Last week I ‘accidentally’ came across an article about the Hindu mystic Swami Ganapati Saraswati, also known as Trailanga Swami, who reportedly lived from 1607 to 1887 (no, that’s no typo; he is thought to have lived for no less than 280 years, although such a claim can hardly be verified of course). The famous mystic Ramakrishna met him and called him ‘the walking Shiva of Varanasi’. What particularly struck me is that Trailanga had taken the vow of non-seeking (ayachaka); that is, being content with whatever the circumstances bring. There’s two ingredients to that: (a) having no material desires whatsoever; and (b) having no investment in the outcome of any situation. That’s quite something if you think about it. What would such a mindset mean for how you experience the quality of your life?
It’s reminiscent of the well-known parable of the Chinese farmer who had learned not to judge any situation at all. When his son broke his leg at work, people lamented the ill fortune of the farmer. The latter, however, merely shrugged his shoulders and said: “Maybe.” When a week later the government recruited young men for the state army in the wake of war, the son obviously didn’t qualify. This time, people pointed out the good fortune of the farmer. Again, the farmer shrugged his shoulders and said: “Maybe.” The point of the parable is that you can save yourself a lot of perceived suffering if you don’t judge events according to your own personal agenda, but are willing to accept everything exactly as it comes.
There are many parallels in A Course in Miracles as well. Most students are well familiar with Course concepts such as “I need do nothing” (T-18.VII); “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” (T-29.VII.1:9), and, above all, “I do not know what anything is for” (W-pI.25), since “I do not perceive my own best interests” (W-pI.24). The Course points out to us that since we are convinced we have personal interests that differ from other interests, we constantly engage in making plans and setting goals, in order to manipulate the flow of time in such a way that it will bring us good fortune. Every event and situation that confront us we immediately judge as “good” or “bad”. Moreover, within a split-second we have set up various scenarios in which we think we can influence the wheel of fortune.
It’s no wonder that Course scholar Kenneth Wapnick remarked in his workshops that “in a sense, we are all control freaks in this world”. The ego is needy by definition, and since we all still intimately identify with the ego, we cannot help seeking and seeking for safety and happiness, which of course we never find, because this world was made to be a place where true Love (a synonym for God) could enter not (W-pII.3.2:4). And yet we stubbornly keep trying to plan and control the flow of events, even though inside we know that things will always turn out differently. How could it be otherwise, if you consider our very limited sphere of influence?
In the Manual for teachers, we read the following sobering reasoning: “In order to judge anything rightly, one would have to be fully aware of an inconceivably wide range of things; past, present, and to come. One would have to recognize in advance all the effects of his judgments on everyone and everything involved in them in any way. And one would have to be certain there is no distortion in his perception […]. Who is in a position to do this? Who except in grandiose fantasies would claim this for himself? Remember how many times you thought you knew all the “facts” you needed for judgment, and how wrong you were! Is there anyone who has not had this experience? […] Why would you choose such an arbitrary basis for decision making?” (M-10.3:3-4:4).
Jesus’ point is not that we should never make plans. The point is that we should consider which teacher (or guide) we choose to make plans with. As all Course students know, there are only two guides: from moment to moment, we either choose to be guided by the ego or by the Holy Spirit. The former guide will make me feel personally important but will always lead to misery because of its core concept of separation and attack. The latter will guide me to the experience of lasting inner peace, because His core concept is of Oneness and Love. That’s why the same section 10 in the Manual proceeds to conclude: “Wisdom is not judgment; it is the relinquishment of judgment.” (M-10.4:5).
So, returning to Trailanga Swami, who had taken the vow of non-seeking: what if I relinquished all judgment, happily accepting every situation as it comes, solely following the impulses of love that originate from the Voice for Love, the higher Self? We all have two voices inside us that answer that question. The intuitive voice that for most of us resides in the hara area of the lower belly lets out a sigh of relief: “Wow. That would mean the end of all stress and turmoil in my life.” The other voice, however, which usually resides in the area of the head, answers quite differently, immersed in anger or outright panic: “What!? That’s idiocy! You’d lose your income, your job, your house, your spouse, everything! You’ll be a bum, an outcast, the lowest of the low in the world. Achieving happiness requires action! Stop dreaming and get back to work!”
We’ve all been brought up with the belief that ‘success in life’ requires hard work, diligent planning and perseverance. The message of A Course in Miracles is not that we should not be active, but that happiness depends on which guide we choose to guide our thoughts and actions. On a personal note, for about six or seven years now I’ve actively tried to choose to prefer the intuitive voice in the lower belly. Firstly, I practice in relinquishing my judgment about how my plans should turn out; secondly, I increasingly try not to plan on my own, but to ask the Holy Spirit what to think, say, and do. To be sure, this doesn’t always feel very comfortable (to the ego) and I still catch myself many times thinking or doing things out of a perceived “personal interest”. But I also notice that, all in all, my life seems to flow much easier than it used to. Overall, I feel healthy and lighthearted, and I experience no lack whatsoever in any aspect of my life. Maybe, just perhaps, this Course works after all…
Again in the Manual for teachers, Jesus comments on this point in section 4, about all situations wherein “[…] the teacher of God feels called upon to sacrifice his own best interests on behalf of truth [which is what happens in the practice described above]. He has not realized as yet how wholly impossible such a demand would be. He can learn this only as he actually does give up the valueless [i.e., ‘personal’ interests]. Through this, he learns that where he anticipated grief, he finds a happy lightheartedness instead; where he thought something was asked of him, he finds a gift [i.e., inner peace] bestowed on him.” (M-4.I-A.5:5-8). The message of A Course in Miracles is simple indeed: “Do you prefer that you be right or happy? Be you glad that you are told where happiness abides, and seek no longer elsewhere. You will fail. But it is given you to know the truth.” (T-29.VII.1:9-11).
So why not try Trailanga Swami’s vow of ‘non-seeking’? Your daily practice of letting go of judgment in the view of your ‘personal interests’ will inevitably usher in the experience of inner peace and lightheartedness, no matter how many times you may stumble each day, no matter how hard the ego shrieks that your life will fall apart. One final point though: Jesus’ message may be simple, but it is certainly not easy. A major pitfall that Kenneth Wapnick often pointed out is that of blissninnyhood, as in: “Ah, okay. All I have to do is focus on Love and everything will be alright. Therefore I will teach only love and deny the ego, which, after all, is the denial of truth. Hooray!” This will not work because the underlying ontological guilt isn’t being undone. We should always remember Jesus’ clarion call: “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all of the barriers within yourself that you have built against it. It is not necessary to seek for what is true, but it is necessary to seek for what is false” (T-16.IV.6:1-2). So seek out all the dark spots in your own unforgiving mind, and then choose the Holy Spirit to teach you how to happily let it all go.
See also my “Miracles or Murder: a guide to concepts of A Course in Miracles“. This guidebook, endorsed by Gary and Cindy Renard, was published in March 2016 by Outskirts Press and is available at Amazon.com:
See also my Feb. 2019 Course workshop at www.youtube.com called “Farewell to your self, to find your true Self”. (English captions/subtitles available)
Dutch visitors may also be interested in this Dutch page: ikzoekvrede.nl.