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Heart Conversations

Topic for May 15: To Struggle on the Spiritual Path

From the time of Shiva and then onto Krsna, life has involved struggle and it is one of choices of participating in thoughts words and actions of positive intention or negative intention. Shiva Nataraja, a prominent figure in the Hindu tradition, is shown holding fire as a symbol of knowledge and discernment in one hand and a serpent as a symbol of fear and superstition in the other. He is standing on one foot caught midway in the dance of jumping between good and evil, thus symbolizing the struggle of humans who are constantly caught in the action to overcome fear and superstition with knowledge, the choice to do good or surrendering to negative impulses.

So, the most ancient roots of spiritual practice speak of engaging struggle, embracing struggle as integral to the spiritual path.

In the story of the enlightenment of Buddha, all was not so peaceful under the Bhodi tree. Gautama had to struggle with the mighty demon Mara who challenged him with temptations and fears and Gautama had to overcome the challenges presented by Mara in order to attain enlightenment.

In the story of Christ, although he preached peace, harmony and forgiveness, he had to struggle against many adversities and suffered greatly for his audacity in speaking truth to those in power.

In the contemporary Buddhist life, both the Dalai Lama and Thich Nhat Hanh had to face great struggles and adversities in their lives to reach their current states of peace and equipoise.

What do the allegories and life stories of Shiva, Krisna, Christ, the Dalai Lama and Thich Nat Han teach and inform us about facing our personal and planetary struggles today? As people on spiritual paths we may follow many paths to the same goal, but most of us face much struggle in our daily lives either inner struggle, outer struggle or both. How can we integrate and embrace our worldly struggles to move us forward towards our goal of enlightenment? How can we face and overcome our inner demons as did Buddha so that we may also enjoy the radiant bliss of enlightenment?