When we ask for initiation, some part of us recognizes that only the Master’s company will ultimately satisfy us. Only the kind of love, peace, joy and compassion that radiates from his presence will be enough for us.
And so, we seek initiation. We long to meditate. We want to be with the Master. We want to go within, where we can truly meet him and stay in his company forever.
Our desire can be understood using this analogy. We have signed up for the most important class at the university, taught by the finest teacher on the faculty. We have anticipated taking this course our whole lives. We have waited in long lines to register for this class. We consider ourselves to be the luckiest of the luckiest to have been accepted into this course in meditation. But sometimes, even though we are initiated, our actions don’t reflect our original enthusiasm.
Picture the classroom: there are ten students, all in the front row. The master teacher is standing before them, giving them their assignments, explaining the subject, telling them what they are there to learn. His clarity is breathtaking.
Now look at the ten students, each of whom begged to be in this class.
Two are fast asleep, snoring, their heads back, their mouths open; one is drooling a little. (We see these students in pairs because, as each one looks at the other, they are able to say, “See! I am not the only one.”)
Two are sending e-mails on their handheld computers. They are very busy. They are making lists of what they plan to do later that day. They are checking the weather, their social network page, and the current, breaking news.
Two have their heads down on the desk. They are crying softly. They believe that they are too weak to lift up their heads and pay attention to the teacher. Their burdens and misfortunes are so great that they do not think that they have the strength or fortitude to sit upright in this class.
Then we observe the two rebels. The rebels say to their teacher what a three-year old might say to his parents, “You are not the boss of me!” They add, “I’ll do what I want to do, not what you tell me to do! You can say that I have to work hard at meditation, but I would prefer to rely on grace; so I won’t be putting in much effort in this course.”
The last two students are the talkers, or as they like to refer to themselves, the intellectuals. They initially listen quite attentively to the instructions of the teacher. But rather than do the assignment that he has asked them to complete, they would rather discuss the assignment, analyze the assignment, compare this assignment to other classes they have taken. The talkers are especially fond of their concepts, abstractions and thoughtful expositions. But when it comes to actually doing the assignment – ceaseless simran at the eye centre – they don’t put in the same effort.
Some of us may have played all five of these types of student at some time. Which one has gotten us into the most trouble: falling asleep, getting lost in the activities of the world, believing that we are inherently weak or defective, fighting with the Master instead of our mind, or wanting to limit our involvement in the path by just talking and thinking about it rather than doing the work? These are all attempts to avoid meditation.
Fortunately, a loving and infinitely patient teacher has initiated us. He knows that we can do the work, that we must do the work, and that we will do the work. Just as we cannot avoid the pull of gravity, or the rotation of the earth, neither can we avoid God’s love and compassion. The wayward mind will be brought to the eye centre. He is making us into students worthy of the gifts he has to bestow.
Under the influence of the master teacher, some new learning occurs. The hard work has to begin in every disciple, but we have different learning styles. Discipleship can look quite different in different initiates. Some of the positive learning styles might include the following:
The Enthusiastic Learners: They have properly understood that this work of meditation is the highest priority. Every activity of the day takes into account its effect on meditation. The enthusiastic learners grasp that they are either turning in the direction of the Master or in the direction away from the Master and toward the ephemeral world. They understand that they are either doing the simran given to them by their teacher or doing the simran of the mind. The enthusiastic learners greet every moment as another priceless opportunity to serve the Master.
The Pluggers: They show up. They sit down to meditate. They might not be achieving any concentration in meditation or any apparent spiritual progress, but they are hoping that simply by persevering, one day at a time, they will get through. They are counting heavily on the mercy of the Master to allow them to complete the course. They have no confidence in their own meagre efforts. Nevertheless, they keep plugging away.
The Grateful Ones: They are not only working hard at meditation and the Sant Mat way of life, but they are also developing the practice of gratitude. They are thankful for being an initiate and grateful for being given the circumstances for meditation, including food, shelter, seva and satsang. They are grateful for every round of simran and for every time the Master allows them to remember his presence and his promise to them. They are conscious and aware that every time they meditate it is a miracle. They acknowledge the Giver. They are not only grateful when things in their lives appear to be going smoothly and pleasantly, but also grateful when things are complicated and stressful. The grateful ones are trying to remember that, when life is challenging, difficult and upsetting, they are also being given what is essential for their spiritual progress. This cultivation of gratitude has everything to do with intent. As Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives,Vol. III, “We should ask [God] to give us a heart which is full of gratitude.”
The Dependent Ones: These disciples are learning to lean on their Master, to depend on him for everything. They turn to their teacher when they discover that they have no strength of their own. They are cultivating faith and trust that the Master knows what he is doing. They believe that they have been given everything they need to do the work of meditation. There is less worry in the eyes of these disciples. They know that even if they get lost, the Master will find them. Even when they fail to be the disciple they want to be, the Master will forgive them. Even when they don’t have a clue as to how the future will unfold, the Master has them firmly in his grip.
The Let-Goers: They are attempting to surrender and cultivate unconditional obedience. The Great Master describes this option in Discourses on Sant Mat, Vol. I:
Spiritual wealth may be accumulated in two ways. First, by toiling hard at meditation; second, by a complete and unconditional surrender to the Master. The first is the easier way. It is not hard to lie awake at night, to limit oneself to frugal repasts and to work ceaselessly at one’s salvation. The second method is, however, hard to practise, though it is much more efficacious. If the disciple lies in absolute surrender at the feet of his Master, he has really completed the course of meditation. It means that he has given up the ego.
Philip Simmons, in his book Learning to Fall, gives a powerful description of what giving up of the ego looks like and feels like. The author, who was dying of Lou Gerig’s disease (ALS) when he wrote this book, observed: “Nothing that happens to us is foreign.” Even in the face of a terrible and fatal illness, Simmons knew that everything that transpires in our life is a gift from God. The great reality is always at work on us. He wrote that life is an endless opportunity to let go.
We let go of ambition, of pride, of ego. We let go of relationships, of perfect health, of loved ones who go before us to their own deaths. We let go of insisting that the world be a certain way. Letting go of these things can seem to be the failure of every design, the loss of every cherished hope….
The author concludes that we want to:
Return to where we began, to follow love to its source, to rest in that ground of our being that has no beginning and no ending.
It is a beautiful invitation: to let go of what is ultimately a prison and a delusion; to let go of a mind that tortures us; to let go of the habits of a mind that argues with reality and always loses. We are letting go of our attempts to be in control when we clearly are not in control. We are learning to let go of this small, restrictive, blind and deaf self, and to fall into God’s embrace. Perhaps meditation allows us to simply, slowly, become capable of receiving the love that the Master wants to give to us.
The Catholic theologian Henri Nowen is quoted in The Haunt of Grace that, “the most difficult thing of all is to be loved.” The book’s author, Ted Loder, then clarifies:
Love is always a gift. It’s nothing we earn, nothing we deserve, nothing we can force, control, win.… The only way to have it, is to accept it.
In this spiritual classroom, graduation is guaranteed. Our teacher will show us how to be good students, to do the required work, and to make our way back to our source. As Maharaj Sawan Singh explains in Discourses on Sant Mat, Vol. I:
In the end, the disciple reaches the abode of the Lord and attains a very high spiritual status – all because of the Master’s grace. The soul, after having been entangled in the labyrinth of the physical universe for millions of years, is ultimately liberated and reaches home. Every hair on the disciple’s body then blesses [praises] the Satguru who showered such wonderful treasures on him.