By Steve Klein
As the poet once said, “Whatever you can say about spirituality, the opposite is also true.” Well, actually that wasn’t a poet; I said it, but it still seems a valid point. Because what individuals need depends on their specific sanskaras: one disciple might be asked to fast while another may have no restrictions of any kind. To an outside observer this can be confusing. More so since the world is under the domain of illusion, or duality, so that we tend to see things as “either, or.” Whereas it is more apt to see things as “yes, and” because reality is about unity.
In our every day world, something either is, or is not. In spiritual life, it can be both simultaneously. In the world, the claims of a hundred people will always outweigh the claims of a single person. In spiritual terms, one person is equal to the whole so there can be no numerical comparison. Baba would often consider the smallest problem as if it were the most important thing in the world, and then seemingly dismiss the most momentous happening in the world as if it were of no importance.
This can make it very confusing when trying to figure out how one should behave in the world. Just the other day a Baba friend asked, “But how do we know what we should do?” Different answers came to my mind, and all of them seemed potentially both right and wrong. Of course, I had no way of knowing what to say, as only a Master knows what is appropriate for a specific individual in a specific instance. But it led me to think about what might be a good answer. And it struck me that part of the problem is that the question is wrong. When people asked the mandali what they had gained by following Baba, they had no idea what to say. Baba told them that there was no good answer because the question was wrong. The question should have been, “What have you lost?”
Similarly, I think we can’t get a right answer to the question of, “What should I do?” because it is the wrong question. A better question is, “How should I be?”
And the answer to that is, “loving.” Now, what you do to express that love may be any number of things and it may be completely different depending on you, the person you’re interacting with, and the circumstances under which you’re doing so. The Buddha talked about “skill in means,” which I take to mean that it is not enough to simply have a loving impulse, but that there is a certain “skill” involved in learning how to adequately express it. Baba says there is an “art” to right adjustment with others. To me, this implies that there is no easy answer as to “what to do” in any situation. We have to experiment. We have to try our best and be willing to face our failures and learn from them. What worked in one situation may be a complete disaster in what seemed like an almost identical situation.
The story Mani used to tell about her childhood friend Mary pops into my head. Since they were best friends, and since Mary seemed to love Jesus wholeheartedly, it suddenly occurred to Mani that the best thing she could do would be to tell Mary the good news that her brother, Baba, was Jesus come again. This, to put it mildly, didn’t go over very well and Mary stopped talking to Mani.
Of course, at a deeper level, this may have been the best thing Mani could have done, bringing Baba’s name to her friend. The difficulty is that, from a worldly point of view, it is almost impossible to judge these things accurately. What seems easier to assess is our motive. Were we trying to make the other person feel Baba’s love?
How often have you heard someone (or yourself) rationalize some interaction with another, which did not go particularly well, with the words, “I was only trying to help?” That may very well be true, but were we trying to be loving? Despite the circumstances, underneath all the details, was my primary goal to make another feel Baba’s love?
For me, this is a yardstick that actually gives accurate measurement. Not only that, but I find that trying to focus on making others feel Baba’s love, as opposed to accomplishing some specific goal, changes the way I see the whole situation. It even changes the way I feel about the situation and the other people involved. To a very large extent, it even addresses the question, “What should I do?” Not that it gives me an answer, but it places the “doing” in its proper subordinate role. And when “what should I do” takes a back seat to “how can I make them feel loved?” we find that our mind has to subordinate itself to our heart which seems a great improvement. Sometimes, because we are no longer trying to figure things out, we become more receptive to the promptings of our heart and we spontaneously do something that might never have occurred to us otherwise. Sometimes it seems to work, sometimes it doesn’t. But even when it doesn’t work out, I find that the action feels more like it is between me and Baba than me and the other person and that too seems like a good thing.
At least this is how it looks to me and my specific sanskaric make up at this moment. You might not see it this way. But as the poet says . . . .