Appointment of a Lifetime
A beautiful summary of this human birth was given by the Master two years ago in Spain. A lady argued that her mind wasn’t ready for meditation and perhaps she needed some special classes or more preparation before meditating. The Master replied that the minute we were given a human birth we were also given the capacity to be one with God. Once we have initiation we have the means to achieve that oneness. She countered that perhaps some children just had weaker minds and were not capable of meditating. The Master smiled and said, no, the Lord doesn’t choose those children! His message was clear. We can walk this path. We can do the meditation.
It is said that the distance between God and us isn’t measured in miles, it is measured by our desires. So where do our desires lie? Where does our attention lie? What desire do we most display to the Lord through our thoughts, our words, and our actions? Most of us say we want God. After all, that’s why we’re on a spiritual path, isn’t it? We are constantly asked whether our desire to know God is reflected in our behaviour, in what we think about, and in how we spend our time.
If someone wants to become a famous piano player but never sits before a piano to practice, how successful will he be? Will it be the lofty goals or the actions that will lead to the desired outcome? Similarly, the action we must take for our spiritual awakening is to follow the four vows of initiation. The first three vows all say that we should be a good human being. The fourth instructs us to do our bhajan and simran.
Let’s peep in the mirror of our own hearts. How do we behave as human beings? Are we judgmental or are we kind? When faced with negativity, do we walk away and ignore it, or do we like to join in and feed that energy? Do we gossip about or mock someone who is not present? It has been said, “The slanderer washes my clothes”- meaning that if we criticize anyone, we may help clear their karmas, not ours. Do we really have that luxury?
Most of us struggle with the four vows at some time or another. But Master tells us not to analyze and instead to just always do our best - because this path doesn’t work when we put in half-hearted attempts. He asks us to be good people and to try our best at meditation, the fourth vow. Over time and with constant meditation, saints say we become more like the Lord through our extended association with the Shabd - kind, forgiving, and patient. This alchemy takes place through our connection, not with the world, but with the Word.
Just as an ordinary lump of clay turns into a beautiful bowl with its association with a potter, our constant association with the perfect mystic inspires us to be better people, to face and remove our faults, and to try and repeat our simran during the day so that we can improve the quality of our daily meditation.
Someone asked the Master what the minimum daily requirement for simran is, and he said: “24 hours”. So the more we think of the Lord, the more we will be in his company, and the more focus we will have to cross that threshold and enter the inner worlds. But all this can happen only when we start focusing our attention on the Master - all the time.
Omar Khayyam is quoted in Caravan of Dreams as saying:
Read what you should read. See what you should see.
Act as you should act. Feel what you should feel.
Until you can do all these things, follow the Guide.
When you can do these things, you will not have
to be told- Follow the Guide.
Idries Shah, Caravan of Dreams
He is saying that until we become perfect, we should simply follow the Guru. But once we reach perfection, we will realize there is no way other than to follow the Guru. We may waver in our faith because we haven’t realized who the Master is. Yes, we feel like we belong with him in his physical company. We feel loved, special, and safe. But then, when we are far away, that closeness, that warmth and security may start to slip away. We get lost in our duties, television, and work. Months later we wonder where our motivation has gone. Saints say this happens because although we may understand conceptually that he is always with us, we haven’t experienced it. Once we experience his constant presence, our attention will be with him all the time as we discharge our worldly duties.
What about the fourth vow? Is it two and one-half hours of meditation or two and one half hours of thinking? First is the time requirement. Just as we must show a certain attendance in college to be able to get enough credits to graduate, in the same way, we must show up, every day, for this appointment with our Master.
Then once we show up, what do we do? Usually we settle down, start simran, and the mind starts to wander back to that last argument with the spouse or boss, or how much our back hurts, and before we know it an hour has gone by with just those three rounds of simran! If we’re going to carry the baggage of the entire world into our meditation, then that meditation is of the world.
Let’s say we go to a gym to get healthy. We may go every day, talk to some friends, look at the charts on the wall, and watch the trainers teach other people, but we ourselves don’t get on one single machine! And then we look at our watch and say, “Oh, time to go, great workout today.” We aren’t going to get fit unless we actually work out ourselves!
In the same way we have to make our meditation count. We have to put in effort to still the mind, one thought at a time, in order to reverse this flow of attention, so we can allow the soul to regain its strength. And this can only happen through focused meditation. We need to become absorbed in that simran, which will help lead us to the Shabd that is constantly ringing within us, pointing the way home - no matter how feeble the Shabd may initially be.
We often hear, “Anything worth doing, is worth doing well.” A Zen Master writes: “Find your posture and then sit - as if it’s the last act of this lifetime.”
We should sit as if our being depends on this meditation session, for indeed it does. We should sit as if it is our topmost priority, for indeed it is. As Maharaj Sawan Singh writes, “This done, all is done: this not done, all else is as if nothing has been done.”
He’s telling us that this is the appointment of a lifetime. This is the most important thing we will ever do. There’s no ‘to do’ list beyond this. There is no place to go afterwards, no people to meet - just our being fully present with him. It’s as if we are sitting with the physical form of the Master during a long interview. In those moments, do we have a care in the world? No one else exists. No worry burdens our heart; no task presses upon us. We are wholly there, entirely present, absorbing every second of his beauty.
Similarly, while meditating, we let our soul be in the presence of its creator. Eyes closed, ears closed, thoughts closed – just soul and spirit, disciple and Master. The soul is the disciple; the Shabd is the Guru.
Being immersed in the current of God, there’s no way, say the saints, that we will not be dyed in the colour of the Lord. Talking about this promise, Sultan Bahu says:
When I went within myself to investigate,
I found my Beloved sitting alone - waiting!
The Master is in charge of this game of grace. His grace first flowed when we received a human birth. More grace was showered upon us when we were drawn to the spiritual path, and boundless grace poured forth when he initiated us. The key to our awareness of the grace of the Master is our meditation.
So God is there, waiting at the eye centre. It is we who are missing. Let’s give him our best. Let’s dedicate ourselves to him each time we meditate, for this truly is an appointment of a lifetime.
One day, this self, and all dear to it,
will be blown around in dust and dirt.
While you still have a chance, offer all you have here,
at this purifying flame, and be cleansed.
Garments torn, heart on fire,
let your whole being burn away in this Love.
Shaikh Abu-Saeed Abil-Kheir, Nobody, Son of Nobody, rendition by Vraje Abramian