I was shooting the breeze with my good friend Briju this morning. We're not so far apart in the amount of years we've spent as students of Sri Chinmoy, and so we share many of the same experiences and obstacles at our particular stage of the spiritual journey.
As we jogged together this morning (with Vajra on the bike acting as our personal trainer) we were talking about how a spiritual life confronts you with your own imperfections in a way that just did not happen beforehand. And it can be very easy for this awareness of our imperfection to get us down; we are still used to percieving these imperfections as part of 'us'. The classic response on our part is, of course, to wrestle with these imperfections and try and get rid of them; but by our tacit acknowledgement of them they only get more strength, and we get even more disillusioned about the prospects of ever getting rid of them.
I have always considered one of the most refreshing parts of Sri Chinmoy's philosophy the view that we should deal with our imperfections not through repression or grappling with them, but by inwardly running towards their positive counterparts:
"First of all, if you really think that you are bad and you are only trying to make yourself believe that you are good, your mind will tell you that you are only fooling yourself. If you feel that you are bad because ten years ago you did something wrong, or yesterday you did something undivine, then you are creating a problem for yourself with your own mind. You need to change your basic way of thinking about yourself and instead say, "I am God's child. How can I be really bad?"
I am not saying that when you do something wrong you should fool yourself by saying that you have done everything right. But by thinking, "Oh, I have done wrong, I have done wrong! God will never let me reach my goal. I will just go on and on doing the same wrong thing," you cannot make any progress. If you constantly think of your wrong actions, can this possibly lead you in the right direction?
If you were supposed to meditate early in the morning at 6:30, but you didn't get up on time, just by thinking, "I didn't meditate, I am a worthless fellow," you only make yourself angry and depressed. If you have missed one opportunity, then say, "Tomorrow I will get another opportunity. Let me try again most sincerely." Today is not the last day of your life. You can try again tomorrow....
....when you have done something wrong, consider that it is over. 'The past is dust' is my philosophy. Let us avail ourselves of tomorrow's golden opportunity to do the right thing. Let us build our foundation on a solid rock. Let us grow from light to more light, to abundant light, to infinite Light. Light is our Source, and from Light we can grow. But if we feed on darkness or negativity we won't be able to grow at all."(Excerpt from The Hunger of Darkness and the Feast of Light, Part 1 , by Sri Chinmoy)
The great Indian spiritual Master Sri Ramakrishna had the same philosophy: he was a great admirer of Christ, but he used to say that he didn't understand why Christianity harped on sin so much. Surely if you keep on saying 'I am a sinner', you'll end up becoming exactly that?, he wondered. Whereas if you repeat the name of the Divine, you end up growing into the Divine....
Of course, it is one thing to think a philosophy is great, quite another to implement it in daily life, and it is only in recent months that I have finally realised the futility of grappling with my imperfections. They are just not who I am, and focusing on them just distracts from the great and barely-begun wonder of self-discovery and self-unfolding. They are merely the scum on top of the water. I am struck how time and again I read in Sri Chinmoy's writings how he sees us only as eternal, infinite and immortal souls, and how any sense of unworthiness can only damage our spiritual life.