Today I attended the launch of a movie about how Auckland became a Peace City. It was such an important and momentous decision when New Zealand decided to officially become a nuclear-free country, and the movie documented this incredible journey. Included in the screening were moments from last year’s wonderful ceremony celebrating Auckland’s dedication as a Peace City, in which my friends and I played a small part. This inspiring afternoon got me thinking about what is really important in life. Obviously: Peace. And peace means so much more than simply the absence of war.
A few months ago, I was given an excerpt of one of Sri Chinmoy’s books to read. Often we read things once and then file them away somewhere, but I have enjoyed keeping this piece of paper on my desk at home ever since. In this excerpt, Sri Chinmoy relates a story1 about an Indian spiritual master named Balananda who lived 100 years ago. In the story, he tells his students: “Each of you needs to develop four most important things in your life.” Balananda then relates the following four qualities:
“You need to develop the capacity to tolerate the world and to tolerate your own life.”
The movie about peace in New Zealand and the country’s struggle to become nuclear-free showed some footage of horrific effects from the Hiroshima bombing. It would be very easy to become devastated by this and totally discouraged by such waste and sadness. Instead, I choose a more positive approach – to tolerate the world, knowing that every day we as humanity are learning to do better and be better, simply because daily we are becoming more aware and knowing better. One of Oprah’s favourite sayings is “When you know better, you do better.” A historical and momentous film such as this one helps to increase people’s awareness of the great importance of peace in today’s world. And of course world peace can never be achieved until we each have inner peace first.
This leads us to the second half of the above important statement: “…and to tolerate your own life.” While we are trying to grow and become better people, we have to remember to be kind to ourselves, to remain patient and understanding. Tolerate things in the beginning with the growing hope that transformation is occurring gradually, and the faith that each change in our life comes at the right moment.
“You need to develop the capacity to sacrifice everything that you have and everything that you are.”
Whoa! This seems like a big one. But upon contemplation… is it really? What if everything that you have is a fearful life, and everything that you are is a muddle of negative thoughts? Well, these things certainly seem worth sacrificing. I feel that this is what the story is trying to portray. That we need to develop the ability to let go of all that is unlit, undivine, negative or unillumined inside of us. This is a sacrifice I am willing to make, for my own progress and happiness.
“You need to cultivate the capacity to remain silent even when you are mistreated mercilessly, without rhyme or reason, by a hostile world.”
Hmmm….remain silent? This is a hard one. I know it is true and I know it is the best response sometimes, but I don’t always remember in the moment to practice silence. Nobody likes to be mistreated without reason. We need to remain silent for some time to bring forth this higher response of deep humility and wisdom. It is too easy to burst out with an angry or emotional reaction. But to pause for a moment, to breathe deeply and remain silent is a noble act of strength. I will try practising this positive response more.
“You need to develop the capacity to remain calm, quiet and tranquil without being completely shattered when you lose in the battlefield of life or extolling yourself to the skies when you succeed in the battlefield of life.”
When I read this… I see hidden within the above sentence the qualities of strength, courage, determination, never giving up, inner peace and wisdom, lack of ego, humility, self-effacement. Wow!
But are all of these four things actually possible to do in one lifetime? Sri Chinmoy’s story ends with the spiritual master encouraging his students by answering this question with a resounding “Why not? I too was once like you. You can do this, provided you always do the right thing at the right time, with the help of the right Master.”
That last sentence obviously reminds me of my own teacher, Sri Chinmoy, and that my life of spiritual growth and transformation is all the time leading me closer towards an ever-increasingly fulfilling and happy life. However, even if you do not have a spiritual teacher of your own, you will be able to begin your spiritual journey simply by reading the writings of an illumined author such Sri Chinmoy, whose book The Jewels of Happiness contains divine truths that can resonate within your own heart and lead you to greater joy and self-discovery.
- “Four most important things in life” from India and Her Miracle-Feast: Come and Enjoy Yourself, Part 9 [↩]