Be In The World But Not Of The World Submitted By Merwan Mehta

Be In The World But Not Of The World

By: Merwan Mehta (April 2004)

The incarnations of the Avatar whose numerous descents amongst us has resulted in the creation of the present day leading religions, have a mile-wide chasm between what message was delivered to them and what they are proclaiming today. The increasingly extremist and non-inclusive views that some within the clergy profess, makes me fervently desire the moment when Baba’s words, I will bring all religions together as beads on a string, will come true. In the meantime, we will have to tolerate the prevailing ignorance and live with another of Baba’s dictum, Be in the world, but not of the world.

What does Baba mean when he tells us to be in the world but not of the world? In the context of religion, he wants us to understand that all religions are an after-growth of His incarnations as various prophets to spread His word, but which were formalized to an extent that made them counterproductive. The first generation of disciples would have liked to spread the message of the prophet plain and simple with which they were intimately well-versed, but their descendents for lack of first hand involvement, had to resort to the creation of ceremonies and customs to further propagate the prophet’s message. These people eventually became priests, who gradually laid a claim that they had special favors bestowed upon them by the prophet, and God, which allowed them to interpret what the prophet’s words meant. As time passed, they changed their message and made it non-inclusive. They began to claim that their professed way was the only one way to God, and all other ways were anti the prophet or anti-God. Baba by telling us to be in the world, but not of it wants us to understand the fallacy of such logic, but still work with the zealots of religion and attempt to curb extremism of any form. This all He would like us to do along with understanding that there are several ways to finally be united with God, the ultimate being, as Baba puts it, through unconditional love for the Beloved.

In terms of day-to-day living, it would seem that the fakirs, or people who have renounced the materialistic world, would be the best ones to practice being in the world but not of the world. They have no desire for a family, friends, wealth or comforts, as they think these come in the way of pursuing God. But Baba says that such a life is only second best to a life lived with one’s dear ones. He goes on to elaborate that the best life is lived in the midst of all worldly desires and challenges, interacting and residing amongst the living, but always bearing in mind that all this is illusionary, and that the only thing worth holding on to finally, is God.

Baba gives an excellent illustration of this in God Speaks when He compares living in the world but not becoming of it to the fetching of water by the village girls. In India, the prime duty of teenage girls in the family is to keep the home amply supplied with water from the village well. The girls have to walk considerable distances to the well with a stack of earthen or metal pots on their heads, which they end up doing several times a day. Since this is how they spend most of the day, the girls form a circle of close friends who all go together to the well, giggling and spreading town gossip. Baba compares the love for God with the stack of pots filled with water. For the girls who are laughing and teasing each other, carrying a tall stack of pots on their heads and balancing them perfectly has become second nature, along with having fun with their friends. So should our love for God be such that it allows us to enjoy all the materialistic pleasures and attend to all our worldly duties, but is finely balanced constantly on our heads by knowing what is finally that matters. A fakir’s life, in comparison, would be akin to the girls fetching water with their entire attention solely being on the pots so that they do not topple, with no interaction or fun with their friends.

Becoming better at being in the world but not of it, though has a hidden danger which practitioners of the philosophy should guard against. With an attitude that the materialistic world does not matter, there is the possibility of treating others as also part of the materialistic world, and of developing a disregard for the feelings of others. Baba says that real happiness lies in making others happy, and we should in the midst of being in the world but not of it, not forget that. Very little of what happens in the present, will matter a hundred years from now, but how we empathize and sympathize with our fellow journeymen, immensely affects our own spiritual development, and hence should be at the center of how we live in the world but not become of the world.