Sometimes it’s easy to look back at the four decades I’ve known about Baba and basically lament the lack of progress I’ve made in any number of areas: not just the big ones like overcoming anger, greed and lust, or remembering Baba more frequently and wholeheartedly, but even lesser ones such as being cheerful, worrying less, or even occasionally being nice to people. Concomitant with this is the occasional self-pity that I never got the chance to be with Baba, or even be with the mandali as much as I might have wanted.
As if this maudlin self-focus were not bad enough, my mind whines “What’s the use? Why even try making an effort; it’s not getting you anywhere.” Or, if I happen to be wise to that trick, it might try slipping a “Just be resigned to His will” past me in the hopes that I can’t differentiate between surrender and complacency.
Eruch used to tell the story in Mandali Hall (which I am now going to condense by 98%) of two guys, one an austere dedicated yogi, the other an ordinary householder, who, independently, happen to see a mast walk by. When they ask him where he’s going, he says he’s going to see God. So each says, “Ask God how much longer before I realize Him.” After quite a while the mast comes by again. The first seeker who sees him says, “Did you see God?” The mast says, “Yes.” “Did you ask Him my question?” “Yes.” What did He say?” “Two more lifetimes.”
The seeker is so overwhelmed with despondency that after decades of earnest austerities, it will take him two more whole lifetimes of the same before he does, that he decides to give up his austerities entirely and forget about trying to realize God. Meanwhile the mast walks on until he comes to the second seeker and a similar conversation ensues. But the final answer this time is, “As many leaves as are on that tree,” with the mast pointing to a huge tree that was completely leafed.
“What!” the man exclaims with delight. “God actually remembered me?” And he starts dancing in rapturous delight. As he does so, a huge wind comes up, blows all the leaves off the tree, and he becomes realized then and there.
I like this story because it reminds that I don’t have to waste my time worrying about whether what I’ve received meets some imagined ideal or not. I can simply choose to enjoy whatever it is that I have been given. Perhaps this just boils down to simply living more in the moment.
We all know that Baba wants us to live in the “eternal now,” but I find this, at times, a bit difficult to do. Too often the best I can do is attain a kind of stoic, or passive acceptance of what is. But no wonder it’s hard to sustain this. Where’s the joy in that, the zest? Although Baba does want us to be resigned to His will, I think, as the story shows, that He also wants us to be alive to the possibility that at any moment, we might be able to realize Him. This is what suffuses the moment with delight. Despite our weaknesses, our lack of faith, or dedication, or love, we must (switching Avataric metaphors for a moment) keep our wicks trimmed and burning because you never know when the bridegroom will suddenly appear.
This is why lamenting our missed opportunity to be with Baba is so doubly dangerous and counterproductive. It makes us think about ourselves and not about Baba. And it deadens us to the joy and anticipation that Baba, even now, could enter our lives in this very moment and change them completely. He may, in fact, already be standing outside our door, just waiting for us to fling it open and invite Him in.