Judging by the number of questions asked of the Masters over the years about the subject of submission, there seems to be some confusion on our part. What exactly are the saints trying to teach us when they talk about submission? What good is it? Can it be experienced by all satsangis, or is submission something that can only be experienced by highly advanced souls?
In the book Spiritual Letters, Baba Jaimal Singh gives Maharaj Sawan Singh some very important and practical teachings on submission. He says:
Nothing is going to help the individual except the Satguru, the Shabd-dhun, and his grace and mercy. So do your worldly work with the body, and the work of your real home with the mind and the inner hearing and seeing faculties of surat and nirat. Do the Satguru’s real work, bhajan and simran, and do not let the pride of anything enter the mind that is yours. No! Even if you become the king of the universe, you must realize that “I have no share in it. I am merely a labourer. Whatever is there belongs to my Master. I am nothing.”
We might say, “That advice might be good for Great Master, but he was destined to be a saint. That advice wasn’t meant for me.” However, one could argue that Baba Jaimal Singh’s advice gives deep insight into the nature of our suffering and offers a practical way to help us escape that suffering.
It may sound harsh, but Baba Jaimal Singh has accurately described our condition in the world. It is amazing how easy it is to spend an entire day, or an entire month, involved in thoughts of me and mine, and to seldom turn our attention to the Guru, apart from our morning meditation practice. Even in our meditation, thoughts of me and mine are difficult to still, largely because of the momentum that those thoughts have acquired during the day. We have given them free reign and empowered them with our attention. When we examine our lives, moment to moment, it is easy to see our self-perpetuating predicament and the scope of the task before us. We can’t do anything about the past days or months of heedless thinking. Thoughts can only be dealt with one at a time, in the present moment. And the only time to do this is now.
The Buddhists have a practice called “skillful means” that implies we can keep our attention in the present moment and be mindful of what thoughts are arising in our minds from moment to moment. Baba Jaimal Singh is proposing just such a “skillful means” practice, one that any of us can accomplish. When we can be mindful of the thoughts and images that arise throughout our day, we can see that most of them concern ownership. Thoughts of my body, my career, my possessions and my family can fill our minds most of our days. Baba Jaimal Singh tells us that each moment we spend entertaining one of these thoughts, “That very moment we turn our back upon Shabd-dhun.”
Apart from the spiritual reasons for wanting to control our minds, there is also a very practical and worldly reason. Our thoughts of me and mine bring us suffering. Worrying about our families, health or careers brings anxiety and depression. Thoughts of material acquisition and sensual pleasure bring cravings, inappropriate actions and suffering of many kinds. Even the experience of pleasure brings craving for more and the clinging fear of loss of what we have. Ultimately, our obsession with me and mine makes us unhappy.
The good news is that each moment brings a new opportunity for happiness. Within each moment we can bring the Master to mind. It really is as simple as that. On the one hand, bringing the Master to mind invites us to a place of peace, on the other, bringing our problems to mind causes painful feelings. Why do we keep choosing the suffering of me and mine to the peace of the Master? It doesn’t make good sense. It isn’t practical.
As we spend more time in meditation contemplating the Master, this contemplation begins to be accompanied by happiness. When the saints tell us that the Master is always present, they are reminding us that to turn our face toward the Master is to bring his form to mind. Just to remember him brings an end to suffering in that moment. A thought is nothing, really. It arises, like smoke and fades into the same nothingness that it came from. When we entertain a thought we give it the power to make us miserable. We give it power over our minds. If we let it naturally fade, what Buddhists call “self-liberate”, it has no power over us. Bringing the Master to mind allows thoughts to self-liberate. Bringing the Master to mind ends suffering in a heartbeat. This is the power and grace of the Master. This is why the Master is indispensable on the mystic path.
Baba Jaimal Singh continues in Spiritual Letters: “It is a fact, my son, that except for Shabd-dhun nothing is our own. Believe firmly: ‘I am nothing; my Satguru is everything.’”
The Lord knows our minds are troublesome. That’s because we take ownership of our bodies, minds and possessions. We really believe we have acquired our possessions by our own efforts, and we personally claim them, until the day comes when we realize that everything really belongs to the Master. Until that day, we might have to imagine that everything is his. Let’s imagine that everything belongs to the Master.
When there is a problem at work, we can tell ourselves it is in the Master’s hands and not worry. When we have financial difficulties, we can have faith that the Master will provide everything we need, and not worry. When we have problems in our families, we can believe everything is happening according to the Master’s grace, and not worry. When craving for sensual pleasure arises, we can ponder whether or not satisfying the craving would bring us closer to the Master.
Why do we have to imagine? It is easy to say that we don’t have a claim to anything, but if we watch our minds, our thoughts betray our true attitudes. Until we actually realize the unity of creation, we have to imagine. We can say we believe that everything belongs to the Master, but if we behave differently, what good is that belief if it is only another thought? So we have to have faith that everything is in the providence of the Master until the truth is realized, and the truth will be realized through our simran and bhajan.
All this imagining can get complicated at times. We can get confused and even forget to use our imagination in this positive way. Worries and anxieties then can overwhelm us. What should we do? Bring the Master to mind, begin our simran. Maharaj Charan Singh said, “The Master never leaves us. He never leaves a disciple.” How do we access the Master who is always with us? If we can visualize his form, so much the better, but it isn’t necessary. Just the act of remembering the Master can free us from the thoughts that are making us unhappy. In the blink of an eye, a tormented mind can be set free. The antidote for the poison of ego is always available to us, but we have to take advantage of it. Simran is the key to this remembrance. Remember the Master, remember the simran. Simran itself is an act of remembrance. The true gift of the Master is the Master himself. It is only through his grace that the Lord can be realized.
It is simpler than we think. Remember the Master. The act of remembrance will free us in any moment. Let not a moment pass without remembering him, and that eternity is all peace and bliss. Constant vigilance and constant remembrance will ultimately lead to union with the Lord. Very simple, but we can only do it right now, moment to moment.
Those who reach the Truth
do so by the Grace of the Lord and his Word,
by the Message of his Messenger,
by obedience to the Master, and through that effort
which brings one to that Longing and Purity in
in whose light one beholds the Beloved.
Then nothing but the Beloved remains.
Sheikh Abol-Hasan,The Soul and A Loaf of Bread, as rendered by Vraje Abramiam