Obstacles along the spiritual path are necessary to test your strength. If everything is easy, we would probably lose interest in doing anything. Something that is worthwhile and beautiful should not be attained too easily. The more you work for something, the more you appreciate it. Always keep the goal of all your Yoga practices in mind, the great gain that you are going to achieve, and what you are going to experience as a result of your efforts. Then, any difficulties will seem like nothing much at all to you. In fact, you will be able to be enjoy them, because you will be convinced they are for your benefit.

Even for ordinary experiences so much effort and even suffering is undertaken. So many months of planning are needed just to rob a bank! Day and night the thief thinks about what and how it will be done. The whole area is inspected to determine the whereabouts of the telephone, the alarm, and all that for only a few thousand dollars! To get the attention of a love interest, there is also a lot of effort and planning needed. You send nice flowers, a gift, plan this and that and send sweet notes. To become a champion mountain climber you must undergo so much pain. So no matter what you do, if you remember the purpose and the benefit you will welcome all the obstacles. Mastery of the mind is so much harder than any worldly achievements. You have to pay a big price for something big. You will even start to miss the challenges and difficulties when things are going well. You will wonder, What is this? I don’t seem to be getting any challenges. I don’t seem to be growing.

A perfect example of this can be found in the Mahabharata, an epic tale of ancient India. After a big, long war was over and the exiled family was again ruling their own country, they were extremely happy. Lord Krishna, who had been helping them during their twelve years of exile, said “Okay, may I take leave of you now? I have been helping you all this time, but now you are no longer thinking of me, no longer asking for my help. You have settled into your new life and one of you is now the king and the rest of you have various junior posts. You are all busy thinking about what to do, how to do it, what to tax, what to build and so on.” When there was war, every minute, the entire family was looking for advice from Lord Krishna. They wanted Him with them for every little thing because there was a crisis. When the crisis was over, they stopped thinking about the Lord. One of the wives, Draupadi, was thinking of a new, beautiful sari and how to decorate the home. Dharma wanted a new throne and poor Krishna was totally ignored. So He saw that, and thought, Oh, I think that I’m not needed here anymore. Before I lose all my importance, let me say goodbye.

So, one day, He called everybody together and said, “I’d like to say goodbye to you. You are all busy with your own things. You don’t need me now, so, may I say  goodbye?” Everybody said, “Oh, thank you so much for all these years of service and help and we really enjoyed your help a lot. Without your help, we would of not have gotten through all the turmoil. We are forever grateful to you; we’ll never forget you.” So, after fourteen years of suffering, they all came and said something nice to the Lord. But, Kunti, the mother of the four brothers, was very sad and crying, sitting in one corner.

Krishna said, “Sister, why are you crying? Don’t you think that it’s time for me go?”

She said, “Lord, you have been in our hearts and minds all these years. Now, we are not even thinking of you for a moment. I’m so sad about it.”

Krishna asked everyone, “If you have any last wish, tell me, I’ll fulfill it and then leave.”

The brothers said, “Oh, everything is okay, fine. We are not going to ask you to do any more for us. You have done everything.”

But Kunti’s wish was, “Krishna, if you really have power, and if you really mean to fulfill my wish, send us back to the jungle for another fourteen years.”

“What? Are you crazy? Are you losing your mind?” After all, sometimes when something nice happens all of a sudden, you become overexcited and sort of lose your mind. So, Krishna thought Kunti must be really out of her mind.

But she said, “No, I really mean it.”

“Why, what is the reason, tell me. If you have a good reason, then I’ll accept it.”

(Photo: Painting of Kunti expressing her heartfelt request to Sri Krishna.)

“You see, as long as we were in exile in the jungle for fourteen years and we faced a crisis every day, every minute, we always wanted You; we always called on You. Nobody wanted to miss you for a single minute. Even if you would go and hide somewhere, we would be looking for you. Where is He? Where is He? But now that the war is over, nobody even seems to think of You. I don’t want that to happen. I want us to all be thinking of You, always. Please, before things get too bad, send us back to the jungle.”

That means she literally wanted to have the suffering again. Why? Because, she cared more for the Lord. She wanted to always remember Him and she cared for that more than she cared for anything else. She was saying, “I don’t mind suffering, if it makes me always remember You. If I am going to forget You, there is nothing in this world that you can give me.”

That same idea is in the Bible. I’m paraphrasing, but it basically says: What is the great benefit if you have the whole world, but not the Spirit? And what is it that you lose if you don’t have the whole world, but still have the Spirit? And that is what Kunti was saying to Lord Krishna. Every seeker should understand this: It is not by having comforts and temporary happiness and pleasures that you are going to have the ultimate experience of peace. If you are really keen in attaining that, you will want more and more hardship because pleasures will make you forget your spiritual goals. Remember that. No one has ever achieved enlightenment without paying the price for it.

Some at the ashram might say, “Well, the Swami comes and goes in a big Chrysler, but we have to walk.” They might think that way. But I have walked thousands of miles, with nothing of my own. If I am a little comfortable today, it is because I paid for it through my practices for many years. I’ve never asked for these things and, at any moment, I am ready to do without them. I’m not attached to anything. There were days, when I went without anything at all to eat and other days when I didn’t have a place to sleep. I used to sleep on park benches, where the police would come and kick me out. “Hey you lazy fellow, what are you doing? Why are you sleeping here?” I worked very hard in ashrams, but with great joy. There was a time, if I happened to hear some glowing tribute for some little thing I did, my body would begin to shake. I’d think, “My God, what is going to happen to me, he’s praising me. He’s appreciating what I am doing. My God, I am going to get lost in egoism.”

So don’t fish for recognition. Don’t fish for appreciation. When you are fishing for something, there is selfishness in the action. Saint Ramalingam used to sing songs about those things. He didn’t even want to show that he was a great seeker. He used to hide himself by wearing ordinary clothing, because he didn’t want people to recognize and praise him. So the seeker should think of all these things. Don’t search for little pleasures here and there. There will be a time, when they will search for you and come to you, whether you want them or not. But at the same time, don’t be too rough. A few sweets are okay, but be moderate. Be in control. If you are interested in your spiritual welfare always keep the goal in mind and never allow the ego to swell.

My prayer is that you will let these little hints guide you on your way. Then your whole life will be beautiful. Whatever you do will be yogic. It doesn’t matter where you are, or what you do. I wish that for you all. Thank you. Bless you. Om Shanti.

By Sri Swami Satchidananda