BENGALURU: Life is filled with many adversities. We struggle with health problems, financial problems, relationship problems, and emotional problems. We wonder why God does not grant us a life of ease, free of burdens.
There is a beautiful example from nature that gives us a different perspective about adversity.
The eagle finds the tallest tree or the highest mountain ledge to build its nest. Few people can see how the eagle builds its nest because it is too high for most people. Some researchers found ways to observe the eagle building the nest and were surprised by its unusual method.
The eagle lays the first layer of the nest with sharp objects such as thorns and jagged and sharp stones. It is hard to believe that the eagle finds these razor sharp objects as an appropriate nest for its young. Next, the eagle covers the layer of sharp objects with soft material, such as wood, feathers, and animal fur. As the baby birds hatch from their eggs, the soft layer of the nest surrounds them.
After they grow a bit, the mother eagle takes the nest material and mixes it up. The jumbled mass becomes a mixture of the sharp objects and the soft ones. She takes her talons and then begins to point the sharp objects towards the baby birds. Some of the sharp edges even cut against the baby birds’ skin. Soon, the mother stops putting the food from her mouth into the babies’ mouths. Suddenly, their comfortable world has become painful.
They are hungry because the mother has stopped feeding them, and they are in pain from the sharp edges cutting into their bodies. Then, the mother eagle even uses her beak to remove the soft material from the nest, leaving only the sharp objects. The discomfort becomes so great that the babies want to leave the nest. They then begin to fly away to get out of the nest.
It may seem that the mother eagle is cruel in creating a painful environment for the baby eagles. But the lesson in adversity is that the pain causes them to want to escape from their comfortable existence. The mother eagle stirs up the discontent so they can leave the nest and fly towards independence.
The value of adversity
This beautiful analogy from nature explains the value of adversity in our lives. If people were too happy and comfortable in their physical existence, they would never seek God. Most people turn to God only in times of trouble.
When they are faced with intolerable pain, an incurable illness, a devastating loss, or a financial disaster, they find that life is not as great as they thought it was. Suddenly, life becomes difficult. All the ease and comfort they may have previously experienced is converted into a sense of darkness and doom.
It is during those times of pain and crises that we begin to wonder if life is as good as we thought. We start to wonder if there is more to life. We begin to question if there is a God, and what is the purpose of this life.
Adversity turns our face to God. Without it, most people would not give God a second thought.
They would live and die without even thinking about God. Suffering has the value of turning our attention to the Lord. It makes us pray to God to help us. When things become so rough, it causes us to question what life is about and we begin to search for answers.
Saints and spiritual masters have spoken of gifts that we may be given to turn us to God. One is the gift of poverty. When we are rich and living in the lap of luxury, we do not think about God.
But when we suddenly lose all that we own, our stocks drop, or we lose our home, we begin to think about God. Another is the gift of ignominy. When we have name and fame, and people respect and praise us, we are happy and do not think about God. But when the tides turn and we are slandered, criticised, and vilified, suddenly we turn to God for help. Misfortunes have the power to make us turn to a higher Power for help.
A reminder from God
Sometimes if we become too complacent, God may shake things up a bit to make us do our spiritual work. God wants all of the baby eagles to soar. God wants us to soar from this physical region to the astral, from the astral region to the causal region, from the causal region to the supra-causal region, and from there to return to the highest spiritual realms. God may do whatever it takes to help all the eagles fly and return home.
If faced with adversity from which it seems there is nothing we can do to relieve it, we should take it as a gift from God to remind us that this world is not our true Home.
It is a wake up call to teach us that we should not be too comfortable in this physical world, as it is actually a region of maya, of pain, and of suffering. We can wake up to the sharpness of life so that we can rise from this physical world and soar into spiritual realms within. At times, God removes the soft coverings so we can be reminded that this life is painful and full of suffering. This realisation will drive us to put in a greater effort to meditate more and to soar to our home of true peace, the lap of God.