Straight or Crooked Thinking
An accountancy lecturer wrote a column in a monthly publication with the heading: ‘Straight or Crooked Thinking?’ His approach was to sketch a fairly simple and everyday problem based on the subject he was teaching and then, by applying his technical and common knowledge, come to the most logical and practical answer. Although some of the problems required technical application, skills and logic, his approach was always to “stand back and see the forest, and not to get lost in the trees”.
Every day as we walk along this path, are we conscious of the bigger truth or are we only conscious of the moment on this plane of consciousness? Are we applying straight or crooked thinking?
We say we believe in the truth of this path we follow, but do we really? To what extent do we get caught up in the day-to-day stresses of this world? Are we guided by our limited awareness and intellect or are we guided by what our Master says?
How often during our day do we stand back, aware that this life is but a brief one, a few very short moments in the expanse of time? Are we concerned about the fact that there are rich and poor people here, that some die young and some die old, that some are happy and some are sad, some live in the most fantastic surroundings and some live their lives in war and terror?
Let’s remember that the answers to these questions come as we advance on the path, and that in the bigger picture all souls go through all their karmas over many lives.
Do we look at the whole picture or do we become entangled in the moment? What are our priorities? Do we live our lives as part of a bigger existence, or do we live only as far as our intellect goes? Are we thinking straight or crooked?
Let’s go back to basics. Nothing is new. We have heard this many times before – so much so that it could be that we have forgotten the depth of it. We might have forgotten what we are and what our purpose is.
In Sant Mat we often say that the purpose of human life is to return to God. Certainly, many of us have asked how, and many of the great philosophers have written books about it. If we believe that there must be something more than what we have on this question, something more than this existence of up and down, come and go, then it begins to make sense that the purpose of human life is to go back to the supreme Creator. The first step in undertaking this field of study is “knowing”, or at least believing, that there is something bigger out there. The logical question that follows is: How? How do we return to God?
This is where the essence of our path kicks in, which is to follow the instructions of a teacher who knows how to return to God. Through the ages there has always been a guide, teacher or Master on this earth. We are told that the Master is at the centre of the path and that man, on his own, cannot go back to God; he needs a teacher to guide him. This has always been so since the beginning of time.
Once a soul is initiated, the Master never leaves that soul. The disciple may not be aware that his Master is always with him, but he is.
Sant Mat is not a religion but a science. Hence, anybody from any religious background can follow this path. There are no payments to be made. There are no rituals or ceremonies, no special places of study. There is merely a practical arrangement to meet at a specific time and at a suitable place.
At the time of initiation, the Master’s representative explains the process of meditation to the initiate, who is given the names that are to be repeated during meditation – names that help to still the mind. We’re also shown a technique to tune our attention to the Shabd.
Shabd is a word to describe the sound current or audible life stream. It is the sound of God. The whole creation reverberates with the sound of the presence of the creative life force. It is known by many names such as the Holy Ghost, the Word, Logos, Nam, and so on, but it still describes the same thing – the subtle sound of the Creator.
Through the technique of meditation this sound can be contacted at the eye centre where the consciousness collects. According to the teachings of the saints, it is through meditation that we contact the Shabd and merge back into it, thereby fulfilling the purpose of human life. Simple, isn’t it? Straight thinking!
We are taught by our Master that we can only come into contact with Shabd when the mind is completely still. Meditation is the technique we are given to still the mind in order to reach this state of perfect concentration. We need to create the correct atmosphere for this work if we want to be successful in our undertaking. It is a lifelong study and we need to prepare ourselves correctly for it. So we need to get ourselves into the laboratory, or onto the playing field, and start practising.
Like an athlete who wants to win the marathon at the Olympic Games, we have to go to the correct field to practise. The athlete does not go to the swimming pool or the tennis court to practise for the marathon. He goes to the athletic field or onto the road. He doesn’t buy himself a pair of underwater goggles or a racket – no, he gets himself a pair of running shoes, he puts these on and he slowly starts to train himself to run.
Similarly, we who have set ourselves the goal of contacting the supreme creative life force have to prepare ourselves for our task. We have to go to our own athletic field, which is inside of ourselves: That is where God is. When we get initiated we are taught where we have to go and how to practise. We are shown how to sit and how to concentrate, and along the way we may attend the initiation of others to ensure that we remember what we have been taught.
Satsang, our literature and seva help us maintain our level of commitment towards our goal. We need to be reminded constantly of what we are, what we are doing here and what our main purpose in life is. And for this we need to think straight, not crooked.
At the time of initiation we agree to obey the four principles. For the rest of our life we must follow them vigilantly and without compromise if we want to be successful on this path. If we fall along the way, the Master will lovingly encourage us to stand up and try again. He will not leave us. We may not be aware of his presence, but he is there.
Meditation is the real task we undertake, and the Master places the highest priority on this practice. In almost all his answers we will find the advice: “Do your meditation.”
If we talk about straight thinking, this is where it applies the most. We need to have the right attitude, sit for our two and a half hours every day and never miss a day.
If we follow the techniques as taught to us by our perfect living Master we will advance spiritually and change our attitude, which in turn will bring a feeling of contentment that is very rewarding. We need to utilize our intellect to think about these things – we need to work it out for ourselves.
And we will get to a point where we will be able to distinguish between straight and crooked thinking. And when we think straight we will see how much sense it makes to make meditation our number one priority in life.
And with regard to meditation, we are repeatedly told that we should do our best under all circumstances, and then leave the results in the hands of the Master. As Great Master tells us in Spiritual Gems:
Your worries and cares are the Master’s worries and cares. Leave them to him to deal with. Having become carefree, your business is to cultivate His love.
That’s straight thinking.
We generate thousands of thoughts every day. From the spiritual perspective this means that thousands of times a day our mind bypasses the eye centre as we run from one thought to another without rest or pause. No wonder we feel restless and anxious! How could it be otherwise, with all that activity going on within our head? When we indulge in wanton thinking, we waste many opportunities to centre ourselves through spiritual repetition (simran). We miss the benefit that is available to us – the well-being that comes from repeating the words the Master gave us at the time of our initiation, through which we create that much-needed focus at the eye centre.