[Published in Vicharasetu – July 1991. The author Ma Gurupriya was then ‘Ratnadeepa’]
In the Lap of Nature
Nature with its abundant beauty has always attracted me and given me immense joy. When I was four years old, my father got posted in Nepal. I remember the snow-clad Himalayan range shining at a distance, the hilly fields and pear tree in front of our house where shepherds used to bring their cattle. My memory has faded, but still I can see and feel the little girl roaming around the whole day in the midst of Nature’s bounty, talking to herself and the plants, collecting sticks, picking up fruits or simply watching the sheep.
Before my father got posted in Delhi, the few years of early childhood I spent in Calcutta, I had the fortune to be in the lap of Nature. Even now, a hot summer afternoon suddenly carries me to the place – a country side with open fields, a variety of trees and a huge pond just in front of our house; the pond where we the children of our big joint family learnt swimming, holding on to floating plantain trunks. The mango tree that stood alone on one side of the pond had always impressed me by its shape and shade.
The place which attracted me most and I longed to visit was Banipur in 24 Parganas District of West Bengal, where lived my father’s eldest brother, who was the principal of Basic Training College there. Even as children we were enchanted by the serene atmosphere of the educational institution, its huge campus with shady trees, fragrant flowers and paddy fields, frequented by various kinds of birds. It was like a tapovanam.
As I grew up, I came to know that these Basic Training Colleges were founded after the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi. Life there was very peaceful, calm and simple. There was a harmony with Nature, a heartiness and liveliness in people. Later on I realized, it was the deep overpowering silence of the place that had left a subtle blissful impression on my young mind, making me a lover of Nature, its beauty and vastness.
I do not remember from when I associated my Lord with Nature. But a time came, unaware, when in the vast sky I started seeing His entrancing smile; the gentle breeze made me feel His soft touch; the falling raindrops and the whispering leaves carried to me His mellow voice.
And all these grew fast when I started liking and understanding Tagore’s songs. How deep, sublimating and enriching those songs are! There seems to be no emotion that the great poet has not put into his compositions; and mostly they are addressed to the Lord – the Creator and the indweller. He has associated the Lord in happiness as well as in sorrow, in all activities as well as in quietude, bringing Him always to the very centre of the heart. These songs gradually became a part of my being. I sang for my own sake pouring out myself, placing the bouquet of emotions at the feet of my Lord.
The Harmony Beyond Contradictions
But, all these years, I had been finding beauty, bliss and harmony only in the sweet, agreeable or pleasant aspects of Nature. The wonderful, comprehensive truth and harmony permeating the vast Creation through all its contradictory notes were simply overlooked. Did I ever feel that the Creator is present in everything of the Creation? Did I ever look at ugliness thinking that my Lord’s beauty included this too equally?
I relished His smile in the murmuring ripples of a placid, clear lake; but did I feel His presence in the slush of a drain? Did I reflect well that the stars shine beautifully only against the background of pitch darkness? I realized, I had associated my Lord – His smile, touch and voice – only where Nature appeared pleasant to my mind and senses. And in doing so I had missed the truth of existence, the grand harmony of Nature, which shines only in the presence of all opposites.
In his first letter to me, Swamiji had introduced the concept of nirdvandvatva.I started understanding this concept deeper and deeper everyday through my interactions and experiences in the world, gaining clarity and confidence. What was my attitude towards the world – my expectations from it?
I desired to be happy always – to have constant bliss and enthusiasm. I missed the fact that happiness and unhappiness are indispensable complements that make the existence of either possible. A man experiences enthusiasm only as contrast to boredom. We crave for silence and quietude only because we are bothered by activity.
Moderation – A Great Lesson
In one of his letters Swamiji wrote to me: “… Constant bliss cannot be had so easily. Have aananda now and then, progressively, and that will be adequate for you. Aim at a sense of moderation in every walk of life – in attaining purity, in giving concession to impurity, in getting nearer to God, in taking to the world, in accepting loneliness. In short, in everything that concerns you – BE MODERATE. Let there be some wrong in you – what of that? Let some confusion also be there; not an excess of it, of course!
What a great illumination! Did I ever look at life with this attitude? As I followed the advice, the secret of samatva (equal vision) started unfolding before me. I found myself becoming more and more light hearted towards events and situations, trying to accept equally – both good and bad, pleasant and unpleasant. Spells of disinterestedness did remain, alternated with enthusiastic days. The sense of deprivation of motherhood also frequented, though with reduced intensity. But, behind all these alternating moods, there was a growing acceptance and evenness towards everything.
Whenever confronted with depression, I used to remember Swamiji’s words: “Suppose you have a little depression or disinterestedness today – what of that? Let it remain. Be at home even with that. Know that as it has come in so also will it pass off. If you keep this elevated attitude, soon you will find that the depressive moods will become less frequent. Even if they appear, they will not bother you much or for long.”
Already the mind had started craving for constant inwardness. To some extent, it had succeeded too. At least I was aware of its wondering and also alert to bring it back to the center. Earlier, whenever the mind failed to remain quiet and sublime, whenever it would stray away to petty matters, I used to feel hopeless and depressed seeing my failure and imperfections. Now, the lesson in moderation started helping me. I learnt not to hold on to any idea rigidly, but to become flexible, to accept my imperfect self with detachment while spontaneously making effort for improvement and progress.
This pilgrimage to flexibility, moderation and acceptance, brought in me a new kind of lightness, cheerfulness and optimism, a new kind of detached enthusiasm in all my activities and interactions. In my notebook I used to pour out my heart telling about my success, failure and my consequent prayers. I would call out to my Lord again and again to lift me above all insufficiencies, to widen my outlook, to make me pure in thoughts and behaviour. Every time, I would add at the end: “ Above all, O Lord, give me Your Company, always.”
I have found that keeping a diary has great benefits for a spiritual seeker. Not only the writings provide a vivid picture of the seekers growth, the very effort to express ones mind openly constitutes an effective saadhana in itself. For this, of course, one must be able to face bravely, accept humbly and record freely all the thoughts and emotions prevailing in the mind. As we like to see the good emotions in us, so me must, without resistance, look straight into the unwanted traits too. And once detected, we must record them truthfully as they are, instead of trying to escape or justify oneself finding various excuses.
To be open before oneself is to be open before God. To do that, the seeker has to transcend his ego. When pursued sincerely the process bestows lightness, depth, clarity, power of truth, and above all, confidence.
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