Hardship is part of learning life’s lessons

May 5, 2012 

It seems in the last couple of years I have become more acutely aware of the struggles and hardships of other people in my life. As I was contemplating the balance between compassion for others and not getting overly involved, I remembered the story of the emperor moth. A version of this story can be found in the “Book of ECK Parables, Volume 3” by Harold Klemp, the spiritual leader of Eckankar, the Religion of the Light and Sound of God. (ECK is another name for the Holy Spirit.)

A scientist was observing an emperor moth in its cocoon, trying to make it out into the world.

He noticed the cocoon was very narrow at the top and made of a concrete-like substance. The scientist thought the moth would be unable to make it through that hard material. Finally, he decided to help the moth, and using a tiny pair of scissors, he carefully opened the cocoon at the top.

The moth popped out almost instantly. The scientist waited for the moth to spread its beautiful wings. But the moth was misshapen, with a huge body and very tiny wings, and it finally died, unable to lift itself off the ground.

After doing some research, the scientist discovered other people had made the same mistake. In order for the moth to fit through the narrow neck of the cocoon, it must streamline its body. The fluids in its body are squeezed into the wings, which make them large and the body small. When it finally emerges into the world, the emperor moth is a creature unsurpassed in beauty.

The scientist realized that by trying to spare the moth what he considered unnecessary hardship, he had actually done it a disservice.

At first glance, the moral of the story might be to practice the spiritual law of non-interference into the affairs of others. For those who believe in reincarnation, the story offers another perspective about why we have difficult experiences. Depending upon Soul’s maturity, one may resolve karma gradually over several lifetimes or during one intense lifetime. Because Soul has eternity to learn its lessons, it is never subjected to more lessons than it can handle at any given time.

Harold Klemp completes his version of the story by stating, “The struggle of the emperor moth is essentially the struggle of Soul in the lower worlds. It’s an important phase of Soul’s development. Through hardships and struggle Soul develops the beauty and grace necessary for it to become a co-worker with God.”

As for the challenge of balance I mentioned earlier, I consider it unkind to take the viewpoint that others deserve their karma, it’s their problem, and for me to be totally detached. I do not feel the need to rescue others, like the scientist trying to help the emperor moth. One can be supportive of others and not interfere by taking over from them what they need to experience.

Of the many ways we can help others, I find using words that do not project judgment to be very important.

Another helpful gesture is listening so others can find their own insight by having a safe place to talk things out. Willingness to listen, just listen, is one of the greatest acts of love one can give another. A challenge is to develop the discrimination to know when someone is truly seeking heartfelt understanding or is coming from ego. A related challenge is to honor oneself and not give to others indiscriminately. I aspire to refine my awareness of the wisdom of heart-guided love.

Rheo Aieta is local cleric of Eckankar, www.eckankar.org. Perspective is coordinated by Interfaith Works in cooperation with The Olympian. The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Interfaith Works or The Olympian.

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