Keeping Our Glass Clean

Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj
Life is difficult. Many situations upset us, and we wonder how we can remain ethical in the face of these daily challenges. We must choose how to deal with these situations. At each moment we are confronted with choices between right and wrong. For example, we are surrounded by people in our home, at work, and in the community. Whenever there are other people involved, there are bound to be situations where others are doing things with which we disagree. Everyone is trying to live out his or her own life, and sometimes there are clashes between what others want and what we want. Some people may be violent, and others may be untruthful. Some people may be greedy and selfish, while others may try to take advantage of us. As we walk down the pathway of life, we encounter all sorts of people. Walking the spiritual path is like walking on a razor’s edge because we have to navigate through all these difficult situations and still maintain our spiritual values and principles. There are many pitfalls along the way into which one can fall. Although the spiritual path is straight and narrow, if followed it leads directly to self-knowledge and God-realization.
In this connection, there is a story about a good, compassionate man. He was sitting along a riverbank, when he spotted a scorpion being carried away by the rushing waters.
The man had a good and compassionate heart and thought, “That poor scorpion is struggling in the water. If I don’t help him, he will drown.” The man dove into the water towards the scorpion and grabbed hold of the creature to save its life.
While the man held the scorpion safely in his hand, the scorpion stung him. The man yelled out, and as a natural reaction pulled his hand back. It opened and the scorpion fell out of his hand back into the rushing river. As the scorpion was again being swept away, the man forgot his own pain and thought of how the poor scorpion would drown. The man again swam down the river toward the scorpion to save him from drowning. The man reached the scorpion, took hold of him, and tried to carry him to safety along the riverbank. Again, the scorpion stung his hand. As a reaction, the man yelled and pulled back his hand and the scorpion ended up back in the river.
The man called to it, “I just saved your life from drowning twice. Why do you keep stinging me?”
The scorpion said, “I stung you because that is what scorpions do.” The man was in pain and felt bad that he was stung, but still felt sorry for the scorpion’s plight and wanted to save him again.
The scorpion called back to the man, “If you know I will keep stinging you, why do you keep trying to save me?”
The man replied to the scorpion, “Because I am a good person who feels compassion for others and have forgiven you, and that is what good people do!”
For those on the spiritual path, this story has a strong message. Some people are still slaves to their passions. They do not try to improve themselves by developing ethical virtues. They may hurt others or be untruthful, egotistical, or selfish. They have not yet realized the value of ethicalliving and of purifying themselves to take steps back to God. Until they tread the spiritual path they remain unaware of the consequences of leading an unethical life. Every day we encounter such people. Without a reason to change their ways, they keep doing things that are harmful to themselves and to others.
On the other hand, we who are walking on the spiritual path are trying to perfect our ethical way of living. We are trying to be nonviolent, truthful, pure, humble, and selfless. Our challenge is to act virtuously even in the face of people who sting us like scorpions. We need to be like the good man in the story who continued to do good no matter how he was treated. This story is a reminder that no matter how badly other people may act, we can choose to remain good.
It is difficult to remain nonviolent in the face of violence. It is difficult to remain truthful in the face of untruth. It is difficult to remain humble in the face of ego. It is difficult to remain selfless in the face of selfishness. It is difficult to remain pure in the face of impurity. Each day we are faced with challenges. We want to be vegetarian and avoid drugs and alcohol, but non-vegetarian food, drugs, and alcohol saturate modern society. We want to meditate, but there are numerous interruptions and distractions to keep us from meditating. The challenge on the spiritual path is to choose what is good in the face of choices that are bad for us.
We need to be like a tree that can grow strong in the soil despite the elements around it. When a young tree is planted, a small fence or wooden stakes are planted around it to keep it safe from animals or winds that can knock it down. We need a small fence around ourselves so our budding spiritual growth can flourish. In this way, it will not be knocked down by winds that keep us from our goal. Within that fence, we need to be nourished by the nutrients of meditation and ethical living. We should stay focused on these activities so no outside elements can deter us from growing spiritually. Thus, we can remain safe from falling prey to negative characteristics. If people try to knock us down from being nonviolent, truthful, pure, humble, and selfless, or try to distract us from our meditations, we should remain firm. No matter how many times others sting us, as the scorpion did in the story, we should continue to be the good, compassionate people we are. Just as the man forgave the scorpion and continued to be a good man, we should continue to maintain our ethical values in spite of what happens to us.
God sees everything that we and others do. All is recorded in our karmic accounts. Why should we delay our own progress and add to our own karma through our thoughts, words, and deeds because of what others have done? No matter what happens, we should not give up our goodness.