Focus on the aim
This is a small tale from the Mahabharat, an epic and a great scripture.
The Guru Dronacharya gave weapons training to the princes of Hastinapur. He taught them how to use the bow and the arrows. Along with the princes, Guru Dronacharya’s son Ashwatthama also studied. Ashwatthama was jealous as he felt that his father was partial to the Prince Arjun. So one day he asked his father why he thought that only Arjun was fit for the highest teaching. Guru Dronacharya told Ashwatthama that he would prove Arjun’s calibre.
One day Guru Dronacharya set up a test for the numerous princes. Guru Dronacharya asked them “Look there what do you see”? One student said “I see you, all the students, the field and the trees”, another said “I see the trees and their branches with many leaves and a bird on the tree. A third said “I see a tree with a bird on it”. And so on and so forth. When Guru Dronacharya asked Ashwatthama he said “I see you and the tree and the bird on it”. Finally Guru Dronacharya asked his favourite student “Arjun, What do you see?” Arjun said “Guruji, I see only the eye”. Arjun was referring to the eye of the bird that was kept on the tree for target practice. So Guru Dronacharya said “Shoot” and promptly Arjun shot the target bird in the eye and brought it down.
That is focus.
If any spiritual practitioner has to observe all the nonsense that happens around him while doing a practice then he would never finish even one single practice. If one had to observe all the activities that go on in an ashram, one could very well forget the purpose of living there.
If I had to listen to who was saying what, or care for my comfort, or disobey the Guru or let others misguide me or get involved in other activities, or be scared of animals, or of poisonous snakes, or be distracted by imaginary fears, or follow imaginary dreams or forget my prayers then I would have never ever gotten one anushthan (spiritual practice of 41 days usually done in the forest) completed.One has to decide one's aim, and then go for it with complete determination, total dedication and focus on the goal alone. Only then does a sadhak (spiritual practitioner) complete one's sadhana (spiritual practice).
Strive to be focussed.
A sadhak or spiritual practitioner has to be extremely focussed on his goal. A lot of spiritual people spend their time in empty talk, seemingly spiritual, garbed in make believe spirituality. None of this leads to spiritual development. Many people will say “We can’t sit for more than an hour in a day” or “Our mind doesn’t stay on the prayers, we have so many other problems” or “We do not have the time”. To such people what can the Guru say? They have all the time in the world for spiritual practice but their minds are so undisciplined that they cannot get themselves to do what they need to do. They simply lack focus. Such minds are not ready for spiritual work.
The process of doing one’s spiritual practice has to be even more focussed and disciplined than the effort needed to earn one’s living. Spirituality demands very serious commitment if one wishes to be Enlightened or Liberated.
One must be able to practice like the movements of the clock or the rising and setting of the Sun. Continuously day after day, month after month, year after year, decade after decade, and that is the only way.
When you aim, aim for the highest- for enlightenment, for liberation. One must work so hard that he is liberated, that one leaves this cycle of repeated births and deaths, and that one is never born again.
It is not just lack of focus that leads to destruction of one’s effort but there are two other very important points. One is lack of respect for the Guru or teacher. There is a popular saying in India that spiritual masters have their feet on the earth but their heads are in the heaven, meaning that they may seem ordinary but they have very high consciousness.
The other point concerns the ego of the Sadhak or the student. This is actually the main obstacle to spiritual growth. One of the key ways in which the ego acts is when the aspirant starts to feel that he is spiritually very advanced. There is a saying “It takes a lot to know how little you know”. This is some ways sums up the position of the aspirant. One must respect the spiritual practice or the mantra that is given by the Guru. Overconfidence leads to many problems. Each spiritual practice has an effect, once the aspirant has received the practice from the Guru, one must practice as instructed. Once the practice starts taking effect there is a reaction within the mind. The practice attempts to remove dirt from the person’s mind. If the practice is overdone it will give a sharper reaction therefore the guidance of the Guru is essential. If the practice does not have any effect or has a poor effect then what is the point of doing it? So one must stick to the instructions of repetition of the mantra and to any other instructions that were given.
As with all other things in the world not everyone who does a practice may understand the practice or the system, therefore if in doubt ask the Guru. Do not let others undermine your confidence or misguide you.
In all traditions of the world it is said that god is pure. That means that to let the power of god or for god to live in you, one must become pure. To become pure is a very long and continuous process. One cannot expect to achieve it in a short period. It can take many years, for some, it may even be more than one lifetime. Therefore maintain your focus at all times.