Diamond Mines and Chimney Sweeps
There is an old English expression which warns us about getting into situations which damage our tranquillity. It is ‘never wrestle with a chimney sweep’. This saying comes from a time when many households in the northern hemisphere were heated by coal and some houses had several chimneys. The sweep was a frequent visitor and always caused consternation, turmoil and anxiety in the house he was visiting. Nobody would ever shake his hand because they knew that the soot which clung to him would transfer itself to them. He represented the things which we know exist in the world – the dirt, the squalor, the complications we would do best to avoid.
As we live our lives as disciples we might remember this.
One example of complication is that we live in a world where choice seems to have become one of the ‘rights’ of civilized life. We have become used to having a whole range of options open to us for every possible aspect of living. These options can supposedly render our lives more enjoyable, less costly, increase our status or individuality; give us faster access to an ever increasing mass of ‘stuff’.
Once there was talking (varied by whispering or shouting). Then paper and pens made from sharpened sticks or quills. Now we have cell phones, iPads, texts, Skype, video, email, Twitter, and on and on, each with its tangled mass of tariffs and deals. Wasn’t talking (or shouting) so much less confusing?
How much of our physical and mental energy goes into worrying about how to make choices? How to do the research, how to decide, how to pay, which of the ever craftier deals to go for? If we don’t look out, this wrestling can cover us in more and more of the world’s soot.
Our great problem seems to be that we find the process seductive. We complain loudly about the nightmare of effort and time involved, but secretly get pleasure from our busy dealings – buying our gas from a supplier of nuclear energy or our water from a gas supplier!
We are here because our mind wills it. We ourselves weave the net of entanglement in which we live. The more dense and more complex the web, the less we are able to escape it. We are flies in a spider’s web. Enticed. Entangled. Wrapped in silk and sucked dry. The World Wide Web, the Internet, can be a useful tool but it shouldn’t take over our life.
Amongst this mad whirl of technology we must keep a grip on the basics of life, the simple absolutes: sun up, sun down; new moon, old moon; spring, summer; new life, old age. Death. And above all remember to focus on that greater absolute, that which fuels the whole creation, and which is sometimes called the Name of God.
This is the force, the power, the very essence of all existence. We choose to wrap around it so many layers of mind stuff – complete with that dusting of soot – making it vanish from our sight. That sooty spider’s web appears to us to be existence itself. But actually it’s the fabric that conceals the light within us. The light burns and shines in every cell of our being yet we are unaware of it and sit in darkness.
That desperate search for the latest gadget, the best deal, the biggest car or TV is part of what is keeping us from grasping the best deal of all, the simple touch of the Master’s finger.
Masters say that the lonely, needy souls are as visible as bonfires when viewed from the top of a mountain on a black night. Masters alone see who suffers from disenchantment with the world, those who know that deep within there is something brilliant, something of great value waiting to be extracted – diamonds within a mine. They draw these souls into their company and then begins the long process of digging through the covering layers and finding the jewel.
We cannot achieve this on our own. The Master alone has the power to do it. All we can do is please him and he will do the rest. How can we please him? By keeping to the instructions he gives us, most of which are simple and mechanical. He promises that even those that seem so difficult are easy if we really want to put them into practice. It can take a lifetime or it can take two minutes to let go of the world’s weight.
He tells us that one of the reasons it takes so long is that we try too hard. There is a well-known story about the monkey with its fist in a narrow-necked food jar. As long as it grasps the goodies in the jar, its hand is stuck and can’t be drawn out. Opening the fist should be easy enough: stretch the fingers, let things drop. But, like the monkey, we can’t; whilst we grasp the goodies (those deals and sticky ties of the world), we are prisoners. “Here’s a problem,” we tell ourselves. “If only I apply intellect to it, think it through, get some professional advice, I will be able to decide – which finger to loosen first, which next, why am I not succeeding?” But does it work?
Those souls who are drawn to the path are those inflicted with ‘divine discontent,’ those who have an inherent desire to look inwards and lean towards the light. This is the gift we must use if we are to please our Master. Fighting the intellect with the intellect, the mind with the mind, is not the answer. This is just feeding the mind’s love of creating problems, and then sitting down to worry over them.
Leaning inwards – doing simran – helps us to calm down, get things into perspective, stitch ourselves into the Master’s presence. He has the answers to all the problems. He either slides the answers we need imperceptibly into our minds or gives us the strength to glide over the difficulties without pain, not minding the results.
Leaning inwards is leaning towards what Maharaj Charan Singh called “the treasure within”. Luckily for us, reaching this treasure is not done by hard scrabble, but by doing nothing. Just sitting. We must not imagine though that ‘just sitting’ is as easy as ‘just doing nothing.’ The diamond that we seek may be waiting for us but it still needs effort to mine. It still needs us to apply discipline and exertion.
Although we cannot force our mind to let go, we can employ that effort towards a better discipleship which, together with proper time given to our meditation, will bit by bit increase the depth of concentration that we are able to achieve. To help our discipleship, the Master is the perfect exemplar of how to live in the world, and he provides a wealth of advice for us, not least in our literature which beautifully sets out the ideals we are working towards. Good human values and the wisdom of spiritual perspectives are encapsulated in the perfections that all Masters demonstrate to us in their daily lives. We cannot will the results of any effort we make but we can exert our will in how much we try to follow their example.
We can put our strength into putting the proper time into meditation. We can keep a fierce hold on our thoughts and our tongue, do simran, read books. In fact, we can do everything we can to hold on to the Master instead of the world.
If we want to get rich in soul and spirit, our task is to seek the diamond within. To sit in silence; do nothing; keep the face of the Master before us. This is so simple that most of us miss the point.
If, instead, we find the world and its playthings more alluring – well, we know where we’re likely to find ourselves: in a wrestling match with a chimney sweep.