The narrow gate; the thorny path
Living truly according to the Will of God has become very difficult, if not impossible in these days. It has become known as “following the narrow or thorny path.” It is regarded as a painful existence, filled with renunciations and suffering. It is even a lonely existence. Because the vast majority of human beings have strayed so far away from God, those then who have found their way back to Him will indeed appear peculiar to their fellow men in their opinions and ideas.
But why is this path so thorny and difficult? This path is not really difficult at all. It is a wrong conception because until now no one has been able to define what it truly means to live according to the Laws of God. In the past, because of this ignorance, many thought that they really had to suffer and go through some difficult renunciations and in fact these renunciations were demanded by the leaders of the religions on their adherents.
These renunciations therefore were not instituted by God at all but by the leaders of the religions and passed on to the people as coming from God. Therefore, these leaders misrepresented God and fostered a wrong conception of the Creator in the minds of the majority.
Just because of this fact alone, many turned away from God because they thought that He made unjust demands upon them, not realising that it was not God Who made these demands but man in his desire to exert some level of control. These were man-made renunciations. These leaders thereby built a narrow and difficult path that was almost impossible to follow.
They instituted a long list of do’s and don’ts which the human spirits because of their nature will never be able to follow. The human spirit is mobile and any attempts at rigid adherence to any written letter of the law is simply bound to fail. Therefore, right at the very beginning, these leaders led humanity astray and to make matters worse, the vast majority of the people welcomed this, because they would rather accept the alternatives given to them in paying penance and allowing their sins to be forgiven them than making even the slightest efforts towards discovering the truth.
So on the one hand we had these rigid laws, and on the other we were told that if we wanted to avoid having to follow these laws all we had to do was be an obedient servant of the particular religion. It was then not surprising that the vast majority chose the latter, which put them in the control of the religious leaders. In this way, the common man is just as guilty as the religious leaders.
Instead of demanding that the truth be told and as such come to know that he has to make efforts as regards his salvation, he preferred the convenience of a taught faith which is rigid and without life. These misunderstandings and misrepresentations on both sides were some of the most grievous mistakes made by man.
Today he is utterly helpless. Devoid of knowledge and spiritually famished, right at the point of spiritual death. Yet, the greatest intellectual knowledge cannot save him. Just that which he thinks will be his saving grace and which he has come to rely upon for thousands of years.
So because of these misconceptions, almost everyone turned away from God. Even worse with the advent of Christianity, another false and apparently easy road was created. These took away spiritual effort and only demanded adherence to a blind faith. The road to spiritual disaster was thrown wide open.
So the misconception spread that if one really wanted to follow the Laws of God, one had to become a monk and live in some sort of solitude. On the other hand, if one did not want to become a monk but still wanted to get to Heaven, then all we had to do was be obedient servants of the Church, paying penance and so on and so forth.
Suffice it to say that nothing could be easier than walking the road to Salvation. It is natural for the human spirit. Being spiritual in origin, it then comes natural to him to walk on this spiritual path. We all know that what is natural is also easy. So why all this talk about a thorny and difficult path?
For present day man, the thorny and narrow path arises for him as a result of two things: firstly he is not used to walking on this path. So he is bound to find it initially very difficult. This is natural because he is returning to a road which he abandoned a long time ago. Just as we find with any road, in the meantime it would have overgrown with thorns and bushes. He must first clear all the thorns and bushes before he can properly walk on it. The thorns and bushes are his previous faults and weaknesses which he must first deal with. These can indeed be a very strong obstacle and disincentive.
Secondly, because the vast majority of human beings today are not in the least interested or are hostile to anything spiritual, then indeed he is bound to feel the hostility and opposition and even mockery with those around him. All these, however, are only at the beginning. For as long as he has conviction in the Truth of his beliefs, then he must gain victory wherever he finds himself.
Therefore, there is no need to be afraid of making a spiritual decision and walking on that path. It has nothing to do with the renunciations of the religions. Walking on a spiritual path means acquiring spiritual knowledge. The kind of knowledge that allows us to see ourselves as we really are and also to understand the sufferings and faults of our fellow human beings. It is this knowledge that brings peace and the conviction and happiness (inner contentment).
The rewards are eternal. What is earthly hostility compared with the gift of eternal life?