This article is graciously provided for republication by the author, Swami Nityamuktananda Saraswati (Dr. Christa-Maria Herrmann), German by birth, naturalized British, originally studying Theology, her university studies soon expanded to Education, Psychology, Philosophy and Art and Design (Ceramics). Different teaching jobs (in colleges and universities) in various countries followed. At the center of her studies (as well as her teaching) was always the subject of 'Self-awareness'.
The leaves are falling, autumn is near: Swami Rama Tirtha said: Have you used your summer well? Then the winter will be beautiful to you.
Well have you? I ask myself...
In the Upanishads we find a story about Angiras. He was a cowherd, and one day he saw that over-there a forest fire started. As the fire came closer he saw that his favourite cow and strayed away from the herd and he watched helplessly as the flames engulfed it and finally devoured it.
Angiras was shocked; but instead of getting angry to the fire, he did something very odd to most of us. He sat in the spot where is beloved cow burned and began worshipping the fire and prayed for insight and understanding. After some time, Lord Agni, the God of Fire, pleased with Angiras appeared to him, that he revealed to him the great secret of the universe and the mystery of divine will (and he gave him back his cow).
God's way are so different from ours, and why? Because we never see the whole picture, our vision simply is not wide enough. Ultimately - Divine Will vibrates throughout the whole universe and it determines everything. It has often been pointed out that it's not so much what we do..(using a knife might be disastrous- or beneficial; who has not puzzled over God's explanation when he challenges Arjuna to kill his dear ones: "I have willed that you are in this situation at this time to perform this action. You did not determine it, I did ...")
Through God's intention the whole universe is created. We hear that, but when it effects us.. or our dear ones, we don't want to know. Our life becomes a struggle between our will and the divine will.
One of the Desert fathers (early Christian Monks; Abba Poemen) writes: The will of man is a brass wall between him and God and a stone of stumbling. When a man renounces it, he is saying to himself: By my God, I can leap over the wall" (Psalm 18:29)If a man's will is in line with what is right - then he can really do the right work.
Why, do we struggle to accept the guidance of divine will? Because we can't see the bigger picture! Our human will is driven by our limited understanding shaped by our personal history, by our personal desires, by our conditioning. We look at one frame of a long film...rather than knowing the whole reel, the whole story! Our will wants to control life according to our limited vision. But life is different.. it flows from an immense unseen source and in order - to open our vision, in order to break our limitations. Life constantly breaks the cocoon we build around ourselves, by thinking things will always be like this. I want them to be like that! Etc...
The other important part of living with change is that we have to become aware that everything happens for the best! It's an old saying, and may be in your ears has worn thin,
but the purpose of life is spiritual evolution, only the divine, Spirit, God knows what is the next lesson we have to learn. We must learn to accept that things change, instead of holding on, trying to bend life our way, according to our wishes and wants. Surrender to God, surrender to Divine Providence is asked for. Our part is to learn that, nothing more nothing less. This is wisdom. When we approach every situation in life, every change in life from that understanding then life becomes easy.
One of the most important and helpful ( real practical helpful) sentences, that was said to me was: God's ways are easy!
It doesn't mean always choosing the easy way, that is just lethargy, tamasic, avoidance... but when we are in tune with divine providence then things fall into place, they become easy. Change becomes a "flowing river in which we are carried" as a Taoist might say. It says in the Tao Te Ching: To the Wise Man, all of life is a steady flow towards perfection. We might call it spiritual evolution!
The world is in constant flux, it is in a constant interplay of energy, it's never in one place for even a second. We live in this illusion that things can be stable...that we are in a body...and that "forever"; we live in a house "and that forever"; we are a part of a group of friends and family "forever" . However beautiful, however perfect things seem to be at one moment.. seemingly "forever", it never is!!!
"For ever" does not exist...it's a cosmic law that things change!
I remember when a young woman, when I moved to Cornwall, I moved to such a beautiful spot, high up on the cliff above, the sea.. .a lively moving Atlantic, and below a white sandy beach; surrounded by sand dunes with a few scattered houses - where shepherds still grazed their flock; a small village nearby. I felt - no I was sure..."I am never ever, ever going to leave here...this is heaven! I will be here until I die!".. . HM, well the "forever" lasted a couple of years, then life necessitated to move; another beautiful place followed another and another...until I gave up the idea of "forever", and - that I "need to live in such beautiful solitary place . Now I am moving again.. .this time...not even sure where to! But it's OK; I have learned so much from each step that I can now Trust Divine Providence.
