Have you ever thought what it would be like to wake up in the morning and not remember anything? Not to remember the person lying next to you, to have no recollection of your children, your family, your home, your life!
If you have no recollection you would not be able to identify them, and there would be no emotional attachment – they simply would not matter to you. All you would have would be the present moment, with nothing to relate it to – no past, no future.
Memory is that which serves to keep in mind or to bring to mind. To be able to remember is a wonderful gift, for it gives us the ability to identify people, to know who they are and what role they play in our lives; to recall events; to know who we are.
What we choose to remember defines us both individually and collectively, for remembrance will mean different things to a nation, the soldier, the spouse, the colleague, family, friends, children and grandchildren.
Remembrance is the act of remembering. It functions on a number of levels, some deeply personal. Remembrance is the reach of personal knowledge and it is necessary for us to function in the creation. The reality we see and touch is only real as long as our perceptions and concepts are alive. When they go, the reality goes, because the reality is related to the memory of our learning.
In a spiritual context though, remembrance is simply the practice of the remembrance of God. Through our ability to remember we keep our Master alive in our hearts.
Every mystical path and religious doctrine informs us of the importance of constant remembrance of the Lord’s Name. In Christianity, for instance, a significant instruction in connection with remembrance of the Lord is the sacrament of Holy Communion. In one of the letters of St Paul it is written that the night Jesus was betrayed he instructed his disciples to “partake of bread in remembrance of the Lord’s body, and drink in remembrance of the Lord’s blood.” (1 Corinthians 11:23–26). Jesus is quoted as having said: “Do this in remembrance of me.”
To understand the true meaning and depth of remembrance we can ask three questions: What is to be remembered? How are we to remember him? And, why are we to remember him?
The first question: What is to be remembered? Of course, God is to be remembered. But how?
In Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. IV, the Great Master tells us that God is without form, is present everywhere, yet is invisible and is beyond the reach of human intellect and imagination. But if we can’t see Him and we can’t imagine Him, then we don’t know what He looks like, so how can we ever build a relationship with Him and remember Him?
The answer is: To be able to form an association with the Lord and to develop divine love, we must work through a perfect Master, a Saint.
Our association with the Master directs us inwards and upwards to bring us to that state where we can know the real form of the Master – the true Shabd – or God. And so, our acts of remembrance are to be directed toward the Master, for in remembering him we remember God.
The second question: How are we to remember?
In that same volume of Philosophy of the Masters the Great Master says: “God is formless, but He reveals His light in the human body.”
We therefore remember Him by the way he reveals Himself to us, which is through His light within our human body. Simran, dhyan and bhajan are simply our efforts to find that light within and to connect consciously with the Radiant Form. These efforts are nothing but our remembrance.
Moreover, when remembrance is done properly, when our simran is done quietly within the depth of our own being as instructed by the Master, the remembrance of the names also helps to mould the character traits of the disciple. Through repetition and remembrance, we are told, we assume the qualities of the one we remember.
Is it possible to remember Him continuously? Probably not at our spiritual level. But that does not mean we shouldn’t practise – for practice will bring improvement until we are able to develop the ability to remember Him for significant periods during our day.
What’s more, simran is swimming against the forceful current of the river of maya. But if we are persistent in our remembrance of our Master, we will eventually develop the ability to control our thoughts and focus our attention. The more we are able to keep our simran running, both during the day and at the time of meditation, the greater our ability to stop the ceaseless babble in our minds, and the better we will be able to distinguish between what is important and what is not, in our daily lives. In this way we begin to learn the benefits that simran brings in helping us to disentangle ourselves from the world.
The third question: Why are we to remember – to remember him?
There is a profusion of wonderful benefits that accrue to us when we obey the Master’s instruction, but we should not look to what we hope to gain. Rather, we should simply practise his remembrance because it is asked of us. Simply because he has instructed us to remember him. This is how we will return to him.
In the words of Kabir: “Remembrance of God’s Name leads to him.”
In a nutshell, that is what it is all about.