Imagine you could live in a state where outer circumstances were irrelevant. That your joy was independent of the weather, wealth, world politics, sickness or health. Imagine having no expectations of the future to deliver your long awaited joy: that one day when I retire, when I eventually have enough money, when my partner starts behaving better, I will find happiness … Imagine that everything you ever truly wanted and longed for was already contained deep inside of you. And so, in truth, it is.
It is only the illusion cast by mind that prevents us from perceiving this timeless reality. Right now, the very essence of our soul is continuous with the One. As a glass bottle filled with sea water thrown into the sea is already part of the sea; only the covering needs be removed to merge completely. It is not a truth to be revealed in the realm of time and distance, but a truth uncovered moment by moment by a clear and conscious mind.
But alas, the mind is neither conscious nor clear. The very soul lies dormant, hidden behind layers and layers of mental confusion, movement and turbulence. Mind works in the physical creation through the five senses. The tongue tastes, but it is the mind that experiences the taste and becomes addicted to it. This is how the senses connect us outwardly with the creation. Daily the mind is played on the keyboard of the senses, a symphony of sensual stimuli that keeps our soul a deep and distant spectator, powerless to act. The spectacle of the senses is like petroleum burning on water, vividly blue and purple, all distraction and wonder, and all of this is played out on the vast canvas of the soul, so still in the quiet and infinite depths below.
To reveal and know this is the purpose of life − self-knowledge. But the soul must first take back its power and control. The outward flow must be reversed so that the energy of the soul governs the mind which, in turn, recoils from the senses. If we are not in control, then we are being controlled. We can only surrender what is ours. And if the mind possesses us, what possibility is there of surrendering it at the feet of the Master?
While self-discipline and self-control are indispensible prerequisites to make any headway whatsoever on this path, the austerity of the yogis of old is not the way advocated by the great mystics. In the end the senses always win, returning with redoubled force into the realm of pleasure and pain. The mystics advocate a more subtle method: meditation. By this method we slowly work from the inside, from our very core, tuning into the spiritual currents emanating from within our own souls right now.
Put bluntly, without meditation we know and understand nothing. Outside of the meditative state the mind simply dances like a puppet in this theatre of illusion. Everything seems solid and real. Everything matters. Everyday unconsciousness is continuous, lost in madness and maya – endless unconscious action and reaction. Profoundly, the mind cannot think its way out of this entanglement. The more refined the intellectual solution, the more cast-iron the trap.
In contrast stands the meditative consciousness: mind thinks, in meditation we know. In the silence of meditation we connect with the clear and steady stream of reality that flows behind the shimmering screen of illusion, the dancing flames which seem oh so real, yet have no substantive existence.
In this state there is serenity of mind, a flow, a harmony of mind, body and senses. When we have taken hold of the real, the tiny pinpricks of life seem to have little effect. Yes, the karmic thorns still lie strewn in the path of our inevitable destiny, but we now seem to glide just above them. Thus a joy independent of circumstances arises within us. Daily issues no longer upset us. Rather, they are observed with a calm and impartial eye but no longer register as jarring or ‘wrong’.
The Creator is the supreme doer smiling over a vast creation which he has set in perfect motion. We are no longer under the tyranny of expected future happiness: no more bucket lists, no vain hope that our material and emotional destiny will magically cooperate with our superficial desire for happiness. The treasure lies within and daily it is becoming a living reality. His gift, the seed of his love, is welling up within and pulling us homewards, overflowing from our grateful hearts.
And yet, if we try to grasp at this state, try to frame it, explain it, intellectualize it – it just disappears like smoke between our outstretched fingers. The moment we break the daily meditation routine, almost imperceptibly we slip from the real back into illusion, unconsciousness. Once more everything is solid, real, painful. Then the cycle starts all over again: we suffer, we burn, we give up, we surrender our efforts, we come back to meditation. From complexity back to simplicity.
Meditation must be kept simple. Complexity is jet fuel for the mind. Hence the mystics prescribe simran. Just to sit, just to say the words, day after day. Nothing else. Its mysterious power lies in its ability to numb or paralyze the busy thinking mind which so jealously guards the soul. Simran anaesthetizes the guard, and once that dark and steely jailor is lulled, our soft and subtle spiritual form slips between the iron bars of her captivity like a ribbon of golden silk and is carried upwards on the thermals of divine grace.