To The Zoo Fence: If one abides in God, abides in the Word, and seeks God Realization as his or her primary goal in life, is this person then protected by God? By that I mean, is he or she safe, and are his or her loved ones safe, from unhappy circumstances like automobile accidents, serious illnesses, tornadoes, earthquakes, and so on? I sense that this is so, perhaps even that it ought to be so, but then again, I wonder.
Editor’s Comment: What a great question! How can we possibly respond except to say, Welcome to the club!
Who among us has not asked, does not repeatedly ask, even weep over, this very same question? Certainly, we have never come across a seeker, in the flesh or in print or in the mirror, who has not worried about the bodily safety of themselves and of their loved ones, precisely as you are now worrying. In fact, if one were to visit any church, synagogue, mosque, temple, or ashram anywhere in the world, one would undoubtedly find that the vast majority of their prayers and hymns are about “Protect us, God, from this” and “Shield us, Lord, from that.” Who does not keep a St. Christopher medal or its equivalent in their house, in their car, in their pocket, in their thoughts?
Fear is an inescapable aspect of bodily identification. With the sense of otherness (”I am me, and you aren’t”) come both the incomparable enjoyment of being able to taste chocolate and the fear of death in all its variations.
Notice too that the specificity of fear is an illusion. That is, we are not afraid of what we think we are afraid of. We are simply afraid. Fear is everywhere, and attaches itself to whatever is handy. For example, suppose we fear financial insecurity. We might think, if only we had enough money, we could live without fear. Then, suppose we win the lottery. Are we now fearless? Not likely. Instead, our fear alights upon some other target, and we experience it there.
The only truly effective answer to this question is Faith. That is, your question (and please take no offense here, for we all harbor these very same concerns) arises from and reflects doubt, doubt that the Truth is True.
If you knew, really knew beyond any doubt whatsoever, that there is no God but God, and that God is All There Is, then your question would never have arisen. You would not worry about automobile accidents, serious illnesses, tornadoes, earthquakes, and so on (to use your examples, and each of us has our own). You would make no distinction between orderly traffic and cars in collision, because you would recognize both experiences as equally divine and therefore of equal value. You would have no preference, because you would love God (the Self) however manifested. Seeing your Self in and as everyone and everything there is, who or what would you fear?
Or, said a little differently, you would know that God loves you, and that God’s love for you is permanent, constant, indelible, and unconditional, and that therefore whatever unfolds in your life, whether it is to your body’s physical liking or not, must be right and good and wonderful because God cannot will other than rightly, goodly, and wonderfully, and nothing can interfere with God’s Will. (Thank God!)
Thus, what you need to do is work on your faith. And to do that, we recommend you address your Heart, where Faith resides.
In our personal experience, there is no greater Teacher of the Heart than Sri Ramakrishna. For starters, we suggest “The Gospel of Sri Ramakrishna”, the unabridged version (this is one of those rare instances in which more is better).
Read this book not to learn it, but to ingest it. Approach it not as a textbook to study, but as a remedy to experience. Starting from the very first page, immerse yourself in it every day, even just a few pages, inviting Ramakrishna into your heart as you do so. In time, as your heart opens bit by bit, eventually to flourish, you will start to feel Ramakrishna’s presence within you and all around you. More importantly, you will begin to recognize throughout your life the Presence of God that Ramakrishna’s energy invokes. Now, little by little, the wondrous Presence of the Divine will whittle away at your fears and doubts, until finally it erases them altogether.
To The Zoo Fence: I really liked your article about marriage [at Consider This!]. What is your view of same sex marriages?
Editor’s Comment: As with everything else, our focus is on marriage as a spiritual undertaking. We perceive marriage to be a process by which two people come together willingly in the Presence of the One, however labeled or defined, and commit themselves, their lives, and all that they have and are, ever will have or ever will be, to each other, to the Supreme, and to the Realization of Union.
Thus, marriage is a spiritual path, and like any other path, the issue is depth of commitment, not gender.
Editor’s Comment: In a word, the problem with happiness is we want it. It’s the wanting that trips us up. In fact, our experience suggests that, whenever anything in life disturbs us, there is almost certainly some unfulfilled wanting lurking about! When we find that, and deal with it, the rest generally takes care of itself.
All of us define happiness incorrectly. We think of it as being the fulfillment of desire, meaning we are happy when “things go our way.” That definition is fraught with risks and uncertainties, among them,
1) Whenever our desire is not met (which is inevitably often), we are unhappy;
2) Because desire tends to be finicky, fickle, inflexible, and insatiable, whatever happiness we do achieve is likely to be shallow and short-lived;
3) Being driven by desire places us in conflict with others who are likewise driven, which increases the tension and stress in our lives, which makes us unhappy (and contributes to poor health, which too makes us unhappy);
4) Because our desire tends to be linked to the body we seem to be inhabiting (to its sense of taste, for example, or its physical comfort or longevity), we equate happiness with the body’s wellbeing, which (a) reinforces our identification with the body, (b) guarantees we will be unhappy at least some of the time because no body is forever healthy, strong, and well, and (c) does not really work anyway (consider how many people have “everything a body could want” and yet who are nonetheless “unhappy”).
The answer is to disconnect happiness from desire, and all the Teachers we know of confirm that. It is not easy. In fact, it may take a lifetime of meditation practice. But undertaken with joy, enthusiasm, and certainty of success, it will be done.
In the meantime, remember Who and What you Are in Truth. When you are experiencing unhappiness, ask yourself, Who is unhappy? Make yourself examine the unhappiness thoroughly, its nature and source. If you discover it is related to the body you seem to be inhabiting, ask yourself, Am I this body, and, if not, Why do I accept its unhappiness as mine? Similarly, find out where you got the values and standards that define your current unhappiness. Are they something you have accepted from others - parents, teachers, friends? If so, are you sure you want them?
True happiness is uninterrupted, spontaneous, and effortless acceptance of whatever is happening (including apparent unhappiness). Do not confuse it with exhausted resignation, for this is powerful and joyful. It is active recognition that if God (the One) is All There Is, then whatever there is, is That. It cannot be forced or faked, but, happily, it does seem to come incrementally; that is, as we grow in Self-Awareness, so does our state of happiness.
So, we would urge you to continue confidently on your path, remembering all along that you already are what you seek to be, already know what you seek to understand, and already perfectly express the infinite happiness you seek to experience. Struggling with that paradox alone should distract you nicely from any unhappiness you may stumble over!
To The Zoo Fence: [On TZF’s Editor’s Desktop page, there is a story about a fox that died across the road from us. A good friend of TZF wrote us this about that.] The fox story was very meaningful to me. Last year, I worked with children who were patients in the oncology unit of a pediatric hospital. Many of them were dying, and they knew it, and yet how calm they were about their impending death! It was we adults who were out of control. The experience has me wondering if, when we are children, we are more like the fox, more able to take death in stride, calmly and without fear, and what is it that happens to us in adulthood, that makes us forget all that. Death should be a celebration, surrounded by friends, family, peace, and love, not fear and panic.
Editor’s Comment: Amen.