I made a mistake when I was young.
It took me decades to recognize that I had made the mistake.
I will do what I can to make sure that you don’t make the same error.
What was that mistake?
I’ll tell you. But first some background.
Buddhist sages have exhorted lay followers to practice Dharma and consciously follow a spiritual path. The Indian sage Shankara spoke about the endless striving after pleasure, sex and wealth and how this led persons astray and away from the path of genuine happiness.
St. Timothy beseeched everyone to flee youthful passions, pursue righteousness and call on the Lord from a pure heart.
My mother knew about all of them and more and tried hard to get me to read works by the Great Masters and live by their words.
I wasn’t having any of it.
I wanted ‘success’ now. Far from fleeing youthful pleasure, I indulged to the hilt. And I continued to batter my head on brick walls until I realized a great truth.
The lessons taught by the Great Masters also lead to vast success in the material world. They were fully aware of this. But they never spoke about it because they were more concerned about your spiritual growth.
So, am I saying that deliberately pursuing a spiritual path is the way to material gain?
Yes, Virginia, that is exactly what I am saying. You can have your cake and eat it too!
There is a catch and it took me decades to truly understand this. You cannot set foot on the spiritual path expecting material success. That will come but it will come as a by-product. It is a consequence. If you make it a direct goal, it will disappear.
This is the conundrum. It will come. It will come inexorably. But if you start on the path expecting it to come, it will not. We rush about our lives desperately trying to fill the holes in our psyche with stuff that we acquire through our striving.
Do you recognize many of the persons in your life in the picture?
Perhaps yourself as well?
We become ‘hungry ghosts’ devouring what comes in our path and our peace of mind and ability to experience tranquil joy are the first casualties.
And we ignore the solution that has been provided to us by sages throughout the ages. A solution that provides both abundance and spiritual growth.
Did you see The Karate Kid? Daniel is beaten up by goons and asks Mr. Miyagi to teach him karate so he can protect himself. He was also looking for revenge.
Mr. Miyagi sets him sanding floors, waxing his car and painting his house.
Frustrated and angry, Daniel accuses Mr. Miyagi of using him as a servant and is about to stalk off. Mr. Miyagi asks him to look in his eyes and attacks him.
Taken by surprise, Daniel instinctively defends himself and well. That is when he learns that waxing, sanding and painting have given him the muscle memory for
karate blocks and punches.
Its pretty much the same story with the teachings from the world’s wisdom traditions.
You are born. You will die. Use the little time you have to get yourself out of the great illusion in which you are ensnared.
But the steps you take to do this will also benefit you within the illusion.
Stand back and let that happen organically and on its own. Your focus will be on personal growth.
You don’t have to make trade-offs. Both joy and success can be your lot in life.