The highlight of my day is sitting in the balcony in the morning hours when the sun shines from in between the surrounding buildings, drinking my hot coffee and smoking a cigarette. Here in the winters of Florence, Italy, my balcony is positioned so that it sees the sun only for 45 minutes in the morning where the sun moves through an opening between two tall buildings. So, if I miss the morning I’ll miss the sun altogether, especially on days that I don’t get to go out.
What is worse is that Florence winter though not as cold as D.C. metropolitan area where I’m from, is mostly cloudy, so it’s a gift to even see the sun once or twice in a period of two or more weeks. On most of these days, I typically like to sleep in past that 45-minute window, but if I know the sun will be out, I’ll definitely get out of bed and get ready for it, for I love more than sleep the experience of being bathed in the sun, especially knowing that it’s a rare occurrence in our winters.
When I first came to Florence I’d check the weather forecast the night before and would put the alarm to wake up on time in case of a sunny next day. But the hard lesson was that many times I slept in believing that it’ll be cloudy as forecasted, but then I’d wake up to a sun that had just passed the last visible spot from my balcony. I resented the often inaccurate weather app. Basically, I’d never really know for sure if the sun would be out or not the next day, and if l loved the experience so much I’d have to be ready for it regardless of the forecast. I’d have to wake up on time to do my shower and meditation so I could catch the sun in my balcony during that 45 precious minutes. I had to be ready for sun whether it showed up or not!
This whole situation revealed to me a greater lesson in life. Primarily I related it to my daily meditation practice. There are times that I’m able to connect with the spiritual energy inside and have a blissful experience, but there are also many times that I sit and go through it dry. And like Florence winters, my heart during the meditation is more overcast than clear. Moreover, how my meditation turns out is quite independent of how I feel before it or what the start looks like. I can’t use my inner sense to predict if I’ll enjoy it. There’s been several times where the idea of meditation felt futile or even repulsive when I sat down for it. It didn’t feel it’d go anywhere, but I’d end up experiencing a transformation and a sudden lifting of the clouds from my heart, and the spiritual sun would shine its blissful rays on me. So, I have to show up and be ready regardless, for I never know when Its grace would fall upon me. And overtime, I’ve seen that the more I show up, the more is the likelihood of getting bathed in that bliss. It’s a matter of simple probability.
And this is true in the more general scope of spiritual life, and life in general. Doing one’s spiritual practice and living according to one’s principles doesn’t always feel right; it doesn’t always bear fruits immediately, and in most cases it may feel like the last thing one needs to do in order to feel better or become lighter. To do so, to show up and do the right thing without expecting particular results is the essence of surrender, surrender to the divine will or what is the wisdom of life.
This insight came to me a few nights after I read a piece about the spiritual wisdom of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Hamlet starts off as an undeveloped character, lacking spiritual direction and trust in Providence. But by the end of the play when he’s ready to take revenge for his murdered father under the right circumstances, a revenge that constitutes in its spiritual meaning a reversal of The Fall, he’s fully developed (whole) in that he’s gathered all his pieces and has come to trust the Providence and the larger wisdom of life. In a line toward the end of the play Hamlet articulates his last and final assimilated wisdom in the phrase “readiness is all.”
“If it be now, ’tis not to come: if it be not to come, it will be now: if it be not now, yet it will come: the readiness is all. The rest is silence.”Act 5, Scene 2
Not an easy task, but we can always start small. For me, I think it’s manageable to bring this surrender to meditation and other elements of spiritual practice, knowing that revelation and bliss don’t always announce themselves beforehand, but by nature they’re bound to manifest to those most ready and willing. If I’m not willing to do the work and go to the necessary length to taste the divine bliss at its source, then my human form will sooner or later try to manufacture a mundane version of this bliss in the world, a sweet-tasting poison that it is.
So, readiness in the spiritual domain corresponds to a disposition of the soul, to its openness and unconditional receptiveness to that which is, so that it may receives in fullness what’s best for its development. Such openness, in the language of Shakespeare, comes from full trust in the Providence, or the greater wisdom of life if you will. A necessary component of this openness is letting go of the fruits of one’s action, to act without regard to the cosmic response to it, for any such expectation imposes conditions on divine grace and hence diminishes its scope and strength. One prescribed practice that’s conducive to the development of this spiritual condition of the soul is karma yoga. Karma yoga is simply selfless service, to give without expecting anything in turn. One can view any sort of giving as an offering to the divinity or life itself. This is the paradox of spiritual life: one gains more by giving more; spiritual perfection is not a matter of addition but of subtraction.
One never knows what one gets. At best we make rough approximations and get hit or miss results. So, it’s best to give one’s best and trust that it’ll maximize the spiritual benefits, and it will, or else no spiritual disciple or tradition would survive the chaotic history of human existence. It’s one of the principal maxims of all spiritual traditions that faith is everything. This doesn’t mean doctrinal faith but rather a heart-felt, experiential faith which doesn’t require adherence to any religion doctrine. Of course, projecting all hopes and trust on a transcendent being makes things easier as it’s in the nature of the mind to want to be anchored in something as absolute and certain as possible. But what one is anchored it need not be anything well-defined or definite; it’s rather the quality of being anchored and the faith behind it which is more important. For example, in response to a woman who says to Christ “you’ve saved me,” Christ says “it’s your own faith that has saved you.” Christ is simply an image, a projection, the locus of our unconditional internal love and grace which is concealed from us but can be projected on a contingent individual. The true Christ is within us; however, it can barely become functional unless it’s projected onto something transcendent to the individual in order to be effective in its saving operations.
Another point with regard to the form of this projection is that its effectiveness is enhanced by the investments in it of more and more members of a particular community. The grace and spiritual effectiveness of an unknown saint, however saintly he/she might be, is less than the effectiveness of a mediocre saint, or even of an image or a fictional character, who has many believers. So, grace and miracle are actually additional dividends that are available to the members of a community (fruits of prayer for example) as a result of the collective faith rather than the power of an individual anchor. What makes Jesus the Christ is Christianity rather than the historical, contingent phenomenon that made up the individual.
The immanent within the individual becomes operative only if it’s envisaged as transcendent to the individual. But the operation of this projection becomes fully effective if the individual is also open to it post projection, that is, when he/she comes to trust it unconditionally, when the soul puts itself in a state of perpetual readiness. So, whether in worldly or spiritual affairs, one moves toward full development if one is always ready regardless of whether one will be picked up or not. Readiness is all.
2 thoughts on “Readiness is All: On The Power of Faith”
Narayana Pranam. I kept remembering you very frequently since you posted last.
We have a small story here.
We have to keep the golden ring (individual jeevatma) ready always shining with regular cleaning so that whenever Paramatma decide to choose to wear it from among the lot.
Your content of keeping ready is very well taken and action will follow in daily life.
Thanks very much for your lovely narrative.
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Thanks for the comment and great story. That’s exactly what I had in mind too. Thank you for sharing it 🙏
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