Practical GuidesJan 09, 2022
by Paul Fetler
Recently I heard, seemingly by chance, a financial expert my spouse was listening to, using the Three Little Pigs fable to help illustrate his theories about financial pitfalls and sustainability. Sounding a bit like an evangelist, the lively speaker described how many people, if they do not plan well financially, are like the foolish Little Pigs. They build houses made of straw or sticks that end up being blown apart by the Big Bad Wolf – meaning devoured by economic realities. While the playful analogy seemed apropos regarding handling finances, I was reminded of words that I heard Paramhansa Yogananda share about another kind of practicality.
Everything Else Can Wait
In one of the old recordings from the 1940’s, the yoga master, his voice blazing with conviction, proclaimed that the “cleverest” souls were those in life who daily made knowing God their top priority. He did not say to ignore using common sense in the material world – such as locking the car door or paying the rent; we still need to “make our idealism practical.” Rather, if one truly wants to be free inside, he emphasised repeatedly, as a plug is inserted in an electrical socket, go “Back to the Source” with daily meditation, prayer, serving, and other spiritual practices.
I am reminded of the first words that I ever read by Yogananda. I barely knew who he was or how to pronounce his name, but I was visiting his tranquil Lake Shrine meditation gardens. There, I saw written on a plaque:
“Everything else can wait, but our search for God cannot wait.”
Reading those words, my analytical ego – ever wanting to make things more complex – rebelled; yet my soul recognized their inherent truth and my heart felt lighter.
Over the years, I have increasingly understood – through trial and error – how my own life has been transformed by being willing to surrender my ego to higher wisdom. Rather than mentally getting lost in my habitual Escher-like maze of analysis and future worries, I have seen how positive habits rehabilitate, and reinforce, a joyful life from the inside-out.
The Disney 1930’s Three Little Pigs animated short left a strong impression on me many years ago with its lesson about the value of being prepared. “I’ll be safe, and you’ll be sorry!” warned the Practical Pig, in his blue overalls. With his bucket of cement and trowel, he built his house brick-by-brick. Naively overconfident, the two Impractical Pigs laughed, played their fiddle and flute, and danced and sang merrily together - until the Big Bad Wolf blew down their houses of straw and sticks. In terms of spiritual attunement, I am now reminded of the parable Jesus gave of The Wise and Foolish Builders. He described in his sermon how the wise man built his house on a foundation of rock, the foolish man had his house built on sand. The foolish man's dwelling fell down in a flood. (Mathew 7:24-27)
I admit that I, like the first two Impractical Pigs, have at times been complacent in building meditation and other spiritual practices. I might get overconfident with some new awareness, start to edge God out, and forget to put my spiritual growth first. Inevitably, I am humbled once again. I may find myself overreacting while driving during rush hour, or catastrophizing about something minor, or feeling gnawed at by a subconscious memory while visiting my family. The Wolf of worries will start knocking at the door and try huffing and puffing to blow my inner house of equanimity down! I have more respect, learning the hard way, how persuasive cosmic illusion can influence me to be delusively pulled away from the inner freedom I seek.
Ever cunning, the Big Bad Wolf – failing to blow over the house of bricks, climbs down the Practical Pig’s fireplace chimney. Falling into a large boiling cauldron, he leaps out howling, and finally runs away for good. If only it were that easy to shake off my delusions! Yet, like the Practical Pig, the spiritual masters know my egoic pitfalls, and if I am receptive, they guide me to live wisely. With each meditation, they help me to invest in my own inner bank account. The Three Little Pigs story gives valuable messages about the learning process; planning, working, making mistakes, life consequences, illusions of security, and the importance of getting up after falling to apply more energy. These have all been analogous with the yogic teachings of my inner journey, and I am grateful for the willingness to learn, and the grace and practical guidance of the guru to put God first.