The Special Ingredient
Sant Mat is essentially a path of spiritual practice – in other words, that loaded word: meditation. The Masters tell us that for a satsangi there can be no more important task. A satsangi who does not meditate is not a practising satsangi, but a satsangi in name only.
Do you despair when you hear this? There are many satsangis who feel that meditation is such a struggle that they’d rather avoid it. This is not merely a great pity – it is a tragedy. The one thing above all others that should be our source of peace and solace becomes instead a source of suffering for us.
Baba Ji addresses this point very clearly when he tells us we must enjoy our meditation. Not should – but must! He goes even further and says that even if we fall asleep, we should enjoy our sleep! What a wonderful way of looking at it!
This bears some thinking about. Why should we find meditation difficult? Why shouldn’t we enjoy it? There are two main reasons. One is that we have certain expectations of performance that we are not living up to. The Master makes it very clear, however, that he is not putting any pressure on us to perform our meditation to a particular standard. He says all he wants is that we simply do it. Who are we then to set a standard for ourselves? Do we think that perhaps there is some secret merit to be gained by pressurizing ourselves, then feeling guilty? There is absolutely nothing to be gained by feeling guilty about our practice. To burden ourselves with guilt is not a positive approach. The positive approach to any failure is to admit that we are human after all, and to get up and try again with more determination than before.
By setting a standard for ourselves we are spoiling the greatest gift we have ever been given. Since we cannot possibly know what to expect in meditation, it is counterproductive to keep looking for something particular. As soon as we start looking for a specific something, we close ourselves off to everything else. There may be other subtle yet beautiful gifts coming our way, yet we are unaware and unappreciative of them. This is an adventure into the unknown for us. We should be receptive and grateful for absolutely anything that comes our way.
It is we who choose our attitude towards meditation. We can make it fun or we can make it drudgery. Baba Ji tells us that we should make it fun. If we find our practice difficult or burdensome, then it is we who have made it so. It is as easy to make our meditation fun and a pleasure as it is to make it boring and a drudgery. The results of this change of attitude will be well worth the effort.
We are not being asked to produce results. Results are the Lord’s to give as he sees fit. We are only being asked to put in effort. What is the point of making this an unpleasant task? Will we achieve anything positive by approaching it with a negative attitude?
The Great Master famously wrote that if you can hold the mind still in the eye centre for three hours, then you must go within. But we can’t hold it still by force. Forcing creates tension, whereas we have to be absolutely relaxed in meditation.
Having said all this, let’s think about a special ingredient that will make our meditation, and our lives in general, more enjoyable: love! When we have love in our hearts, anything can be a pleasure – including our meditation.
What do the Masters mean when they talk about love? Is it the warm fuzzy feeling you get when you see a baby or a young animal? No, the type of love they speak of is something far beyond these brief upsurges of emotion.
In Volume II of Philosophy of the Masters Maharaj Sawan Singh writes:
It is love alone that can give peace and happiness. Without it life is dry and worthless, and even the joys of heaven are of no value. A palace will appear as dreadful as a graveyard to a person who is bereft of love. But even the ill-furnished and dilapidated huts are beautiful if they are brightened with the spark of love.
We are drawn to the path because we are hungry for love. However, the big question is this: What is our capacity for love? How much hunger do we have? Maharaj Charan Singh often gave this example: If you have a plate of delicious food in front of you, but you have no hunger, you will not eat; if you are hungry, but there is no food in your plate, you will not eat; but if you have a plate full of delicious food and a good appetite, you will automatically eat with relish. Neither the hunger nor the food are in our control. These are gifts. All we can do is work for more hunger and wait for more food. The work, of course, is meditation.
Now, let’s consider another question: Is love enough? According to the Great Master, it is not. He tells us that intense longing is also required. Longing, he says, is vital on the spiritual path, and it is the natural outcome of love. He calls it the active state of love. He tells us:
This intense longing always surges up like a wave or current in the heart and refreshes the mind with remembrance of Him. As a result, the heart’s agony is assuaged by continuous remembrance and contemplation of the Lord. This creates a feeling of happiness. It is a stepping-stone, over which a seeker has to tread to attain communion with the Lord.
In order to meet the Beloved, intense longing comes first, in the same manner as flowers bud and bloom on a fruit tree before it can bear fruit. … In other words, this longing is a prerequisite for meeting the Lord.
Philosophy of the Masters, Volume II
So here, too, we might ask: how do we become filled with a true longing that will eventually unite us with God? We’ve been told that this longing is also his gift. He gives it where and when he sees fit. But we can try to make ourselves receptive to it. And by now we know very well how to do that – meditation, meditation, meditation. The meditation can’t be avoided. But do we want it to be a source of frustration in our lives or do we want it to be a pleasure, a joy, a source of peace and bliss? Baba Ji tells us the choice is ours.
I am happy tonight, united with the Friend.
Free from the pain of separation,
I whirl and dance with the Beloved.
I tell my heart, “Do not worry,
The key to morning I’ve thrown away.”
Rumi: Whispers of the Beloved Translated by Mafi and Kolin