In a world where from cradle rock to last breath our wellbeing and survival are founded upon physical security – a home, a job, money in the bank – the notion of a life not concerned with these things, and not measuring its success by their abundance, is most definitely not in vogue.
A large proportion of the human population of course does live without these consoling buffers which insulate the rest of us from hunger, homelessness, despair – and for them the quest to simply survive is necessarily paramount. Relevant, however, in either scenario – having and not having – are the timeless spiritual commentaries that can be found in the wisdom of our greatest teachers, in the words of Christ; the sutras of Buddhism; the discourse of Sri Krishna to his dearest disciple Arjuna on the battlefield of Kurukshetra; and in the conversations of Sri Ramakrishna, to name a few.
Their insights and commentaries on the deepest truths of human life offer an alternative view of security which differs radically from the prosperity ideals in which most of us have been immersed from childhood.
These luminaries tell us that while it is legitimate and proper to seek a reasonable standard of living, every effort to find happiness exclusively in the outer world will finally fail and only the inner accomplishments – inner peace, desirelessness and detachment, love of God, self-discovery – can truly give us happiness. Some go further. My own teacher Sri Chinmoy speaks often of the relative merits of self-reliance versus God-reliance – and that for those following a spiritual path and seeking oneness with God, our dependence on God attracts immediate grace. The father loves all his children but will take special care of the one who most depends on him and trusts him completely.
Over a number of years of being with Sri Chinmoy I have heard this message reiterated many times and had occasion to see its fruits and benefits. Those who put their spiritual life first, who dare to 'whistle in the dark', are unconcerned with the accumulation of personal wealth to meet tomorrow's needs, these are invariably happier. For this is a step towards faith and abandonment in God, and God always assumes responsibility for the needs (as opposed to the wants) in their lives.
Speaking of those disciples who try to live this way Sri Chinmoy once said, "You will see how in the future you will be most surprisingly rewarded." I was deeply moved when I heard this comment for it conveyed such a powerful message. Simply through our trust in God, here is the assurance of shedding all the bonds and attachments and problems that bind us to the world and to endless lives – our 'surprising rewards' will include a fearless God-reliance, freedom from anxiety regarding the future, the knowledge that all our inner and outer needs will be met, and that through our abandonment and faith alone God will take full responsibility for our lives. This is a huge short cut in our evolution, the shedding of a great burden, the discovery at last of an abiding inner peace and calm, 'the peace that passeth all understanding'.
In the West we are virtually marinated in a culture of acquiring and possessing from the very beginnings of our life, and the alternative philosophies espoused by our great liberators and pathfinders are rarely practiced. But the soul finally is not satisfied with self-interest and the fulfilment of personal ambitions – it has greater promises to keep that lie far beyond personal gain. "For my disciples," Sri Chinmoy commented, "to worry about your future is an insult to the Master, an insult to your soul and an insult to God."