Everyone who is sane wants to make progress on the path of self-realization. Unfortunately, we live in a time when inferior influences and people prevail. Even a great personality who acts now will be undermined by the time. However, there is no need to resist this situation; indeed, it’s natural that inferior elements periodically come to the fore. Adversity often stimulates our spiritual growth; the attitude and intention with which we meet it make all the difference.
When challenging situations arise, we are often overwhelmed with anxiety, doubt and fear. We fear we will be ruined if we do not act immediately and vigorously. We doubt whether we possess sufficient mastery to resolve the situation favorably with the inner creative power of becoming. If we act on those inferior feelings, we split apart from the spiritual path, our devotion to the creative power of higher consciousness, and the wisdom of patient nonaction in the face of difficulty. If we insist on following the course of action now, we unnecessarily increase our own misfortune by preventing fulfillment of the creative process.
The ancient guides gave the image of the sage as “mountain over earth.” By keeping as still and quiet as a mountain, by resting firmly on a foundation of proper principles, accepting the nature of the time and not resisting it, you can weather any storm. By trusting in nonaction, acceptance and patience, you gain the strength of the earth itself.
Within us are both superior wisdom and inferior foolishness. We have to choose between them every moment. Remain devoted to the superior wisdom of integrity and conscience. Although others may oppose you, no harm results because by refusing to take action you have disconnected from the karma of this negative time.
It can be difficult in times like this to see the wisdom of internal detachment and external inaction. We want immediate results, but the actual solution is in patient cultivation of wisdom. One person mature in internal cultivation can facilitate a great change, like a vast school of fish instantly reversing its direction, through acceptance and self-correction. The secret of this influence is gradual progress in internal cultivation.
Those who persevere in the principles of wisdom make continuous progress, like a tree growing high on a mountain. If the tree grows too fast without first properly rooting itself, it becomes exposed to being torn up and destroyed by the winds. However, if it establishes a strong foundation and is content to grow gradually, it will enjoy long life and a lofty view. Its growth and establishment are not visible day-to-day, but over time it achieves majestic size.
Human beings are similar. We often desire rapid progress—we want to change someone’s mind today, obtain an apology now, achieve our goals immediately. But sooner or later we must understand that the only lasting progress is gradual progress; otherwise going against the nature of the time wears us out. It’s best to accept that as the Buddha was fond of saying, yathā bhūtām, “That’s just the way it is,” and manage your thoughts, attitudes and actions accordingly.
When we allow ourselves to be pulled off balance by some event or another person, the ego tries to influence the situation through forceful behavior. But actions of the ego inevitably complicate our difficulties. A foolish man may try to escape his problems by drunkenness, but the next morning the same problems remain—plus a hangover.
The greatest possible influence always comes through patient and steady refinement of one’s inner self. If you devote yourself to the path of the sage, every step along that path—no matter how small—strengthens you, and progress comes automatically in time. It will be gradual, but it will last.