deeper level of prayer. In fact, you may get the impression that the Lord no longer helps you in prayer as He once did. You may feel you are losing a great deal of time and making no progress. Confusion and perplexity are bound to follow. Nonetheless, do not stop, and do not let anyone, even someone who is older in the faith, keep you from pursuing a deeper relationship with your Lord. What is really happening in your life? Are you really experiencing failure? Not at all. Dryness and failure draw us to Christ just as do encounters of love and touches of unseen realms. Your Lord brings you dryness because He knows so well that it is not by any means of your reasoning, or your efforts, that you are going to be drawn near to Him. Nothing you will do can draw you to Him or Him to you. NO! Nothing! Your efforts will not bring you to understand His high and exalted ways. As much as possible, then, be patient. Pay little attention to dryness or failures. Do not give up your pursuit of a deeper kind of prayer. Regardless of the amount of dryness and failure you encounter. Walk with a firm faith, dying to self and to all your natural efforts to know Him. Remember, He cannot err, nor does He intend anything toward you but that which is for your good. Your Lord deprives you of comfort, and even of understanding. Furthermore you see no spiritual progress in your life. In a way, there is none! Yet, let enough time pass, and there is enrichment that has been added to you far beyond your hope.”
Michael Molinos, The Spiritual Guide, p. 13-15
"...Jiriki is self-power. Tariki is other-power. The Pure Land school is known as the other-power school because it teaches that tariki is most important in attaining rebirth in the Pure Land or regeneration or enlightenment or salvation. Whatever name we may give to the end of our religious efforts, that end comes from the other-power, not from self-power. This is the contention of Shin followers...
This doctrine, other-power... is based on the idea that we humans are relative-minded, and as long as we are so constituted there is nothing in us, no power which will enable us to cross the stream of birth and death. Amida must come from the other side and carry us on the boat of all efficient vows - that is, by means of his hongan, his friendly Dharma.
There is a deep and impassable chasm between Amida and ourselves, and we are so heavy-laden with Karma hindrance that we cannot shake it off by our own power. Amida must come and help us, extend his arms of help from the farther end. This is what generally is taught by the Shin school. But from another point of view, however ignorant and impotent and helpless we may be, we will never grasp Amida' s arms unless we exhaust everything we have in our efforts to reach the other end.
It is all right to say other-power does everything by itself. We just let it accomplish its work, but we must nevertheless become conscious of the other-power's doing its work in us. Unless we are conscious of Amida's doing his work, we shall never be saved. We can never be conscious or sure of the fact that we are born in the Pure Land and have attained our Enlightenment. To acquire this consciousness, we must exhaust all our efforts. Amida may be standing and beckoning us to come to the other shore where he is standing, but we cannot see Amida until we have done all we can do. Self-power is not what is needed, really, to cross the stream. Amida will extend his arms of help only when we realize that our self-power is of no account.
Since we cannot achieve the end we try to accomplish, Amida' s help must be recognized. We must become conscious of it. In fact, recognition comes only after we have strained all our efforts to cross the stream by ourselves. We only realize the inefficacy of self-power when we try to make use of that power, when we become conscious of how worthless self-power is. The other-power is all-important, but this all-importantness is known only to those who have striven, by means of self-power, to attempt the impossible.
This realization or the worthlessness of self-power may also be Amida's work. In fact it is, but until we achieve recognition we do not realize that Amida has been doing all this for us and in us. Therefore, striving is a prerequisite of realization. Spiritually or metaphysically speaking, everything is finally from Amida, but we must remember that we are relative beings. As such, we cannot survey things unless we first try to do our best on this plane of relativity. Crossing from the relative plane to the transcendental or absolute plane - the plane of the other power - may be impossible, logically speaking, but it appears an impossibility only before we have tried everything on this side..."
D. T. Suzuki, Shin Buddhism
[Note: In general, in Buddhism the Zen schools and the Pure Land schools are far apart. Zen believes the Pure Land is to be realized here and now with the realization of one’s enlightened Nature, while the Pure Land schools such as Shin, appealing more to the common man, teach about a divine realm somewhere beyond or above that one will reach by relying on the Other Power. Yet at the truest level of practice this dichotomy need not be so, as implied by D.T. Suzuki above, as well as the following:
“Once a Shin follower, after making a long trip, came to see Sono [a well-respected Shin devotee] and asked, “How can I get my mind pacified in accordance with the teaching of the Other Power?’ She told him, “In the morning and in the evening, whenever anything occurs to you, keep on saying, ‘Thanks for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever!” As instructed, the man faithfully kept on saying from morning to night, ‘thanks for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever!” His mind, however, could not get the desired peace. He came to Sono again, all exhausted, and said, “Ever since I received your instruction, I have been doing as you told me. Still I cannot get my mind pacified. What should I do now?” Soon at once replied, “Thanks for everything. I have no complaints whatsoever!” The follower, perhaps because of his assiduous application was able to open his spiritual eye at these words, and returned home with a great joy. The genuine faith of Sono has a great strength and sharpness. When the faith of a devotee reaches this stage, the distinction between the Self Power and Other Power does not exist any longer.”
