A Strong Desire

[Listen to Asha read this story]

For many months, a woman tried to resist a desire that Swamiji had encouraged her to overcome. Finally she said to him, “I have to be honest with you, Sir, I have not been following your advice. The desire is too strong. I am not proud of my failure, but I don’t want to hide it from you, either.” She expected that Swamiji would exhort her to try harder.

Instead, to her surprise, he said simply, “So much for theory, now let’s deal with reality.” He went on to suggest she follow the very desire he had warned her against, but to maintain while doing so an attitude of non-attachment. Giving in to the desire meant making a major change in her way of life.

Later, on the eve of the change, she asked him, “Is what I am about to do a good or a bad thing for me spiritually?”

“In itself, it is neither good nor bad,” Swamiji answered. “It is merely a thing. How it turns out for you depends on how you relate to it, whether with pride and ego, or with humility and devotion.”

Swamiji is a practical man. He had hoped she could overcome the karma without living through it. But when that proved impossible, he didn’t insist on a level of perfection she couldn’t meet. That would have made her feel like a spiritual failure, which would have been far worse for her in the long run than following the desire itself.

Swamiji’s initial reluctance, however, alerted her to the pitfalls. Because he was willing to adjust his expectations to meet her reality, she remained open to him. With his continuing support, she was able to work with the karma and was not derailed by it, but remained strong on the spiritual path.

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