It is important to realize that renouncing things will not help you. Action will help, but not renunciation. If you know how to do your work skillfully, it will help you to make spiritual progress, but if you renounce something because you are afraid of it, or because you are no good at it, then that renunciation is not helpful. It may even create further trouble for you because you will still remember what you have given up.

You do not have to ignore your duties to become enlightened; you do not need to change your external circumstances. What you really need is to transform your personality. You need to transform yourself, from morning until evening, without disturbing your duties. If you sit down quietly for meditation but ignore your duties, you may actually hurt someone. Students who are not skilled on the path often annoy or hurt others. This is an ego problem. 

So how do you work with yourself without neglecting your duties? You can do this by building your willpower. You should develop 30 goals for 30 days, and pick one goal for each day. Practice this yourself; it is a simple thing. These should be small goals, but things you work on steadily. For example, you may decide that today you are not going to lie. That does not mean that you will redouble your lies tomorrow, but rather, that today your whole thinking process is about this: that you are not going to lie. You never claim that you will be able to speak the total truth, you simply decide that you are not going to consciously lie.

All your actions in life have unconscious results.

When you decide, “I will not lie,” suddenly many occasions will present themselves when you could lie. This happens because you are trying to conquer your nature, the part of your nature that your actions have built unconsciously for a long time. All your actions in life have unconscious results. It is as if you are digging a hole and therefore making a heap of dirt somewhere else. And suddenly, when you stop digging the hole, you discover that you have created both a heap and a hole.

Then the next day you may resolve, “I will not be unkind to anyone,” and as soon as you decide to do that, everything challenging will come to you. The day that you resolve, “I will love everyone and not hate anyone today,” you will find that all your enemies are coming to you. They come via telephone calls or letters—or you may hear someone talking about you. Once, when I was young, this happened to me and I became very upset. Someone had written something nasty to me, and my master noticed and asked me what had happened. He used to tell me I was like mercury, so he called me “Thermometer.” He said, “Thermometer, what has happened?”

I said, “Look at this nasty letter.”

He replied, “Do you want to become more nasty yourself by replying to it in a nasty way? That is not the way to deal with it; read that letter six times, and eventually you will not find anything nasty in it.” And that happened. I read, reread, and reread the letter again. My master told me not to reply to it immediately, so I waited, and then six days later I replied to it calmly.

‘gentleness is not a weakness; it is the greatest strength, for love is the strongest thing that you have’

How kind, tolerant, and gentle are you with others? The more you start to become enlightened, the more gentle you are. Then all things are shown to you, and all things will be known by you through your gentleness. Such gentleness is not a weakness; it is the greatest strength, for love is the strongest thing that you have. Tolerance, kindness, forgiveness, and love—these four make up what we call gentleness. If you are gentle, then you are very strong. 

If you adopt 30 points to work on for 30 days, mark them on your calendar and do not tell anyone what you are doing. Just watch the calendar and see what you have accomplished in 30 days’ time. The point is not whether you have lied or not lied: it is that you have built your willpower. This is the real process of building willpower. After 30 days you will conclude, “Yes, I have done what I wanted to do.” But do not choose big principles that you cannot fulfill—that is destructive. Instead, select little things.

For example, if you decide that for one day you will speak very little—only that which is accurate, purposeful, and non-hurting—you may continue to talk to people, but in setting this goal you will be building your willpower. After you develop willpower, you will have greater self-confidence. And when you have greater self-confidence, you can do anything! 

Further Reading

The Art of Joyful Living

by Swami Rama

In The Art of Joyful Living, Swami Rama imparts a message of inspiration and optimism: that you are responsible for making your life happy and emanating that happiness to others. This book shows you how to maintain a joyful view of life even in difficult times.

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