When we first approach the path of Sant Mat we are encouraged to read the literature and to ask as many questions as we need in order to satisfy our minds that this is truly the path for us. The Master wants us to be absolutely sure that we want to follow the teachings. He wants us to be completely convinced that we are making the right choice when we apply for initiation because, afterwards, our commitment should be total.
Ideally, once we get initiated, the time for questioning should be over. However, the mind being the mind, we find that, to some degree, we never stop questioning (until we have gone beyond the realm of mind altogether). We come across all sorts of thoughts, theories and ideas that challenge our assumptions. In fact, the longer we follow the path, the more we realize that it is full of conundrums - truths which, though they appear to be in opposition to each other, may actually be complementary, rather like the yin and yang of Chinese philosophy.
Effort, grace and letting go
We are constantly told that we must make the effort to repeat our simran as it is well within our power to do so. But where does our simran come from? Is it really from us or is it his grace, his gift?
Without the Lord’s grace, we would not even contemplate sitting in meditation. But we can’t leave everything to grace. Time and again we are told that our intentions are important, that we should make the effort to attend to our meditation with sincerity and honesty even if the results are not immediately forthcoming. We are like little ants climbing a huge cliff. We get up a little way, fall off, and start again. Little by little, we work our way up further and further, and even though we know we will slip, we have to re-apply ourselves over and over again. The paradox is that, the more effort we put in, the more grace we will receive. No attempt at meditation goes unrecorded or is wasted, no matter how small. The Masters assure us that for every step we take towards them, they will take at least ten steps towards us. They are always with us, full of encouragement, whether we are aware of it or not.
Another related conundrum is that whilst we are entreated to make the effort, we are also told to ‘et go’. Oh that we could do that! What a luxury it would be to simply have an off switch for the mind. One day, however, we will reach a point where we will stop analyzing ourselves, hand the results of our meditation over to the Master, and simply surrender. It is at this point that the ant will stop slipping and we will achieve our ultimate goal.
Out of darkness comes light, out of weakness, strength.
Although the sun is always shining, we can’t always enjoy its light and warmth. Sometimes it is covered by thick clouds so that even the daytime appears dark and cold. Likewise, none of us is permanently happy; we all go through difficult situations, which the saints say we should view as a blessing. These difficult situations are products of previous actions that we ourselves undertook. Whatever form they now take (illness, poverty, animosity or loss), they are debts that stand against us and, like a debtor, we should be happy that the debt is being paid off. As there is no alternative to the operation of karmic law, the only recourse open to us is to reconcile ourselves with what is happening rather than fighting against it. In The Dawn of Light, the Great Master writes:
It is difficult to be happy in calamity, but you will find much change if you look at it from the viewpoint just stated [i.e. karmic theory]. Guru Nanak, a great saint, said: “Misery is medicine and pleasure is disease, because in pleasure the mind scatters and in adversity or misery it contracts.”
In quoting Guru Nanak, the Great Master draws attention to another benefit of pain. By going through difficult situations we can learn more about ourselves and grow from our mistakes. The pain can be transformed into something that is actually good for us - it helps us focus on what is important and so draws us nearer to God. For instance, elsewhere in The Dawn of Light, the Great Master states, “The soul that is satisfied in this world does not feel the necessity of joining its Creator.”
When times get really tough we may become aware that the Master is carrying us, protecting us from the full impact of the situation. We go through the motions of life but somehow we feel removed from the situation, as though we are watching a film. It is all going on, but we are not quite part of it. Through his grace, walking on the sword’s edge ensures that we become focused on what is truly important, with all the trivia of life fading into the background. At such times, we also begin to realize just how important those hours of meditation have been in enabling us to reach this point.
The more we know, the more we realize we know nothing
It is a truism that on one’s deathbed, no one wishes he had spent more time at the office - but there may be some initiates who will wish that they had spent more time doing their meditation. We have heard many stories of people coming towards the end of their life proclaiming, “If only I had known, I wouldn’t have wasted a single minute”, indicating that when we get just an iota of mystical knowledge, the things we thought we knew start to melt away. Sadly, until we actually reach the eye centre, we will not know what it is that we have been missing. Nonetheless, regardless of outcome, our task is to keep making the effort and also to keep our lives in balance - understanding that life is built from the stuff of illusion does not mean that we should not enjoy it and have fun.
Progress happens so gradually that we are not even aware of it, but our attitude and perseverance is very important. If we hold love in our hearts we can’t go too far wrong. The stiller we become inside, the more we are able to reflect the all-embracing love flowing from the Master. In the words of the well-known hymn (and through our simran) we slowly begin to “cleanse the chamber of our heart”. We become helpless in his love and leave the small ego-bound ‘self’ behind. After all those youthful years of study, building up our careers, creating a nice home environment and so forth, we come to realize that all comes from him and we are simply his instruments. The more we know, the more we realize that we know nothing.
The first shall be last and the last shall be first
There is no seniority in spirituality. Everybody who has been initiated will one day reach Sach Khand. However, the timing of this will vary according to one’s individual karma. Some individuals may come to the path quite late in life and are able to see the Radiant Form of the Master almost immediately, whilst others will have devoted their whole life to spiritual devotion without seemingly achieving the same wealth. As the Great Master states in The Dawn of Light:
The revelation time depends on the lightness or heaviness of the past karmas. There are certain souls who do not get it even after twenty years, while there are others to whom it is granted to see the form of the Master within on the very first day of initiation. Rest assured that the revelation will come one day.
Taking comfort from the Great Master’s assurance that all seekers will be awarded their spiritual treasure, we may wish to ponder on another thought. In the eyes of the Lord, it may well be those people who work away quietly in the background, unnoticed by anyone, who are really doing the important work on the inner level.
By having nothing we become everything
What can we give to the Master? What do we have that belongs to us? Guru Nanak, when asked by a king what gift he would like to receive, explained that none of the king’s wealth, land, or family was his to give. All the king had to give was his ego. Here we come to our last conundrum. When we finally reach the point of self-realization, acknowledging that all we have is our ego, what is it that we need to do? We must hand over our ego to the Lord, surrendering that which stands between us and him. It is when we have done this that we become one with the Creator and acquire everything. By having nothing we become everything. We can then merge into the ocean and become one with it.
Your Friend or Master is within you, nearer than anything else, and watches you. Whenever your attention is directed towards the eye centre, He hears you and responds, but His response is missed by you because your attention wavers and runs outwards. If you could hear inside, you would be in tune. I wish you may come up to Him and see Him inside, face to face, instead of merely sensing His presence.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems