Suffer the little children to come unto me … for of such is the kingdom of God.
Jesus Christ’s words from the King James Bible are so well known because they convey a profound truth. The mere fact of being a child is not, of course, an indication of virtue, yet it’s easy to see some qualities in childhood that are full of grace.
A place apart
Under a tree, beneath a hedge, behind a piece of furniture, young children love to make their own private spaces, their den where the demands of the outside world cease. When we remember our own childhood games or observe small children in imaginative play, we see how they are able to periodically disconnect from the adult world and create their own environment, on their own terms, at least for a little while. What a great ability, and don’t we try to replicate this when we take time – not imaginatively but in concentration – to go into that special place within ourselves at the eye centre? Doing this sincerely and regularly, in the way we were shown at initiation, will help us to experience a greater sense of who we are and where we belong. In The Master Answers, Maharaj Charan Singh tells his initiates:
What do we mean by ‘inside’? When you close your eyes, you are automatically ‘inside’. Holding your attention within here, between the eyebrows, that is ‘inside’.… When you do not think about anything in the world, then you are here, in the centre behind the eyes.… Then naturally you start withdrawing upward and start seeing something inside.
The fact is, we carry a wonderful treasure inside ourselves. The Creator has placed his own spirit, the Shabd, within us and every human being can potentially come into conscious contact with the Shabd resounding in the forehead. It requires initiation from a spiritual adept, and then the firm resolve to set aside time each day to cultivate detachment from the ties of the world by withdrawing to the eye focus.
Letting go in play
Maharaj Charan Singh used to say that only attachment will create detachment. In other words, we will only let go, or detach from, the jumble of worldly thoughts which we hang on to and which in their turn hold us, when something more delightful has caught our attention. The mind’s addiction to endless thinking is actually a prison that prevents us from experiencing a greater reality. Beyond those prison bars we can find freedom in the soul’s attachment to the divine. Mirabai likened attachment to Shabd (discovering the fascination of God’s spirit within us) to playing with a wonderful toy:
I have obtained the rare toy of his Name;
O Rana, a precious toy have I found.
Chiming sweetly it entered my body;
No hands ever gave it a form or shape.
Mira, The Divine Lover
Children instinctively know they need to play. Adults often forget how to do it – how to relax, to enjoy, find fun in joining all one’s attention to something. But we can actually discover a liberating delight in mentally turning over the five holy names in simran and then in reaching into the sound current.
The Masters have sometimes used the analogy of a child playing with its toys in a different way, to illustrate the mind’s absorption in the things of the world. They say when a child drops its toys and cries for its mother, she cannot resist it and comes forward to take her child in her arms. Similarly, when we turn aside from our obsessions here and look for the Lord, our father, he does not refuse us. In fact he has provided a far more wonderful ‘toy’ to occupy us, “the rare toy of his Name” as Mirabai calls the Shabd.
Being a disciple isn’t just about sitting in meditation daily. After initiation we quickly find that the quality of our concentration depends to a large extent on how we interact with our fellow beings during the rest of our waking hours and how that interaction affects our mind. Do we try to be loving, unselfish, truthful, objective?
Baba Ji often advises us not to ‘calculate’. A bit of clear thinking and foresight may be useful in practical matters, but calculation has no part in love. The trouble is, inveigled by the negative qualities of the mind, sometimes described as the five passions, we are caught in the world and the world weighs everything in its own scales, attaching an arbitrary value to each thing: this thing is desirable, that is not; this work gives you wealth and status, that task is menial; this makes you popular, that may not. As adults we cannily adopt these standards (even if we don’t believe in them), hoping to do well for ourselves. Children on the other hand, know no such rules and therefore behave naturally. There is no calculation in a child beyond the little we teach him. He is as happy with pebbles as with diamonds. He loves sweeping the floor if he can do it alongside you. Love is his guide. If we could recapture some of this lost innocence it would make prioritizing meditation – not to mention adopting good, human values in daily living – so much simpler.
Another quality that we find in children is faith – and no wonder. Think of a newborn baby and its total dependence on the mother. The infant relies totally on the parents for food, warmth, nurture, protection. As he or she develops, all the information, all the skills needed for life, are passed on by those close to the child. In a loving environment the child will come to have absolute faith in “my mum”, “my dad”. But it will not last – not entirely! I wonder whether you remember the first time, maybe as a young teenager, that you realized that your parents might not be able to provide all life’s answers? And from then on, a certain mental separation from them evolved in you. Many of us eventually arrive at a place where we respect and love our parents but are also aware that they are limited beings like everyone else. And, in between, our mind will have wondered, assessed, challenged and questioned. We may rightly think that this is an inevitable part of growing up, but that doesn’t lessen the virtue of the younger child’s trust. A young child unquestioningly relies on his parents; mind does not come into the equation and there is perfect faith. Like this, a trusting reliance on God is a great asset for a spiritual seeker.
Reprogramming the mind
In the last example there is actually a big difference between reliance placed on fellow humans and the reliance we can place on our loving Creator. This is a Creator so concerned for his children that he sends his saints amongst us to gather us, support us and lead us home. The faith that a disciple gradually builds in his Master is never misplaced. Building faith is not an easy process because old habits mislead us and cloud the way we see things. But no matter how diffident we are, the Master remains our steadfast anchor.
The spiritual path taught by the Masters shows us that we can actually reprogram our mind and find again some of the simplicity and faith of the child. That’s what meditation is all about.
Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
With meditation our willpower becomes so strong that even if our mind has been wrongly conditioned and wrongly influenced in childhood, we can become a saint.
And in Volume I, he says:
Happiness doesn’t lie outside at all. It is a self-deception to think that I can be happy here, I can be happy there. If I have this, I’ll be happy. If I have that, I’ll be happy.… So unless we belong to the One to whom we really belong and who belongs to us, we can never be happy. And that One is the Father, the Lord.
So through our daily practice of meditation we are enabled to find that source of strength within us and gain the faith and confidence to be our own natural selves – spiritual beings, able to use our human birth wisely, trusting in God’s grace and moving steadily towards him.
A child belongs in its home, with its parents – that is her rightful place, where she is loved and secure. God is our Father and the soul’s place, as his child, is in his arms, blessed by his love.