In many ways my entire life feels blessed, even charmed. I’ve practiced Kriya daily without fail for three years, studied all the writings, and listened to many hours of recorded classes. Desires are dropping away, and even those that do arise often are fulfilled in a very sweet way by Divine Mother. Every day I feel inspiration and love. Occasionally I have vivid dreams, which sometimes have included divine visitations. However, nothing outside of ordinary reality has ever happened -- no voices, lights, visible auras, sensing of vibrations, response to crystals, temples, etc. When my friends speak of these things I smile graciously but have nothing to say. Despite conscientious practice of the AUM technique, I don’t hear any sound, nor do I see the spiritual eye. I’ve witnessed no miracles. In some ways I feel I am spiritually “blind and deaf.” I do trust my own intuition enough to believe the teachings are true but I’m going on 100% belief. I feel just a little bit of experience would tip me over from belief to faith. Lacking that experience, it is hard to develop devotion. I feel equivocal even about the positive things because of this lack. I’m already middle-aged. How long will I have to wait?
Doubt is a special kind of purgatory, taking the sunlight out of the brightest day. You haven’t used the word “doubt,” but that is what you are describing. So many wonderful things happening in your life, and yet....
In his autobiography, The New Path, chapter 30, “A Divine Test,” Swamiji writes of his own battle with doubt. The solution, he eventually discovered, is love. Alas, you are doubly stymied -- because of doubt you hesitate to love.
I don’t know if anything I say can break this unfortunate cycle, but let me give it a try. I ask your forgiveness in advance if what I say feels flippant or too harsh. I deeply sympathize with your dilemma and hope by speaking plainly to give you a way out of this self-created limitation.
Let me start by rewriting your letter as a note from your son to you.
Thanks so much for raising me thus far. We have a great home. I love my room. The meals are fabulous and whenever I raid the refrigerator I always find something good. The clothes I have are super. I love my bicycle. You picked a good school and you are always there to help with homework. The new music system is fabulous. However, two of my friends now have motorcycles. Seems like I ought to have one, too. I’ve already told you this -- several times. You say you love me, but, well, how can I believe you since you know how much I want this motorcycle and you don’t get if for me? I’m already fourteen years old. How long am I going to have to wait before that motorcycle comes?
Maybe I’m misrepresenting you with this, but there are similarities.
Here is another way to look at it.
God’s love is omnipresent, unconditional, eternal. Every breath, your very existence is an expression of His commitment to you.
How have you responded? I’m not singling you out as being worse than any of the rest of us, but -- face it! -- for more incarnations than we can imagine, we have turned our backs on the only One who truly loves us. Madly we have pursued every possible dead-end, looking for love, as they say, in all the wrong places.
Finally it has occurred to you -- and to us -- that maybe, just maybe, God is the solution. So for three years now you have given him your Kriyas. And still -- no visible spiritual eye! No crashing waves of AUM! How inconsiderate of Him!
Of course, I am joking -- but not really.
I am reminded of an interview I heard on the radio. Two men in their early twenties had just become gazillionaires when a company they dropped out of college to form went public. The interviewer said, “Already you have earned fifty times more money than your fathers earned in their entire working lives. How do you feel about that?”
The young gazillionaires seemed surprised by the question. “After all,” one of them replied emphatically, “we devoted two years of our lives to building this company.”
It is not up to God to woo us. He has been faithful. It is we who have strayed. Now we have to prove to him that our love is sincere and unwavering. We are in no position to demand -- or expect -- tokens of His commitment to us. Still, you have been showered with them. Ah, but there are still other items on your list that haven’t come. Like a child at Christmas you are comparing your letter to Santa with the presents under the tree and feel that you have been shortchanged.
Am I being unfair to you? Maybe a little. The point is being a devotee is not a business transaction. It is a love relationship.
Back to the mythical question of your son and his motorcycle: How magnetic is it for you when your son makes his faith in your love dependent on the next expensive gift? How likely are you to give him that motorcycle? Not very likely because you know it wouldn’t be good for him, at least not with his present attitude. You love him too much to feed the delusion that material things are the proof of love or that emotional blackmail is the way to get what he wants from you.
There is no set standard of “proof” that God is obligated to meet. You say you trust your intuition -- maybe enough to put your mind behind your beliefs, but not enough, apparently, to risk your heart.
Again, perhaps I am being unfair, but that is how your letter reads to me. “Without these experiences I can’t develop devotion.” Which is to say, “Unless God meets my standard of proof I’m going to keep my love locked up inside of me.” Who do you think will suffer from that decision? You? Or God who is Love Itself?
Let’s put it another way: What are you afraid of?
Despite all that you’ve given to your son unless you come through with the motorcycle it is all over between you. Or so he declares. Kind of silly when you think of it that way, isn’t it?
I am not trying to mock you. I am only trying, in this rather extreme way, to help you see the implications of what you are saying. Your scientific inclination to weigh and measure sometimes serves the cause of truth, and sometimes blocks it completely. In a love relationship, there comes a point when you just have to go with your heart.
Sometimes reason doesn’t serve the cause of reason, it merely masks the truth, which in this case may be fear. What would a vibrating crystal or the AUM sound tell you that you don’t already know?
Swami Kriyananda tells a very instructive story about a fellow disciple named Daniel Boone who lived as a monk with Master at Mount Washington when Swamiji was there. Boone had many experiences of the kind you say are completely lacking in your life -- and were also lacking in Swamiji’s life he tells us. In the end, however, Boone left the ashram and the path, whereas Swamiji never wavered in his commitment or his whole-hearted self-offering to God and Guru in service and devotion.
Later he realized that Master gave Boone all those experiences because he was trying -- unsuccessfully as it turned out -- to save him from being swept away by delusion.
Do you think Master would hold back from you these experiences if, as you assert, they would help you spiritually? Can you imagine another reason why he doesn’t give them to you, for example, the need for you to have the courage to open your heart in trust to Him without the “final proof” you are looking for?
To call yourself “spiritually blind and deaf” -- even if you offer it only as a self-deprecating quip -- is an insult both to you and to God. Also you are holding a mistaken idea -- a dangerously mistaken idea -- that the experiences your friends have mean they are more advanced or more favored by God than you are. That’s the argument your son is using on you. “All my friends have motorcycles. Obviously, their fathers love them and mine does not.”
Such an attitude won’t help you develop devotion, nor will it create the magnetism to draw God’s love to you. He has showered you with blessings. You describe your life as “charmed.” Still -- well, no motorcycle!
And if you do give your son that motorcycle, will that secure his love forever or, later, will he doubt again and demand further proof? And if God gives you lights, will you then need a miracle? And once you have a miracle, will you then need another to insure that the first wasn’t just a lucky coincidence?
Once you start down the road of weighing, measuring, and conditional loving there is no end to it. Relationships do not succeed that way.
You have to love God because it is your nature to love and God’s nature to love you.
How can you know from your perspective in which direction true freedom lies? God has showered you with blessings. Like you with your son, God knows the road ahead better than you do. Accept with gratitude and in return, give Him your heart.
And if you feel you can’t, don’t try to solve the problem with reason. Above all, don’t presume to tell God what He needs to do in order to win your love! Seek devotion with devotion. Don’t pray for lights and sounds, which in them selves mean nothing and are not, in fact, what you seek. Pray for His grace -- above all, the grace to love Him.
[Questions and answers from other Ananda ministers worldwide can be found on the Ask the Experts page of Ananda.org.]