We Are What We Think
A big tough samurai once went to see a little monk. “Monk,” he said, in a manner accustomed to instant obedience, “teach me about heaven and hell.”
The monk looked up at the mighty warrior and replied with disdain: “Teach you about heaven and hell? I could not teach you about anything! You are dirty, your blade is rusty. You are a disgrace and an embarrassment to the samurai class. Get out of my sight.”
The samurai was furious. He shook with rage, became red in the face and speechless with fury. He withdrew his sword and raised it above him, preparing to slay the monk.
“That’s hell,” said the monk softly.
The samurai was overwhelmed by the compassion and surrender of this little man, who was willing to offer his life to show him hell. He slowly put down his sword with gratitude and sudden peace.
“And that is heaven,” said the monk softly.
The follower of any spiritual path must seek to cleanse himself and approach his path with an attitude of humility. Only then is he fit to venture on to the path to God-realization.
So how then can we purify ourselves so that we can enter the court of the Lord?
Most of us have at some time in our lives had to attend a funeral. What is interesting about a funeral is that without exception, the family and friends speak of the deceased in glowing terms.
The deceased is always described as someone of unblemished character, and all his shortcomings are conveniently overlooked. You would think that death has suddenly exalted him to the status of a saint. You would naturally assume that he would have no difficulty in entering the kingdom of heaven.
However, let’s move the clock on a few weeks to when the will of the deceased is read out and it transpires that he has left his entire estate to some distant cousin nobody has ever heard of, or to some obscure charity. Then compare the comments with those expressed at the funeral!
Neither the will-reading nor the funeral speeches have made the deceased any different from what he was in life. So what happens after death? We are not spirited away to some heaven beyond the stars. We do not suddenly become saints; we do not suddenly become virtuous.We have the same intellect, personality and character traits, the same desires, mental state and emotions, the same thoughts, the same shortcomings, weaknesses and deficiencies we had on earth. The condition we will find ourselves in after death is what we have created for ourselves by our thoughts, deeds and actions while here on earth.
All that has happened is that we have cast off this physical envelope. Otherwise, we remain the same in all respects. We have not suddenly become the fountain of all knowledge and wisdom.
Those people who attend séances and try to contact Uncle Bill on the other side, don’t believe that just because Uncle Bill has passed on to the astral he has suddenly become wise and knows everything. If he wasn’t all that bright on the physical plane, he is not going to be that bright on the astral plane.
And as you approach your own time to go, don’t expect people to mourn for you for any length of time. The world is moving at such a frenetic pace that those you have left behind will be too occupied with their worldly activities to grieve over you for long.
William Wordsworth, the English poet, put it quite beautifully when he compared death to a man climbing into his little boat, leaving the shore, rowing out to sea. The watchers on the shore wait until his little boat is out of sight. Once the boat is no longer visible and disappears below the horizon, those on the shore turn to go. Out of sight, out of mind.
To get back to our need for transformation, when we received the gift of initiation we made a commitment. We undertook to pay the price. We agreed to begin our spiritual life in real earnest. We agreed to change our lifestyle, our behaviour, our conduct, irrespective of the obstacles which come our way. Initiation entails a complete transformation of our thoughts, words and deeds.
The way we conduct our lives has a direct bearing on the development of our spiritual nature. All spiritual teachers have said that sound moral conduct is the foundation of a spiritual life. So the saints give us moral guidelines to prevent us from falling prey to the traps and illusions of the world. They are not concerned with morality only for the sake of morality. But morality forms a foundation for our spiritual development.
Before a farmer can sow his crop, he has to prepare the ground, he has to plough the fields, he has to dig in the necessary nutrients and compost. He may have to fence off his field to prevent predators from invading it. He has to see that the crop receives an adequate water supply. Similarly, we have to prepare the soil before the seed of Nam can take root and grow. And the soil is our daily conduct – in other words, our thoughts, deeds, behaviour, how we interact with our fellow human beings. We have to ensure that this soil is properly cultivated and nurtured.
If we get down to basics, Sant Mat is a path of making changes. It is about purifying ourselves. At our present stage of development we are imperfect. We are not worthy to enter the court of the Lord. We all have our shortcomings, weaknesses and inadequacies. We are slaves of the mind and the senses.
A diamond, when it is removed from its surroundings, has to be washed and polished and cut. All the flaws have to be removed. Only then can it reflect light.
We are in a similar situation. At the moment we are stained with the karmas of innumerable incarnations. There are many habits ingrained in our psyche that are going to be difficult to remove. Everything about us is imperfect.
So when we are initiated we begin the process of transforming ourselves. It means a whole new lifestyle, a new way of life. It’s like cleaning out the attic. Getting rid of all the rubbish that we have been accumulating for years.
We are what we think.
All that we are arises with our thoughts.
With our thoughts, we make our world.
Of all the tools we have to work with in our journey through life, the most important is the mind. Everything that we do is governed by our thoughts, whether it is eating, working, or entering a relationship. We act through the body, but whatever we do is the outcome of a thought.
And if we look around us at what is going on in the world today, the turmoil, the chaos, the conflicts – all this is the outward manifestation of what is going on inside the individual mind. Everything that is happening had its genesis in a thought.
As research into the ailments and diseases that affect the body continues, more evidence is being produced that many of these illnesses have their origin in the mental and emotional state of the patient. There are many who discount this theory, but let’s look at the following scenarios. You are enjoying a meal. A friend says something to you which seems unkind. You are hurt by it. Up to that moment you have been enjoying your dinner, but now your appetite is gone.
Or a sudden emergency occurs. You stand weak and trembling with fear. You can hear your heart beating in your chest. Your blood pressure rises. You find it difficult to breathe. And yet you might still not believe that the mind has an influence over the body! If you would perfect your body, you have to guard your mind. Thoughts of malice, envy and disappointment rob the body of its health and grace, while pure thoughts have the opposite effect.
In our path of transformation much is expected of us if we hope to achieve our goals. Ultimately, to have union with God we have to become God-like. And that means absolute perfection. Not 90 percent, not 99 percent perfect but 100 percent perfect. In essence that is what Sant Mat is all about: becoming God-like.
We have perfect role models in the Masters. Let us study their lives. Let us see their purity, devotion, love and compassion, and imitate these in our own lives. It is only when we can become pure and one-pointed that we will penetrate the eye focus and experience the divine within our own being.
Happy the man, of mortals happiest he,
Whose quiet mind from vain desires is free;
Whom neither hopes deceive, nor fears torment,
But lives at peace, within himself content.