(Abbot Zenkei Shibayama, A Flower Does Not Talk
, p. 189-191)]
"It is only after we have made every effort to perfect ourselves, to improve our condition, to solve our own problems, that we discover our helplessness."
Sant Darshan Singh, Streams of Nectar
, p. 337
"Grace is indeed needed to turn a man into a Saint and he who doubts it does not know what a Saint or a man is."
Addendum: notes on apparent vagaries in the attention of the Master
A modern Hindu sage, Swami Gnanananda, was an example of a teacher whose treatment of his disciples varied widely depending on the level of their spiritual intimacy or deeper connection with him. In this respect he was much like ‘kind Marpa,’ guru of Milarepa:
“There were many occasions when the Swami would start a devotee on the road to introspection. This he would do by being indifferent to him, by admonishing him in the presence of others. This was designed not only to fathom the devotee’s faith but also to deflate his ego and subject him to relentless self-probing. The Swami would impose the discipline on those who were very close to him and who he thought deserved his consideration and spiritual ministrations. The cravings and mental oscilllations of the past had to be erased and obstructive old paths and habits made to fade away and die, if the unmortified affections of the heart were to be sublimated to a congruous harmony. The more he chastened a devotee the more likely it was that he was very close to him in spiritual kinsmanship. The more he treated a devotee with cool indifference or a frigid look, the more likely it was that he was brooding over the welfare of the devotee.”
Anandamayee Ma spoke of this same process:
"It is not right to compare and reason saying: "Such and such a person has done sadhana for so many years and yet has not got anywhere." How can you judge what is happening to anyone inwardly? Sometimes it seems that a person who does sadhana seems to have changed for the worse. But how do you know that this tendency has not always been in him and has now come out so that it may be dealt with and purified as a result of his endeavors? To say: "I have done so much sadhana but have not been transformed," is also the wrong attitude. Yours is only to seek God and call out to Him unceasingly and not look to the result of what you are doing."
Irena Tweedie’s Guru, Bhai Sahib, spoke of his own experience:
“My Reverend Guru Maharaj was scolding me all the time, never spoke to me for many years unless to give an order. The people thought that he hated me. I also thought it at one time. Only later, just five years before his death, I came to know how much he loved me. And he never scolded anyone like that; only to me he was like that.”
Sant Darshan Singh spoke of such “veiled attention” between a guru and his disciple:
“The apparent indifference, in higher stages of the Guru-disciple relationship, may in reality be a special form of attention given to the disciple. These are very subtle points of mysticism. One of my verses is: “Your apparent indifference is in reality a guarantee of the strength of your veiled love.” For his own reasons the Master might keep the one he loves away from the public gaze. When others are there, he might be apparently indifferent. But in reality that person may receive the most love and attention. The disciple undergoes pain and anguish, but ultimately the secret is revealed to him. Apparent attention is what everyone wants, but a stage comes when you want apparent indifference - the attention given to you is under a veil...You increasingly realize that the Master is always working for your own good.”
Ramakrishna once treated Swami Vivekananda with such high indifference. Writes Swami Lokeswarananda:
“Sri Ramakrishna also tested Narendra (Vivekananda) in an unusual way. Without explanation, whenever Naren visited Sri Ramakrishna, the Master would not speak to him, although he spoke with other devotees. Every time Naren came to visit Sri Ramakrishna, the Master ignored him. When he arrived, Sri Ramakrishna did not even greet him; similarly when he left, Sri Ramakrishna was silent. This continued for nearly a month. At last Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘Why do you still come here when I do not speak to you?’ Narendra replied, ‘Do you think I come to listen to you? I love you, and that is why I come.’ At his response the Master said, ‘I was testing you. Only a great person such as you could endure such treatment. Any other person would have gone away.’ Narendra’s attitude was: I love you and so I come to you.”
In the case of Milarepa, Marpa's wife Dagmema would relate that when her husband would come home at the end of the day he would often be in tears from having to put his disciple through such terrible ordeals for the sake of his own purification. Such is the solicitude of a saint. A rare saint, for a rare disciple. Milarepa's attitude was, "Do what you like with me, cut my body to pieces, only do not let me be separated from you." Yet that was exactly what he had to endure on many occasions when he would be kicked out when Marpa's other disciples were all invited in. For their own benevolent reasons the greatest gurus will often appear to ignore their most beloved disciples for the sake of their ultimate growth.