Meditation Is Non-Negotiable
Meditation practice has to be done. For us as disciples, that’s non-negotiable. Why is this? Well, the spiritual life without meditation is like spending weeks collecting good soil, cleaning it, sifting it, fertilising it, watering it and then not planting the tree. The tree, if planted in such soil and if looked after, will grow strong and give much delicious fruit, but if the tree is not planted, no matter how good the soil, how can it grow?
To meditate is to live the teachings; to meditate is to move closer and closer to the Master; to meditate is to plant the tree in the ground. The four principles are like cables that lead to the “power station”, but it is only the practice of meditation which actually switches the power on. There is not a Sant Mat book, not a satsang, not a spiritual question answered by the Master, where this point is not made clear, one way or another.
So why does the Master constantly tell us that meditation practice is non-negotiable? Let us take a different approach for a moment. Everyone has a date with death. This statement may seem a little harsh, but seventy or eighty years from now, how many of us will still be in the physical body? So where will we be and what will have happened to us? What about our families, our beloved pets, our houses, our possessions – everything that is so important to us now?
Perhaps even something else that we don’t like to hear will have happened. The Master who guides us today will not be in the physical body. That exquisite form will be gone. Maybe there will be another exquisite form, or maybe there will not. And even more scary is the possibility that all the words that we hear from the Master himself, over and over, begging us to wake up and prioritise our lives, are forgotten within a few minutes of us hearing or reading them as we step right back into the world, living our lives as if death will not visit us.
In the true tradition of the great mystics, the fifteenth century saint Kabir was not concerned with life after death, but with the conquest of immortality within this fragile body. He tells us that, while still in this body – this “bag of skin” – we can fathom the mystery of life and death, and the secret that lies hidden within man at that unknown depth where death finds no place.
Death is a topic that is generally not discussed openly and candidly. After all, we think, it is something that happens to others. And if it is something that we do have to face, then it must be far off in the future – certainly something that we do not need to consider now.
Yet Great Master tells us that death is a time of much anxiety if we have not done our meditation practice. He says that at death the suffering is acute and only if one has learnt to die daily can one withstand this pain.
So when our date with death arrives, it is going to be very tough and difficult to deal with unless we have experienced dying whilst still living – through meditation practice. Perhaps we fail to grasp and to understand just how very serious Baba Ji is when he tells us that it is a matter of the utmost urgency that we make sincere and persistent effort to do our meditation practice.
Whatever is worth doing is worth doing now – not tomorrow, not the day after, but now, from this moment onwards. If we do not do it today, what guarantee is there that we will be able to do it tomorrow? If there is one thing that we should be aware of it is that we should indelibly engrave on our consciousness that our meditation practice is totally and absolutely non-negotiable in our lives, irrespective of our circumstances.
Each and every one of us has our own individual destiny to go through in this life. It is the nature of this world that there must be ups and downs in all our lives. If we are to face these with equanimity and dignity, keep our balance and fulfil our worldly responsibilities to the best of our ability, then, as Baba Ji has so emphatically told us, it is our meditation practice – the doing, the effort, not the talking – that counts. Without our meditation practice becoming the central core of our lives, we cannot hope to make the inner journey.
Most of us who have been initiated into Sant Mat believe intellectually and even instinctively that what the Masters teach us is true. Why is it then that we have great difficulty converting this understanding into a reality and making the teachings and particularly the meditation practice part of the core fabric of our daily lives? Is it that we don’t take the teachings seriously allocating them to just a segment of our lives – or is it that we find it difficult, maybe impossible, to register the reality that we actually have precious little time left in this human body that we now occupy?
Living the teachings is not the same as belonging to a club or going to a church, temple, synagogue or gurdwara for a few hours and then forgetting about what we have heard. For us, following the teachings of Sant Mat is a 24-hour-a-day path – every day until we die!
Baba Ji has often said that even if we keep our promise to do two and a half hours of meditation every single day of our life, but we are in the world for the remaining 21 and a half hours, we can hardly expect to tilt our life towards the spiritual. If we casually meander along God’s private pathway, we will neither enjoy the company of the world nor share the company of the Lord. A real disciple is always, at every moment, either doing simran – the repetition of the words, or dhyan – beholding the inner form of the Master, or listening to the inner sound, our bhajan.
Baba Ji has also often told us that our way of life and particularly our meditation practice must become a normal and natural part of our lives, just as breathing, eating, sleeping and other activities have become integral parts of our lives. Easier said than done! But how do we make these simple, clear teachings part of our everyday lives while living in the world and fulfilling our responsibilities?
Maharaj Charan Singh puts this into perspective by telling us to make our meditation a habit. He says:
Habits are easily formed and soon become part of our daily routine, and then if we neglect them, we start missing those things. Similarly, by giving the same time every day, this meditation will become part of our daily routine.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Thus Saith the Master
We have to take our meditation practice seriously and understand once and for all that it is non-negotiable, for we cannot have both the world and God. As Kabir put it, two swords cannot fit into one scabbard.
The world is not in love with satsangis. Almost everything in the world is designed to pull us right out, to pull us away from the teachings, to pull us off the path. This world is doing its job extremely well. It does not want us to leave this creation. So unless we start to take our meditation practice seriously, we will come back to this creation.
Again, Hazur Maharaj Ji has told us that meditation is the first thing and that everything else is secondary to that, for without meditation practice we will always remain scattered in the world and the mind will always remain busy with worldly matters.
If we do not develop clarity of thinking through our meditation practice; if we do not acknowledge what is truly valuable to us in this life; and if we do not actively rearrange our priorities to reflect this, then we cannot complain when we are knocked off-balance when faced with problems or crises. The events of our lives may force us to make difficult decisions in difficult circumstances, in a difficult, dangerous and uncertain world, and we need to do this with the tranquillity, calmness, stability and clarity of vision and understanding that dedicated meditation practice brings.
Our physical bodies are so weak and fragile that it is vital to look beyond the body to find the real purpose of life. Everyone knows that nothing from this world has ever accompanied a person beyond death. Would it not be terribly sad if, when death comes, we see that we have been deluded, and that what we thought was real was in fact just a shadow of reality? How utterly awful it will be if, having been initiated into the mystic path, we then sacrifice our spiritual practice to gain perishable rewards during the journey of our lives, and we die with great regret and remorse instead of ecstatic joy and happiness.
With great courage and determination we must keep the promise made at the time of our initiation to regard our meditation practice as non-negotiable. We have a rare and unique opportunity here. Human birth and contact with a perfect living saint are not exactly an everyday occurrence. Are we using this opportunity? We ask the Master for the wealth of Nam, to initiate us onto the mystic path. He gives it to us for the asking. It is priceless, and yet we so often do not appreciate its value. We don’t treasure it. Instead, we barter it for all the shiny short-lived trinkets of this world.
But by ensuring that our meditation practice is absolutely non-negotiable, we will live such a life that, while others weep and wail, we will depart this physical world laughing and full of joy.
One does not become a satsangi simply by being initiated. One must mould his life in accordance with the principles of satsang. Every thought, speech and action must conform to them. Actions speak louder than words. Thoughts are even more potent. A satsangi’s daily conduct must bear the hallmark of excellence and must reveal that he is the follower of a true Master.
Maharaj Jagat Singh, The Science of the Soul