Many years ago, one of my friends, who worked in the United Nations, approached Guru with a personal problem. He wrote to Guru, explaining that his job was stressful, he was tired of his Centre activities like coordinating the maintenance and security of Aspiration-Ground and other sites, and that he was just generally tired and "burnt out". He was wondering if he could just have a little rest from his duties. Guru responded to him, through his secretary, saying, "Tell him that he has to go through all the torture. The Christian saints became saints by having Christ's suffering. I am his Jesus Christ. Doesn't he know how much suffering I have?"
Sri Chinmoy of course was being metaphorical here when he talks about "torture"! He's just pointing out that often we look for shortcuts in our spiritual journey when there are no shortcuts. The road is right in front of us, and no matter how difficult or arduous the journey may be, we have to take it if we value the goal. In the ordinary life there is no goal, so we can coast.
I like this poem from the sixteenth volume of Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees:
If you find your road
Is strewn with thorns,
That does not mean
That God cares for you
At the same time Guru would not have insisted that this person continue with his work and service activities if he saw that he was really exhausted. On two separate occasions, Guru asked me to discontinue certain Centre-related service projects when he saw that I was becoming overburdened and unhappy. He knew our capacities and needs and offered his advice accordingly. In general his philosophy was the brave and wholehearted acceptance of life.
A few years later, my friend was vacationing with the Master and a group of other disciples in Thailand. He got in an argument with another disciple about some trivial matter. He felt very badly mistreated by this person. That night, the Master saw my friend in the Prasad line and, seeing his sad expression, asked him what the problem was. He told Guru in a nutshell that he had been in a bad argument with somebody and that he felt hurt and insulted.
Guru leaned back and said, "To change one's nature is the most difficult task on earth. The more you can forgive the wrongdoers, the faster you can help them to transform their nature. The more you can forgive, the faster you can become another Lord Buddha."
I remember in late 2000 (I think!) Guru was reading out the names of the great Indian Avatars and also summarized the quintessence of their philosophy. When he came to the Lord Buddha, he said, "The philosophy of the Buddha was compassion and forgiveness."
I am reminded of another wonderful Seventy-Seven Thousand Service-Trees aphorism:
The age-old discovery
Forgiveness, forgiveness, forgiveness
Is the only way
To real happiness.
I am grateful to my UN friend, accomplished musician and fellow Verdi-lover for these inspiring messages!