Voice of Conscience
by Dr. Stewart Bitkoff
Each of us has an internal gauge that helps us decide what to do in a complex situation. In the past, this capacity was called the 'voice of conscience;' and many of us make good use of our own internal measure of knowing right from wrong. Yet, our modern life is filled with many complexities and grey areas, when our inner voice tells us one thing and our friends, circumstance, or business necessity tells us to do another.
When these different thoughts become competing streams, we have a conflict. Let us not forget we are all products of social engineering and have customs, ideals, and social behaviors engrained/indoctrinated in us since a very early age. The task of the spiritual traveler is to free one's consciousness at certain times, from the engineering of others and make the correct decision, at the correct time. This is the higher call.
The Young Maiden & Muddy Stream
In order to illustrate how this works, here is a very well known story, that I am changing around a bit, concerning a spiritual Master and his young student who go on a spiritual journey. Now within their particular spiritual framework, there was to be no contact/touching of any sort with members of the opposite sex. For weeks, everything was going along nicely on their journey, the land had provided enough fruits and berries for them to eat, and there were magnificent trees to rest beneath during the heat of the day and take their meditations.
One afternoon, as they approached the mountains and came upon a muddy stream, there was a very beautiful maiden standing beside the water who was dressed in a spotless white dress and hand embroidered shawl; and from her facial features, it was clear that she was distressed. As it was their custom on a spiritual journey to help others, the Master inquired to the young maiden, if they could be of service. After explaining that she was on her way to a party in the neighboring village, and it was getting late and she didn't want to miss any of the fun. So to get there she had taken a short cut and needed to cross this stream, but now the waters were muddy and she didn't want to get her dress or shawl soiled.
Without hesitation, the Master picked up the young maiden and carried her across the water; without incident he placed her down on dry land; carefully, the Master had kept her dress and shawl clean and dry. As she ran off, the Master wished her fun at the party. All the while the young student watched the Master and kept saying to himself, look he has broken one of the rules of our Order! Why did he do this? I don't know if I can follow him any longer. And as the two spiritual travelers continued walking until sunset, this was all the young student could think about. His Master had broken one of the cardinal rules of their Order and he wondered if they should part ways.
And as the two travelers rested and prepared for their evening meditation, the Master inquired, you have not said a word for hours and I can see that you are troubled by something. Summoning up all his courage, the student inquired, back at that stream when you helped the young maiden, by carrying her across the waters, you touched her thus breaking one of our Order's rules of conduct. The Master smiled and softly replied, I have put that young lady down hours ago, and you have been carrying her still in your mind. Mine was a simple act of charity and yet you for hours have been snarled in the quandary of social conditioning and the higher law. At times, each traveler must put aside what they have been conditioned to believe and listen to the inner call of their own heart. For me, this was a simple act of kindness and for you it has become a swirl of emotions blocking you from higher learning.
One way to look at this story is that both the Master (Higher Knowledge) and the student (everyday awareness tied to rules) represent aspects to our consciousness; both are necessary for us to participate in the world. Many times, when faced with an inner conflict that requires action, we must push aside temporarily our own needs and societal conditioning (student) to do what the situation requires (Master -the right thing).
This process of looking at events, without the tainting of personal desire and what society/family tells us is important, has been termed, Learning How to Learn (Idries Shah); and is an essential aspect in spiritual learning. Often, our own inner voice of conscience gets caught-up in the swirling waters of consciousness and struggles with what to do.
Remember at times certain thoughts must be pushed aside, so the higher consciousness can operate.
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