We Have No Control
I thought I had self-control,
so I regretted times I didn’t.
With that considering over, the one thing I know
is I don’t know who I am.
Rumi, Unseen Rain: Quatrains of Rumi, John Moyne and Coleman Barks
These four lines imply that we think we know who we are: we think we can control ourselves, make choices, and determine the direction of our lives. And when we continually fail at making the right choices, we may feel guilty, inadequate, and perhaps even stupid. But as Rumi tells us: the reality is we have no control at all. Rumi is saying, now that he has come to that realization, he has begun to seek the truth of who he truly is. And with these words, he invites us to do the same.
The questions we may need to answer for ourselves are: If I am not in control of my life, then, who or what is? And if someone or something else is in control, who am I, and what is my role in my life?
The who or what that may be in control of our lives is, of course, the Lord. But who is this Lord, and what is our relationship with him? Do we think of him as a separate entity from us, sitting far away, perhaps in heaven, pulling the strings of our lives and watching how we react? The Masters say we are not separate from the Lord; we are part of him.
Maharaj Sawan Singh says in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. IV:
Ignorant persons think that God lives beyond the skies or beneath the depth of the oceans. Great souls realize him in their hearts, and perfect saints see him everywhere, both within and without. Saints and holy men say that he pervades the entire universe and that the universe is in him.
So here the Great Master is differentiating among different categories of people: ignorant persons who do not realize who and where God is and great souls who experience God’s love within themselves. Great Master continues:
This universe is his [God’s] body in which he dwells. He pervades every atom in the same way as the soul pervades every pore of the body and is enabling it to function.
In other words, this whole creation is God’s body. There is nothing that is not God – not filled with God, not encompassed by him. Maharaj Charan Singh supports this point in Light on Saint John:
This means that everything was created by him. Nothing was created except by him; none else was there to make anything. The Lord is everywhere and we live and breathe in him. God has created the universe and everything in it through his own Word, Shabd, Nam, Holy Ghost or whatever name we may give to this power, which is all love. There is nothing in existence that was not created by this Word of God and that is not sustained by it.
This makes it clear. God is everywhere. He is in the creation; he is the creation; we are part of him. Maharaj Sawan Singh continues:
We are particles of the Lord. The relationship between us and the Lord is that of a part to the whole. There is no distinction between the ocean and its waves. There is no difference between the sun and its rays. The Lord is never unmindful of us even for a moment. He is always looking after us. We have never been separated from him. He is always with us and always pervades our entire being.
This is no impersonal God sitting on a cloud watching his creation in a disinterested manner as humans try to get his attention through prayers, penances, and offerings. On the contrary, the Lord is in us and we are in him; we just don’t realize it. The Master has said that the only difference between the Master and the disciple is the degree of realization: the Master has seen with his own inner eyes that we are truly Shabd; if we haven’t had that experience yet, we don’t realize that truth. The Lord is taking care of us every second of our lives. There is nothing in our lives that he is ignorant of. There is nothing in our lives that he is not intimately involved in. God is Shabd; he is the power that created and sustains the universe. He is in every particle of the universe and within us. There is no separation.
It is the veil of mind and maya or illusion that stops us from realizing the oneness of the soul and the Lord. Our mind is caught in the illusion of this creation. We think our life is real, but it is actually just a play generated by the Lord so that we can balance our karmas. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Discourses, Vol. II, “This world is a vast stage, and according to our karmas, each of us is playing our role.” Nothing in our lives is real. It is all an illusion generated by the Lord. The Lord is the puppeteer pulling our strings. We have no control, and yet every day it seems we are faced with choices to make. Can we choose? Can we make a mistake?
In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, a questioner asked Maharaj Charan Singh:
When we have a choice of two ways to go in our life – let’s say we have to live in one place and all of a sudden there’s a chance we can live somewhere else – we sometimes experience a turmoil. You’re not sure which way to go, whether you want to go – to move to the other place – or stay where you are. Yet you always tell us not to worry. It seems like in order not to worry about that, we should just surrender that problem, but how do we do that?
Maharaj Ji answered:
Brother, instead of worrying about the situation, one should try to do one’s best. With your best available intellect or reasoning or thinking or intuition – whatever you may have – do your best, then leave it to the Lord. Still you can be wrong, but then, you see, you have no other option. What else can you do? You have done your best. Then leave it to the Lord.
Leave it to the Lord; surrender the problem to him. Make the best decision by using our best discrimination; then take action and leave the results in the Lord’s hands. What else can we do? Maharaj Ji continued by saying something that makes our helplessness totally clear.
If he [the Lord] doesn’t want us to do the right thing, we will never do the right thing. If he wants us to do that right thing, he will also give us that understanding to do the right thing. If he doesn’t want us to do the right thing, he will not give us that understanding to do the right thing. And it doesn’t mean that if you know the right thing, you will definitely be able to do the right thing. Sometimes we know the right thing, but we never are able to do the right thing because we become a victim of certain weaknesses. Even knowing what is right, we can’t do the right thing. Or sometimes we don’t get that understanding to do the right thing.
So our doing the right thing depends on the Lord’s will. We are not in control of the kind of choices that we make – good or bad.
Maharaj Ji ended with:
Things happen in whatever way it suits him, however he wants them to happen. So if he wants us to behave in that way, he will give us the right understanding to behave in that way. If he wants to keep us in the dark, we will remain in the dark.
Here we have the facts. The Lord is in complete control of our lives. If he so wishes, he will give us the understanding to make right decisions; and if he doesn’t want us to have that understanding, he won’t give it to us. So, if in our estimation we feel that we are inadequate when we keep making “mistakes”, we are not, because there are no mistakes. Everything is in the Lord’s hands; everything is according to his will.
The question is: how do we make choices? We don’t know what the Lord wants us to do, we don’t know if our understanding of the situation is right or wrong, but we still have to make decisions. As the saints tell us, we use our knowledge of the world; we analyze the situation as best we can; we do our meditation and try to calm our minds so we can think clearly; and then we take action, leaving the results in the Lord’s hands. The saints have given us the teachings, the vows, which will enhance our faculty of discrimination and guide us to do the right thing. Do it and don’t worry about the result.
The events of our life are our destiny. Destiny is a path that is decided before we are born. It’s like the script of a play. When the actors perform the play, the words they speak, the actions they perform were written months or even years before. Nothing ‘new’ happens in the performance of the play.
Now that we have acknowledged that we are not in control and that the Lord is managing every aspect of our lives, we can stop worrying and put all of our efforts into what Rumi implied was our goal in life: learning who we are through personal inner experience, through self-realization and God-realization – through our meditation.