Whatever will happen, will be in accordance of what I just need right now. All I need is to be alert, to see how the change will bring me closer to what I need to develop on the spiritual path. I am reminded of a story; a dialog between Lao Tzu and Confucius (much like the dialogues in the Upanishads), Confucius says: "Animals that feed on the pastures do not fret over changes on the pastures; creatures that live in the water do not fret over changes in the river. They accept the alterations in the course of the river, they accept and swim with it. Be like them; then joy, anger, grief and happiness does never enter you. In this world, the ten-thousand things come together in ONE, and if you can't find the One and become identical with it, then your four limbs and joints will become dust amongst much weeping and wailing. Life and death, beginning and end, (and all of a thousand things we call difficult to cope with!) will be just as day and night; and nothing can upset you- certainly not the simple notions of gain or loss, good or bad fortune ( or obnoxious people, or a new tax-law!)!"
The Great One-ness includes all things, all motions and all people...and in all ever-changing forms. Now this, now that! Dare I say it, it's even like that with our moods and emotions- now this - now that; why get involved or attached to them? Observe the fluctuation, the ever changed mind and learn from it; see how from accepting the permanent change comes equanimity ; inner Peace is the fruit of such acceptance and trust. Attaining inner peace is the goal of all change, it comes from seeing that change is not "against me"...seeing that there is the Divine, that which has a greater vision than me- whose will (for my benefit) ...causes the change. Not I; not me; not my will be done....they will be done!
In Kashmir Shaivism three powers are present and acting in the world, three forms /Shaktis - create all action, all change: iccha (will), jnana (knowledge), kryia (action). When we align ourselves with HER, when we receive insights into Her actions, when we are aware and align our will with the divine -that is talked about as opening the eye of Shiva, the third eye...then the world is to us full of grace, it sparkles in a new light- the light of greater insight, the divine vision.
Marcus Aurelius the Roman Philosopher King said: Why be afraid of change?
What can take place without change?
What then is more pleasing or more suitable to the universal nature? Can you take a bath unless the wood undergoes change? Can you be nourished unless the food undergoes change? Can anything that is useful be accomplished without change? Do you not see than that for yourself also to change is just the same, and equally necessary for the universal nature?
... So ride the Wave of Change!
Change is constant transformation, it's a law of the universe... but it's not just change, and that is most important to see... : all change happens for the best, for the good! And that is hard for us to understand; it needs trust, it needs faith, it needs "seeing" the love of God and living in love with "God"! whatever form or shape -that word takes on for you. "The more you submit to the Divine Will, the easier it is to live, the closer you come to HER/HIM.
The interesting thing is, that accepting change, accepting the power of Divine Will, is not just an esoteric concept for the future, no it makes life easier in this very dimension/world you live in now!
Think of Christ hanging on the Cross...he is in an extreme situation, suffering terribly - yet he can cope with it; and even is concerned about the people who do this to him, as well as the criminals beside him who also got crucified. It really is an amazing teaching.. .what does he say: Thy will be done! He trusts it's the right thing; he trusts his father.. .to the ultimate point. He knows all things have their root in the ultimate wisdom of HIM/HER. In fact he says: "Shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me?" Meaning what? Meaning that he knows God to act benevolent, even in the most difficult and painful moments.
That which embraces all, the great vision...is so different from our vision, because we single out one situation, and then look at it in our limited conditioned way...in other words we forget the whole. Unfortunately we do the same with God,or rather our understanding of God. Widen your vision, embrace All, then change turns a different colour, just like the leaves in autumn, even though they do not stop being leaves.
Tukaram Maharaj, the great Indian Poet Saint writes;
When the sun is reflected in water filled in a jar; the sun does not get wet! Though fire burns wood, fire itself is not wood-but something else altogether. (nor does it burn itself)
Likewise, Narayana informs every living being, yet he is Being itself, apart from all forms. He is neutral witness of life.
Each human being experiences its own unique destiny in this world. God paints Himself in a bizarre array of colours. He is like an ascetic who has ceased to care about His form.
One becomes what one chooses to be, in the end. Thus persons and their destinies are different from each other. Good and evil and that grey in between these, determine our own blend of joy and suffering.
Says Tuka, God is a vast jig-saw puzzle of which we are mere tiny bits. Grasp HIM (HER) whole and the pieces will all fit!
"Grasp him whole", then Change will become the river that is your friend that carries you to the ocean!