BENGALURU: Those who look at successful people often marvel at their talents. When we watch All-Star basketball players win championship titles we are amazed at how gifted they are. When great golfers win one tournament after another we wonder how they were born with such a special gift. As artists turn out one masterpiece after another, we wish we were born with such talent. Little do we realise that anyone who has attained anything in life has put in a tremendous amount of effort to get to where he or she is.
There is an anecdote from the life of Sir Winston Churchill, one of the great prime ministers of England. It took him three years to pass the eighth grade because he had trouble with English. One can imagine how much difficulty he had, taking three years to pass a single grade. Years later, he was invited by Oxford University to give the commencement address to its students. How ironic that the boy who could not pass eighth grade was now addressing the graduates of the most prestigious university in the world.
He arrived at the auditorium with his usual top hat, walking with his cane. He stood at the podium and with great pomp he set the cane down and took off his top hat to set it on the lectern. He gazed out at the waiting audience, which was hanging on his every word. With great authority, he boomed into the microphone, “Never give up.” The audience waited breathlessly for his next words. He paused a few seconds and then leaned towards the mike again and said, “Never give up.” The audience was dead silent waiting for his next words. Sir Winston Churchill then put his hat back on, took his cane, and walked off the stage.
That was his entire commencement speech. The message he gave the audience that day was one that applies to each of us. He knew that he had reached his great stature in life despite his struggle in school. He knew that it was not a gift but due to hard work. What he was telling the graduates was that success was not a gift with which one is born; success lies in never giving up.
Few people see that the basketball player who wins all the championships is practicing on the basketball court all day and night, day after day, while others have to be forced by the coach to show up even on time for practice. Few see how the championship golfer is practising hitting thousands and thousands of balls and doing tedious drills day after day, year after year, to get to where he or she is. Few see how many hours the artist put in to perfect his or her art. Anyone who has achieved anything in life has done so by being persistent.
If we wish to attain our goal in the spiritual field, we must never give up. We have a long way to go from the earthly realm to union with God in the highest spiritual realm. Although God lies within us, closer to us than the veins in our body, we have to perfect the technique of finding the Lord. It is so close yet so far due to the inability of us to still our mind, quiet our thoughts, and stay focused long enough to find God. We are hindered by the millions of distractions in the world that keep pulling our attention outside instead of letting us go within. Every time we meditate, we are perfecting our ability to stay focused within to find God. It takes practice.
We will not achieve our goal if we give up. We must never give up. Each day, we are one day closer to achieving our goal. We should not let our failure cause us to give up. Sir Winston Churchill could have given up after failing eighth grade the first time. However, he stuck with it. He could have given up after failing eighth grade the second time. Yet, he did not. It was on the third try that he finally was promoted.
Similarly, if we do not succeed in meditation one day, we should not give up and stop meditating altogether. We should sit again the following time. If we do not succeed, we should sit again. Day by day, we will find that we will begin to improve, until finally we achieve success. In meditation, improvement is measured by the ability to keep our body and mind stilled and to keep our gaze focused in the field of darkness or light lying in front of us. We continue to repeat silently any name of God we love; this help keeps our attention focused so intervening thoughts do not interrupt our inner gaze. We should keep trying again and again. We should never give up. Then, we will find that one day we will achieve our goal.