It has been said that the will of the Lord will never take us where the grace of the Lord cannot protect us. At times, we go through situations where no matter how hard we try, we find it difficult to maintain our composure and balance. The teachings become distant, our simran is dry and we are shaken to the core. However, it is at exactly these times that we need the teachings and our Master most.
Saints teach us the value of leading a balanced life so that we are not swayed by such situations. But what is a balanced life? In essence, leading a balanced life is to remember, whether we are at the peak of our celebrations or in the depths of our darkest hour, that ‘this too shall pass’.
Legend has it that in ancient Rome, after a battle was won, a large parade would be held to celebrate the return of the victorious generals. Amidst the adulation, in their most glorious hour, a slave would follow quietly behind the generals and whisper into their ear, “Remember, you are only a mortal.”
In The Imitation of Christ, there is a beautiful passage which talks about facing everyday life:
Whenever we encounter some small adversity, we much too quickly yield to discouragement and look around us for human consolation. If, like valiant men, we laboured to stand firm in the fray, certainly we would experience the Lord’s heavenly protecting help. He stands ready to aid those who fight and who place their trust in His grace – it is He who provides us with these conflicts and He wants us to be the victors.
Thomas à Kempis
Thomas à Kempis is telling us that the Lord will give us the strength to face whatever situation He places us in. On our part, all we have to do is “trust in His grace”.
However, grace is not just having a bigger bank balance, living in a large mansion, or being given the opportunity to interact with the Master physically. In such fortuitous circumstances, it is easy to stand firm and believe that the Master does what is best for us. But how do we react once things do not go our way?
In such times, we must remember that even the pain we have to undergo is the Lord’s grace. As Maharaj Charan Singh writes:
Trials and troubles are sent by the Lord for our own good, to burn away this filth. Take your woes and sorrows in that light and turn to the Lord for solace and peace … Though one never enjoys suffering, yet we should feel happy and relieved that by His grace our immense burden is thus being lightened.
Quest for Light
So, what is the best way to face adversity? By turning to the Lord and living in the present. The Buddha was once asked to give a discourse. He simply held up a flower and said nothing. The Buddha was teaching that in this one moment, everything is perfect. All sorrows emanate from either the regrets of the past or worry about the future. If all we do is to live in the present moment, our worries and concerns will wither away.
We don’t want to make the best use of the present moment. If we make this moment happy, our past automatically becomes happy, and we have no time to worry about the future. So we must take life as it comes and spend it happily. Every moment should be spent happily. And simran helps.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live
Indeed, the key to retaining our balance lies in our simran. Our meditation is a way to discard the past, ignore the future and focus on the present. By practising our meditation, we avoid the mental projections which focus us on the scenarios that begin with, “What if” and “If only I had”.
Ultimately, we retain our balance by holding on to our sheet anchor in life – our Master. Maharaj Jagat Singh once summarized Sant Mat into a simple sentence:
Hold on to the Master’s palla, learn the lesson and go inside – that is the Nam practice.
Discourses on Sant Mat, Vol II
The metaphor here is of the palla – the loose end of an unstructured garment like a shawl or a sari. Just as a child holds on to his mother’s palla for security and reassurance, Sardar Bahadur Ji is evoking the emotions a disciple feels when he takes refuge in his Master’s love, protection, safety and security.
In truth, we need to remember that it is our Master who is holding us close to him in difficult times. One is reminded of the oft-repeated story of the footprints in the sand. When the disciple asked the Lord why he saw only one set of footprints during the difficult phases of his life, he was told that in those dark and difficult times, the Lord Himself picked up the disciple and held him closest to Him.
So when we find ourselves gasping to retain our balance amidst the storms of daily life, we must train ourselves to hold on tight to our Master, do our meditation in accordance with his teachings – and never forget that the Lord is holding us very close to Him.