The Blessings of Disaster
Universal experience shows that misfortune brings a sensitive person to his knees. He thinks that this is God’s answer to his sins and that he must do better from now on. His sins have made him hopelessly weak, and in his weakness he calls out to God for help. Thus millions of human beings have used their personal misfortunes for self-cultivation. Whole nations have also been known to invoke the help of God when they were beset by calamities. They humbled themselves before God and appointed days of repentance, prayer and purification.
Freedom of choice
By nature, man has reason, discernment, and free will. The Beast doesn’t have that. He has no free will and does not understand the difference between virtue and vice, between good and evil. Having the ability to act according to his free will, man understands the difference between these things, and when he follows his higher nature, he shows himself to be many times more superior than the beast, but when he follows his lower nature, he can show himself as inferior.
However, our free will is less than that of a passenger standing on a crowded deck. A person is the creator of his own destiny, as far as he has freedom of choice, and how he uses this freedom. But he cannot influence the results. As soon as he imagines that he can, he experiences suffering.
It is man’s special privilege and pride that he is endowed with both head and heart, that he is a thinking and feeling being… Reason in man quickens and guides feeling. The soul sleeps in the beast. To awaken the heart is to awaken the sleeping soul, to awaken the mind is to introduce the ability to distinguish between good and evil.
Man’s primary duty
It is the duty of every human being to look carefully at himself, to see what he is and spare no effort to improve his body, mind and soul. He must realize the harm done by injustice, malice, vanity, and the like, and do all in his power to fight against them.
The state in which one finds oneself is that of trial. During this period he is under the influence of both evil and good forces. He is constantly a victim of temptation. He must prove his manhood by resisting and fighting them. He is not a warrior, who in the outer world fights enemies created by his imagination, and is powerless to lift a little finger against the countless enemies within, or, worse, is apt to mistake them for friends. One is not obliged to develop all one’s faculties to perfection. He is obliged to develop to perfection every godlike talent of his and to completely suppress those who are bearers of contrary tendencies.
In man, even though he himself is imperfect, there is an incessant striving for perfection. Pursuing this quest, he falls into a reverie. And just as a child tries to stand upright, falls again and again, and finally learns to walk, so man with all his mind is just a youngster in comparison with the infinite and eternal God.
The target keeps moving away. The more we progress, the more we realize that we are unworthy. Satisfaction comes from the effort, not the achievement. Experience with full commitment means total victory.
The Way to God. Selected Quotations of Mahatma Gandhi