How much security does one need on the spiritual path?

Having security is a fundamental requirement for life. We want food, clothing, and shelter security; we want security against the weather; we want financial security; we want security for old age; we want security against sicknesses and other difficult times; we want security against harm from animals as well as other human beings and the […]

Having security is a fundamental requirement for life. We want food, clothing, and shelter security; we want security against the weather; we want financial security; we want security for old age; we want security against sicknesses and other difficult times; we want security against harm from animals as well as other human beings and the list keeps going on and on. If we were to believe our insurance companies, then we need security for everything. How much security do we really need? Life is quite uncertain, and we cannot really secure everything. Some spiritualists believe that we should not plan for any security on the spiritual path. However, I believe we need to make efforts to secure ourselves to some extent to attain a sense of peace and well-being. We need not go overboard in our efforts to secure everything that we have and must believe in our faith to protect ourselves against all possible mishaps. However, it would be somewhat foolish if we did not make realistic efforts toward securing our present and future. Reasonable attempts must therefore be undertaken to secure against usual natural and manmade calamities.
Is it an individual responsibility to attain security or is it a societal responsibility? In my opinion, it is a function of both. We should aim to attain security for ourselves as well as help others attain it. Ban Ki-Moon (1944- present), former South Korean diplomat and United Nations Secretary-General once said, “True security is based on people’s welfare – on a thriving economy, on strong public health and education programmes, and on fundamental respect for our common humanity. Development, peace, disarmament, reconciliation, and justice are not separate from security; they help to underpin it.” The role of societal factors cannot be completely ignored in the equation of attainment of security. It is the society that nurtures us and helps us thrive. However, we should not think that society or the government of our country will and should take care of our security for us and we need not make any effort ourselves. We must start by making efforts to secure ourselves first at our own level. After that, we can also contribute toward larger causes of ensuring security in our neighborhood, town, state, country, and at the global level.
Money is an important and well-recognized source of security. It can help us attain security for food, clothing, shelter, protection, pursuit of pleasures, and attain a sense of well-being. After a certain age, it is important that we make efforts to earn money and use it toward securing our present and future. We should find means of earning based on our aptitudes. We should not aspire to acquire money without making an effort because often such an acquisition is not long-lasting because we neither understand its value nor is it satisfying. Everyone must make direct or indirect efforts toward earning money, however modest it is, based on their abilities. Direct efforts entail earning money in return for one’s labor while indirect efforts mean helping someone else earn that money by providing tangible and intangible support. Some people are not able to earn money directly, but they should not feel bad and support others in whatever way they can and that may be sufficient if done earnestly. We should also develop a regular habit of saving and investing part of the money earned wisely. Saving money is a great way of ensuring security for the future. A certain proportion of one’s earnings must always be directed toward saving for a rainy day. However, mimicking Western cultures, it has become a norm to live beyond one’s means by taking loans and living off that. Debts are becoming more common. Such a debt-based lifestyle is a source of stark misery. One should plan the use of money wisely and live within one’s means. There is no point in taking on debt on which you must pay high interest rates and find it difficult to repay. If debt is necessary, it should be taken with a clear plan to pay it in the stipulated time frame.
Another excellent form of security is to have loving and caring family and friends – what we call social support. They are a great source of strength and stress buffers. James House (1944- present) of the University of Michigan, in his book Work, Stress, and Social Support identifies four types of social support. The first type is emotional support which provides love, understanding, caring, and reliance on others. Such social support is the finest source of security. The second type of social support is informational support in which one gets information about things, guidance on how to do tasks, and counseling on various decisions in life. Information is power and we need such support which is also vital for security. The third type of support is appraisal support in which one gets evaluative advice from others and that too forms the basis of security in life. The final type is instrumental social support in which one receives tangible aid in meeting the challenges of life and is important for security. Let us take a moment to reflect on the people we can count on in our lives for each of these four kinds of social support. How can we enhance the richness of these types of social support in our lives? Can we also provide such support to others? Can we be the support for security in the lives of others?
Another important consideration in our quest to seek security in our lives is that of realistic appraisal of threats. We should not be over-influenced by our fears and feed them unnecessarily or dwell in them. Albert Ellis (1913-2007), in his book, RET Handbook of Rational Emotive Therapy, identifies one irrational belief system as, “The idea that something is or may be dangerous or fearsome, one should be concerned about it, and one should keep dwelling on the possibility of its occurring.” In his popular ABCDE technique, A stands for the activating system or the interpretation of the events, B stands for the belief system to which this irrational belief belongs, C stands for thinking of the negative consequences that can result from such an irrational belief, D stands for disputing it vehemently, and E stands for enjoying the effects of newer thinking. So, one should constantly engage in identifying irrational beliefs that negatively influence us and make a bloated assessment of potential threats to our security. Constant vigilance regarding such irrational assessments and disputing them can go a long way in determining what exactly we need in terms of security at present and in the future.
Finally, a word of caution about security comes from the famous Indian philosopher, Jiddu Krishnamurti (1895-1986), “… when the mind is secure it is in decay.” Having a sense of security often makes us complacent and we do not challenge ourselves to newer thinking, newer approaches, and newer efforts. This can lead to stagnation which must be avoided. At all times, continued daily actions to perform the duties of life must be endured despite having so-called security. We also must take all efforts that we make toward attaining security with a pinch of salt as there is nothing completely secure in life. We should never be content that life is totally secure, for to live means to have insecurity. Jalal ad-Din Muhammad Rumi (1207-1273), a Persian Islamic scholar and Sufi mystic, has said that non-acceptance of uncertainty is fear and if we accept uncertainty, it becomes an adventure.
Dr. Manoj Sharma is a Professor and Chair of the Department of Social and Behavioral Health at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, USA. He is an avid practitioner of Kundalini Yoga.