Spirituality & Mental Health: Part II
How the Satsang Diksha Explains Mental Resilience
Click HERE to read Part 1 of the series.
Courage in Adversary
All of us have faced troubling times in our life. These tough times have taught us a lot when we go back and reflect on these experiences. But while we face adversity, our clarity becomes tinted with emotion and a lapse in judgment. What thoughts should we keep when we find ourselves in the face of adversity?
Previously, we looked at how His Holiness MahantSwami Maharaj, the author of the Satsang Diksha scripture, wrote about violence and attributing suicide as a form of violence to deter such behavior for the sake of one’s life and relationships.
In this section, we will look at the next set of verses that Mahant Swami Maharaj wrote to help one through adversity and turbulent times. These thoughts are not to give specific advice for specific scenarios, rather general thoughts to build a strong mindset before, during, and after difficult times.
Locus of Control
During such times, it’s easy to blame external forces in contributing to our adversity. Within one’s religious or spiritual practice, it is often seen that those who may be religious blame a higher entity for bad times. A perspective that the higher entity is responsible for all the miseries in life.
However, during such adversity, Mahant Swami Maharaj gives a unique perspective of how the role of God in one’s life does not have a negative influence, rather a positive influence.
God is the all-doer, compassionate, and the protector of all; at all times, he alone is the resolver of all my adversities. (44)
Whatever Bhagwan does is always beneficial. His wish alone is my destiny/fate. He alone is my liberator. (45)
In order to fully understand the foundation of these two thoughts to keep during distress, we must look at the idea of locus of control from a theological perspective.
Spirituality and religion have a unique balance of the psychological concept of locus of control. Locus on control is the strength of either how to control you are of your situation or how the external environment controls your situation. To explain how the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan (the philosophical school of the BAPS Swaminarayan tradition) views this balance, Sadhu Paramtattvadas articulates it nicely in his book,
“…While the fruits of the jīvas’ karmas are dispensed by God as an expression of his pleasure and displeasure, it is strictly according to the karmas freely accrued by the jīvas themselves.”
[Paramtattvadas, Swami. An Introduction to Swaminarayan Hindu Theology (Introduction to Religion) (p. 232). Cambridge University Press. Kindle Edition.]
Within the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan, there is a balance of external locus of control — where God is the all-doer and the giver of the fruits of one’s actions — and internal locus of control — the ability to act freely or not on one’s thoughts.
Many psychologists would argue that a high external locus of control, such as the ones described in the two verses, in the beginning, leads to a flawed reality or makes one feel debilitated by their circumstances. But the Satsang Diksha explains that this is not a bad thought to have.
In the first verse (45), like many verses that we will see after, an external locus of control can help alleviate negative thoughts that may cause one to commit an improper action out of one’s mental state or emotional state. By understanding that God is compassionate and protector, it provides a safety net in times of mental turbulence.
Think about parents. There are many parents who are very overprotective. However, parents will always throw their child into some adversity in childhood to develop mental and emotional strength, such as challenging them academically, trying a new sport/activity, or even losing them at the mall “accidentally.” (Of course, too much challenge is a bad thing.) Having a bit of adversity may be hard for a child at the moment, but the child comes out of it with more resilience and a deeper appreciation for their parents. Similarly, God is compassionate and the protector of all, and hence, some adversity is bound to happen to a devotee of God. But that is for a good reason, which we may not realize at the moment.
The thought in the following verse (46), gives spiritual strength and reassurance to oneself. It is the belief that God ultimately is the dispenser of fruits and I have no control over that. Hence whatever situations are thrown at me, I am positive that God will have my back. It is not blind faith, but faith developed through knowledge that helps one belief in this verse.
If one board an airplane, they have faith that the oxygen masks will fall if the airplane was to be in danger. They would have faith in the cabin crew knowing they know the action plan. They have faith in the pilot to try and safely land the plane. Similarly, having the correct spiritual knowledge leads to the understanding that God will do what is best for me, even if I may not fully know it in the present.
Verses 46–47 give a view into the external locus of control during troubling times. But like I mentioned earlier, what thoughts increase one’s internal locus of control to give clarity and courage?
Positivity in One’s Progress
This is where the internal locus of control plays a role. Instead of accusing a person saying, for example, “You put yourself into that situation… you are just emotional..,” Mahant Swami Maharaj writes the positive aspect of internal locus of control.
Yes, one may have made a mistake in the past that may have lead to the adversity, however, Mahant Swami Maharaj took a different perspective by writing…
My hindrances, sins, flaws, and bad qualities will certainly be destroyed. I will surely attain peace, supreme bliss, and happiness. (46)
This is because I have attained the manifest form of Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj. With his strength, I will surely overcome misery. (47)
When we are faced with misery, we blame ourselves for being in the situation. We take the burden upon ourselves and feel as if we are no good. But Mahant Swami Maharaj takes these next two verses to explain the power of the internal locus of control.
Even if we have every flaw in the world, we should be positive in the fact that we have a chance to overcome those flaws to gain long-term or even permanent happiness (46). It’s the opportunity to look forward and to become stronger in one’s mindset to overcome the hurdle and come out on the other side learning more about who you are. It gives you the opportunity to gain courage and resilience.
This leads to the next verse (47) on deriving from the idea of gratitude. Being grateful for attaining supreme God, being Purushottam, and the bridge to realizing Purushottam, being Akshar. For adherents to the Akshar-Purushottam Darshan, this thought gives the realization of how fortunate one is to have realized them in this very birth, a thought commonly referred to as prapti.
The final sentence of the verse (47) brings both elements of internal and external locus of control into a single, concise reflection.
With [Akshar-Purushottam Maharaj’s] strength, I will surely overcome misery. (47)
Using the knowledge that God is compassionate, all-doer, protector, and liberator as a means to developing self-confidence, courage, and resilience to power through adversary.
Refuge = Courage
This leads to the last verse of this section on hardships, being…
With the strength of such thoughts, a devotee who has taken refuge never loses courage and remains joyous due to the strength of Bhagwan. (48)
We think that refuge is something to provide us with safety, physically or mentally, during danger. However, a refuge in the spiritual sense is giving up one’s lack of self-confidence and pains to God in order to develop a sense of courage and mental strength. It is not a weakness but a strength to be able to let go of one’s ego to ultimately help their own state of mind.
Mahant Swami Maharaj sums up verses 44–47 with this verse explaining that one should balance their external locus of control by fully giving their circumstances to God while using God as a strength to develop an internal locus of control during tough times.
Through the last two articles, we looked at verses from the Satsang Diksha on our mindset during troubling mental times and thoughts to keep to gain mental strength during adversary. However, what thoughts can we keep if we are not in adversary? What thoughts can we keep on a daily basis to strengthen our mental resilience?