A Chinese Story
A story from the Chinese says that at one time in his life the sage Lieh Tzu learned archery. When eventually he was able to hit the target, he asked Kuan Yin Tzu to comment on his shooting. Kuan Yin Tzu was a renowned teacher and he gave the question his careful attention.
At length he asked: “Do you know why you hit the target?”
“No, I do not,” was the reply.
“Then you are not good enough yet,” answered Kuan Yin Tzu.
So Lieh Tzu went away and practised for three more years after which time he again presented himself. Kuan Yin Tzu asked the same question as before:
“Do you know why you hit the target?”
Lieh Tzu reflected a moment. “Yes”, he said.
“In that case,” said Kuan Yin Tzu, “all is well. Hold fast to that knowledge and do not let it slip.”
In Sant Mat terms, once we are initiated, the first target is the eye centre. How do we ensure that we hit the target? It took Lieh Tzu three years to work out what his formula for success was. After all, if you don’t know how it’s done, it’s not within your control and you can’t repeat the process at will. We’re more fortunate than Lieh Tzu. We’re given our formula, the exact method of our spiritual practice. All we have to do is to persuade our mind to take to it! That is the knowledge to hold fast to. It is to implicitly follow the Master’s instructions.
Maharaj Sawan Singh says:
You ask for the method I worked out for myself during my own early experiences. In regard to that, I may say that I never worked out any method for myself. I took instructions from my own Guru and he gave me the exact method. That method is the same as all saints use, which is simply the concentrated attention held firmly at the given centre. What else can we say?
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems
At the time of initiation we are told to practise meditation daily, gradually building up the time to a two and a half hour period. That is the main instruction. The other vows – vegetarianism, teetotalism and moral living – of course we must adopt before being initiated.
Then the Master advises us that to support our way of life we should try to control our mind’s attention during the day. Attending satsang and, if we get the opportunity, carrying out seva, is part of this. The other part is occupying the mind in simran whenever it is free. Maharaj Charan Singh says:
If simran had not been so important, Saints wouldn’t have impressed upon us the necessity for it. It is important.
Die to Live
When an archer places his arrow against the bow string, draws it taut and takes aim, very steady hands are needed, concentrated focus and a history of practice and more practice to make the arrow fly to its mark.
Baba Ji sometimes tells us that we should aim for this amount of focus in our daily lives. If we let our attention run out for seventeen hours of the twenty-four and then expect to collect it in a mere two hours of meditation, we won’t succeed. That’s where simran in the day comes in.
Sometimes we feel in the mood for meditation; sometimes we don’t. If, like Lieh Tzu, we ask ourselves why some days are positive and some negative, the answer may lie in how far we were able to control the focus of the mind in the last twenty-four hours. Were we carried away on waves of reaction to things others did and said? And, if so, why were we carried away? Why did we react so quickly? Was it that the simran wasn’t there to protect us?
When Baba Ji advises in Question and Answer sessions that we should “not react” in adverse situations, it may appear to be a minor piece of advice aimed at smoothing our path through life. But it is by no means minor. “Not reacting” is the spiritual equivalent of the steadiness of the archer’s arm. If his arm is trembling, the arrow won’t fly straight. If our mind has tremors, it will start off a whole chain of unwanted effects that will spoil our desire to meditate. Who knows how the archer trains his body to keep steady? It’s a secret known only to him. But how we do it in Sant Mat is through the process of simran as we go about our daily activities. That’s what will make it possible for us to resist the inclination to react and it will keep us ready for meditation.
Everyone is subject to an individual ‘weather system’ (our karmic path) as we pass through life. It’s made up of chilly winds that make us shiver but also sunny hours when we stand firm, able to raise the bow and look at the target.
It’s sometimes worth noting exactly what these cold winds are and, conversely, the things that help us to stand firm. Simran will always be our best ally but there can be other factors. For instance, when we really do our duty by others in a loving spirit, we may find the simran flowing more easily. On the downside, we will find out through experience which situations leave us distracted. If there are certain things that do bring us down and which cannot be changed, we can also find out whether it is possible to remedy that with simran and an attitude shift.
If we constantly remember the Master’s instructions and are able to adjust to the weather of life rather as an archer might note the wind direction and fix his aim, then in the words of Kuan Yin Tzu, “All is well.” We can “hold fast to that knowledge and … not let it slip.”
All these trials that come to us in life, if taken in the proper spirit, as a satsangi should take them, will develop strength of character and make one throw himself absolutely at the feet of the Satguru within. On the other hand, they may also discourage us and make us unhappy, which reveals to us our own weakness. I am sorry I do not appreciate your attitude of being fed up with life and having no interest in it. Life was given to us for a definite purpose and that, as a satsangi, you know well. It was given to us in order that, by complete surrender to the Satguru and daily spiritual exercises, we might be joined to Shabd and rise above this valley of tears. That is a privilege which nobody can take from you unless you yourself, in a fit of petulance or despondency, give it up or cease to make use of it. Even then, no satsangi’s life is hopeless. But the road is much easier for us if we do our bit.
You have to take care of your worldly duties and give as much time to bhajan and simran as you possibly can, and then leave the other matters to the Satguru. When one has thus surrendered himself to the Satguru, why should he worry? For by heeding his advice, the adverse karmas which stand in the way will also be mitigated to a great extent, and their force will be lessened.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Sant Mat