Occupy the Crease
Cricket, glorious cricket! Those of us who love this intriguing old game (the Laws were written in 1788) find it totally absorbing and seriously addictive to watch or play. But have we ever thought that cricket, with all its minute detail, can also be a highly revealing metaphor for a satsangi’s life on the path? Looking at the game this way might change not only how we look at cricket but how we, as satsangis, play this innings of our life.
Let’s play our life like a true batsman: let us stay in to win the game by patiently building a long, structured innings. The batting crease, the space in front of the wicket, is the batsman’s ground, his personal space, and the first thing he must do is to ‘take guard’ here. He scrapes a line to mark the optimum position from which to defend his wicket. We, as satsangis, have to do the same. For us the crease is our chosen place for meditation. If we keep to the same time and place for meditation, it is an anchor in our life, our place of safety. We too have to take guard to prepare for the monumental struggle with the mind.
Just as the batsman must face the bowler’s attack, the satsangi has to confront the mind. The sole aim of the bowler is to tempt the batsman into making a mistake and so take his wicket, and the sole aim of the batsman is to protect his wicket, just as the satsangi has to protect his soul from the devious weapons of the mind.
In order to do this the batsman (satsangi) needs to exhibit intense concentration, discrimination, resilience and courage in the face of attack. To develop these many qualities he needs to have had years (in our case it may be many lifetimes) of repetitive practice with the bat. For the bat, read “meditation”. The bat is the only single thing that will ensure protection of his wicket, but only if he uses it with the skilful technique taught by his coach.
So, as opening batsman we will face the bowler with a brave heart and the intention to ‘carry our bat’ (not get bowled out) to the close, make the opposition follow-on and win by an innings so that we will not have to bat again. In other words, do our meditation and reach Sach Khand in this life. But as we can all testify, this is not easy. Being initiated, or being a chosen opening batsman, is not for the faint-hearted. Like an innings, our life as a satsangi becomes a long, personal battle of constant vigilance toward the cunning of the mind.
The Bowler is Relentless
The bowler (mind), to achieve his aim, is ruthless and passionate in his attack and he bombards the batsman relentlessly with pace, bounce and swing, keeping him under constant pressure to force an error. He charges in, hurtling and leaping towards him and explosively releases the ball (the senses) towards him. If the batsman has not done his practice with the bat (his meditation), there is no hope for him in the face of this onslaught. The bowler can also change his attack to one which is so full of deceit and guile that the batsman has to use all his resources to withstand it. The bowler will sometimes just walk menacingly towards the batsman and pitch the ball on the biggest cracks and lumps so that it spits up at the batsman, alarming him. And, always sensing vulnerability, he will deliberately tempt him further and further out of his crease so that eventually the batsman will dance down the pitch in a flamboyant and frustrated attempt to hit the ball and go too far and get stumped – he has fatally abandoned his only refuge, the crease, losing his wicket and being dismissed from the scene of play. (In our analogy, he will have to come back for another life to do more practice to control his ego.)
As if all this is not difficult enough for us to deal with, the bowler also has numerous allies in the field to help him eject the batsman from the crease. These are his dedicated and vigilant friends all around the arena – the fielders. (For the satsangi, the fielders represent friends and relations in the world.) And the bowler’s best allies, whom he places closest to the batsman – the wicket keeper and the slips – are for the satsangi, his most unremitting karmic attachments, his nearest and dearest, his spouse and his children. If the batsman doesn’t ‘find the gaps’ (time for spiritual practice every day), they can insidiously rob him of his spiritual wealth because of their emotional needs and the time they demand. They are lined up waiting for the batsman to be drawn into a fatal mistake (too much attachment). Even a little indulgence in this, a tentative nibble at a wide ball, can result in disastrous consequences. Desires and attachments in this world, small or large, will ensure rebirth here more than anything else.
A Satsangi’s Only Friend
So with all this going on around him, the batsman satsangi can be forgiven if he feels isolated and threatened in this arena of life. But he should not despair! He has even more powerful weapons than the bowler (mind) does, if only he can recognize and accept the help that is there for him. Firstly, he has been given protection against the bowler’s attack with his pads, gloves and helmet. These are the simran we have been given, which is the antidote to the onslaught of the mind. If we wear these – that is, if we practise simran at every opportunity – we will be protected and not feel the blows.
Secondly and most important for the batsman is that he has to remember that he too has a powerful and vigilant ally – the non-striker batsman, who is his only friend on the field. This, for the satsangi, is of course the Master. He always lovingly guides and encourages the batsman. He will constantly come towards him and touch gloves, urging him to continue to occupy the crease, to use his bat (meditation) effectively, and reassure him that he is his friend and that they are in the battle together. However, in order to score runs, a trusting partnership must be forged between them and they must stay in together until they have won. Similarly, a satsangi must regard his Master as his only friend in the world, and develop an enduring partnership with him until they win together, and the Master takes the batsman to his real home in Sach Khand.
So, if the batsman, through steely concentration (total faith in his Master) produces fine shots with a straight bat (meditation every day), if he keeps his game simple and makes a big hundred not out, the whole arena will rise to their feet and give him a deafening ovation (total spiritual bliss). His partner will rush to embrace him and he will then raise his bat (meditation triumphant), kiss his helmet (remember simran at all times), grab a stump (ensuring no rebirth on this plane) and together they will run in ecstasy towards his coach (Sat Purush). His coach, who has seemed to be in the background but, in fact, has been watching the scene of play intently, is well pleased. He will greet the batsman with euphoric joy and welcome him in to the pavilion (Sach Khand), his true home.
So always remember you are in it to win it. And when the final stumps are drawn, would we not want to be able to say that we always occupied the crease, and kept a still head and a straight bat under pressure? And, most of all see the greatest batsman of all, our beloved Master, smile and hear from him the words which every batsman wants to hear at close of play – WELL PLAYED!