What Is It All About?
When circumstances are going well for us, life runs relatively smoothly. Day after day, we carry on with our family duties, work and responsibilities. We attend satsangs, seva activities, social gatherings – but it isn’t until something ‘happens’ to us, when we go through some kind of suffering or adversity, that we are tested on how well we are able to apply the teachings of the spiritual Masters. When life throws challenges our way, such as a major financial loss, a sudden discovery of a terminal illness, or even the death of a loved one, how do we react? Does it take us towards the Lord, or away from him?
When we are faced with these difficulties, we begin to question what life is all about. We start to analyze and look for answers in anything that gives us comfort. People try and reassure us with soothing words, they tell us that it is because of our karmas that we have to go through this difficult phase, we are told that this too shall pass – but when we are going through so much pain, no amount of words or reasoning can soothe the aching heart.
Our ability to bear pain with faith and courage comes down to how attached we are to the spiritual path and the Master. Our regular spiritual practice gradually enables us to withstand worldly adversity. Maharaj Sawan Singh beautifully explains:
When a person is depressed for want of food and resources, when even the last penny has left him, when he is without a job; even then if he gives place to the Lord in his heart, he shall forever be freed from want. When one is torn by cares and anxieties, when his body is diseased, when he is deeply immersed in domestic worries, when he is at the mercy of the turmoils and sorrows, when he wanders to and fro and finds no home nor hearth where he can rest, even then if he carries out the meditation of the Lord, he shall attain inner calm and peace.
Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. 1
We all know how soothing it feels to be in the presence of the physical form of the Master, especially when we are facing difficult circumstances in life. Our hearts and minds are at peace; we come to understand that worldly problems are necessary challenges and that they are just a passing phase. And most important, we are reminded that nothing is more important than our meditation. When we are in his presence, we receive so much inner strength and we regain our confidence, which allows us to go out and face the world with courage.
That same feeling of peace, love and strength can be felt, even more potently, when we meditate and enter the sanctuary within. As we progress in our spiritual practice, we realize that none of the worldly afflictions can truly affect us. We learn to accept whatever happens as his will.
Attachment is the cause of our present misery. All unhappiness in life is the result of our attachment to our relations and our possessions. Where there is no attachment, there is no misery. With meditation, we slowly get detached from the world, and attached to the Shabd within.
When we see people suffering towards the end of their lives, we often wish that we will not have to go through the same kind of suffering. We say that the best way is to ‘go peacefully’ in our sleep. But the fact is, the way we die is not in our hands. What is in our hands is how we live – how we prepare ourselves for that eventuality whilst we still have the time. That process of preparation involves attending to our meditation, and becoming attached to the Shabd within so that when we finally face death, we will not be filled with fear. At the most painful stage of our life, wouldn’t we want to be able to withdraw our attention and direct our thoughts towards the Lord?
So what is this life all about? We have been blessed with this gift of life to attend to our spiritual practice and, if we follow the instructions put forward by the Master, then everything will fall into place. We will learn to live a balanced life with composure and with love; our dealings with our relations, friends and colleagues will become even more meaningful – in fact, we will become better friends, better children, and better spouses; and the hardships of life will not affect us.
If we walk along life’s path holding our Master’s hand, we will never falter. If we spend our lives attending to both our worldly and spiritual duties with love and commitment, always keeping in view the objective of following our Master’s instructions and pleasing him – is that not what life is all about?
Practise remembrance of the immortal Name,
and the whole purpose of your life will be fulfilled.
Dariya Sahib, as quoted in A Treasury of Mystic Terms, Vol. 3