An article taken from the writings of Swami Sivananda of Rishikesh.
You may perhaps argue that many of the instructions are too rigorous and impossible for following nowadays. “Times have changed a great deal, and the rules too ought to be altered.” But this is a thoughtless comment, for, however difficult of realization an ideal may be, it should not be lowered to suit our convenience. Once the human mind tacitly subscribes to the lowering of any lofty ideal, then the undesirable precedent is set up. The ball is set rolling that will end ultimately in all-round degeneracy. One should rather accept and confess one’s weakness and inefficiency rather than seek to pull down the high goal from its pristine seat.
Spiritual life is a sublime matter, offering an avenue for the gradual growing of the human into the Divine, the finite into the Absolute. As such it is only through retention of the time-honored lofty conception of its nature and duties that the seeker’s aspiration could be kept up at a constant high level. The indomitable spirit of man has on the other hand a strange fascination to strive for the attainment of seemingly unattainable ideals. It is the Everest Peak that the adventurous mountaineer struggles to climb and not some foothill. Peaks are to tower over the plains, or else they were no peaks at all. Man could climb them and yet remain at no appreciably different higher level than before.
Nor can you shorten the stature of the Everest Peak if you do not feel like scaling it, and yet wish to obtain the glory of that enviable achievement. What will they say to this, then? “God is Infinite. Man is a finite creature. The finite can never know the Infinite.” He who advances this kind of argument is not one likely to approach Religion or embrace Spirituality. For the very fundamental conception of the Almighty Being, the Goal of all spiritual struggle, is that He is INFINITE, and therefore quite inconceivable and unattainable by the finite mortal. This alone would be enough reason, then, to make our critical friends turn away from spiritual discipline once for all. Or will they be perhaps wishing to convert the Infinite into a finite entity, to suit the limited ability and capacity of the average homo sapiens?
You cannot amend and alter the conception of Godhead to something conveniently attainable by the limited attempts of an average man. Rather, finite man has, through patient, hard, earnest and prolonged endeavor, to make himself infinite, and thus know the Infinite. Let man expand himself. Thus it rightly is and should be with all ideals, if man’s achievements in any field of life are to be at all great and grand and worth the appellation of “achievement.”
God cannot be altered to suit our aspirations
Ideals will always remain distant and seemingly impossible of full attainment. It is only then that man will be goaded to make exceptional and extraordinary effort to attempt to obtain something at least approaching the lofty ideal. If a man determines to fix a straight path to his destination by the direct guidance of the Northern Star (the Pole Star), and if he faces apparently insurmountable obstacles on the path, will he shift the Star to a direction where the path appears comparatively smoother? How is it reasonable or tenable to opine that the Ideal of true spiritual life be lowered, as it were, to play second fiddle to the altered times? It is not an examination that you lower its lofty standard to as University authorities would scale down the minimum pass-percentage to suit the low level and standard of the average candidate answering the paper in a particular year.
Let the great ideal of real spiritual life remain as lofty as ever! Nay, rocket it even higher up in the firmament of thy inner vision through a greater and more intense aspiration! Then alone, O beloved seeker, then alone will thy triumph be the greater, thy achievement loftier! Thy attainments will vaster be, and grandeur and glory par excellence will fill and overflow thy being!
Glory to the grand, the grandest Ideal!
More from Swami Sivananda:
- Philosophy And Teachings Of Swami Sivananda in Sayings
- Free ebooks from the Divine Life Society by Sivananda and others.
- A great gallery of photos of Sivanandaji at Sivanandaonline.org.