By Pujya Swami Chidananda Saraswati
So frequently in life we think, “Just one more year” and then I will simplify my life, minimizing luxuries. “Just one more year” and I will cut back on my time at the office to spend more time in spiritual pursuits. “Just one more year” and I will dedicate more time to meditation, seva and sadhana. “Just one more year” and then I will delve into the divine depths of spirituality. “Just one more year” and then I will cut down on indulging in sensual pleasures. It goes on and on.
But, that “one more year” never comes. We continue to put off valuable life changes until “tomorrow,” and unfortunately ” tomorrow” never comes. We are the same. We see where we need to go. We see what we need to do. We pledge over and over to implement the changes “next year” or “tomorrow.” Yet, the changes rarely come, for we continually get carried away on the waves of Maya (illusion or pursuit of finite) back into the tossing, turning, cresting, falling, tumultuous ocean of continuous suffering (samsara).
What to do then? Are we, as ever-so-suggestible humans, destined to a life lived in the clutches of Maya? Are we destined to a life of only fleeting glimpses of the Truth? Are we to be forever imprisoned by her blinding and suffocating grip? No, no and no! We can break free. We can live in truth.
In fact, the very nature of our existence, the very purpose of our human birth is to realize our ultimate divinity, to re-unite with that which is Divine, to break the chains of Maya. Anything less is a disservice to Him who brought us into existence.
The only way to break free from the veil of illusion that Maya wraps around our minds is to pray to God and beg Him to show us the true light and also to give us the strength to walk the path of light. Our personal, human willpower is, inherently, significantly weaker than the power of Maya.
Alone, we cannot hope to break her chains. We cannot hope for Divine Realization or Illumination or even for a truly meaningful human existence. It is only by surrendering ourselves to God, by aligning ourselves with His ultimate and divine power that we can have the strength to walk the right path.
By relying solely on our own, human will power, we will forever fail. The power of Maya is too great. However when we rely on the Divine power, we will forever succeed. When we rely on that power within us which is one with Him, we will neither fail nor fall. When we pray to Him with a pure, devout, pious heart for strength, the strength is given instantaneously. True, deep prayer melts away the chains of Maya and they fall to the wayside, powerless to bind us.
Yet, we must also remember that although God gives us the strength to break free from Maya and to both see and walk the Divine path, we also have to put in the effort. It is not simply that we can say, “Okay, God. You give me the strength. I will do nothing.” For then, when our resolve fails and we slip back into our old, familiar ways, rather than blaming ourselves we blame God. We say, “Well God didn’t give me the strength,” or “God did not help me.” It is a dual effort, a joint effort. God gives the strength, but we must do the work.
A famous saying is that “God helps those who help themselves.” This is absolutely true. We must pray to God for strength, but simultaneously we must vow to utilize all the strength He gives us to realize the Absolute Truth. It is indeed a loss of great opportunity – an opportunity to gain the infinite, lost in the pursuit of finite.
Thus, the only way to break free from the blinding veil of Maya is a two-fold practice. First, we must surrender to God and ardently pray to Him to take our lives in His hands, guiding us and giving us strength. Second, we must make and stick to concrete vows of how we are going to be better people. Rather than saying, “I will find time to meditate,” we must say, “I will not leave for work without sitting in meditation and I will not sleep at night without doing my nightly introspection.” Rather than saying, “I will try to visit holy places whenever I can,” we must say, “I will take a spiritual holiday this year.” Rather than saying, “I will try to cut back on my expenses so that my financial needs are less,” we must say, “I will not buy another jacket or pair of shoes (or anything) until the ones that I have are broken, torn or no longer fit me.” Rather than saying, “I will try to overcome my anger, lust and greed,” we must commit to having daily appointments with God in which we introspect on all the times we allowed ourselves to be overpowered by these emotions and we must pray for strength, DAILY, to remain calm and peaceful in our lives.
If we wait for the right time, that time will never come. The time for a spiritual life is NOW.