In relation to a question about honesty Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh said:
Actually we have to be truthful and honest with ourselves, not with others, … We must face facts, and we must understand the reality, and we must be honest with our own feelings, with our own self. And if you are honest with yourself, you’ll be honest with others also. If you are deceitful to yourself, you’ll be deceitful to others also.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
In the light of this instruction to be honest with ourselves we can examine the most common question which we always put to the Master. All our questions usually boil down to this one complaint in one way or another, namely, “Master, I have been on the path for so many years and I have not seen the light.”
But what do we mean by “on the path”? For ourselves we mean the number of years since we have been initiated. But for others we have a different standard. We might say: “Well, he was initiated twenty years ago, but he has been off the path for so many years and he only recently came back.” Surely this phrase means something more than just “time since initiation”? At the least we should honestly agree that the phrase means that we have obeyed the four principles and meditated for the full time. Applying that test, we will find that for much of the time we were not “on the path”, just near the path, maybe able to see the path and even hear the traffic, but not actually on the path.
Applying honesty to our principles, we might even need new language to describe ourselves. If we are very strict vegetarians when other satsangis are around, but perhaps flexible when we are alone or travelling, then we are maybe not vegetarians but “flexitarians”.
Concerning meditation, we might like to call ourselves meditators, but we constantly delay in getting down to meditation in earnest. We procrastinate about making meditation our highest priority. In that sense we are procrastinators, not meditators.
We are often unable to digest what we receive from the Master. Instead, we can’t wait to tell others about anything which we feel might enhance our spiritual status. So we may think of ourselves as being a Shabd yogi, when in fact we simply want others to think that we are a yogi. The word for that is a “showgi”.
Combining these elements, our age-old question to the Master would now sound like this: “Master, I was initiated in 1975 and I have been on the path for 63 days. I am a flexitarian procrastinator and a showgi and I wonder why I have not seen the light?” Probably we would never ask that question because we would not want the sangat to hear the truth about ourselves!
Another area of honesty relates to the question of blame. In life it is always useful to find a scapegoat, the one on whom we can pin the blame. For example, the greedy banks were blamed for the 2008 global financial crisis, and so the greedy investors who were gambling that property prices would rise were off the hook, and the careless investors who bought products they did not understand were also off the hook. On the spiritual path we have our own special scapegoat. It is revealed in the two words: “my mind”. We say: “My mind refuses to diet; my mind won’t meditate; my mind finds satsang boring,” etc.
However, we use this term only for the bad things, for our weaknesses. When we do something good, no one says: “My mind does regular seva” or “my mind visited the elderly”. No. For the good things we take the credit and we always say “I”. “I have lost weight”; “I go to seva every week”. We like to speak of “my mind’ as if it is separate from ourselves, but the karmic law is not fooled. The karmic law says:”You did it and you must pay. In this affair you cannot blame the mind. For karmic purposes you and the mind are the same." So we need to stop saying things like: “My mind suffers from lust,” as if we were saying, “My dog has a rash.” Honesty requires us to say: “I can’t control myself,” instead of “I can’t control my mind. Therefore I misbehaved; I am to blame: I lost my temper.” It is time to face the facts and the reality. It is time to stop trying to shift the blame.
Again on the question of how long it will take us to reach enlightenment, the problem is that advances in technology have created a mental “need for speed”. Facsimile transmission demands a faster reply than a letter. Emails demand faster replies than faxes. Text messaging demands an even faster response. In fact, when one sends a text message to anyone under the age of 20, the reply comes so quickly that they must have a magic thumb! When we order something online, we get a tracking code and we then track the parcel as it leaves the depot, boards the plane and so on. By the time the delivery van pulls into the driveway, we are already heading for the door to receive the parcel. Even when we order a pizza, we can track its progress.
What we want is for the Master to give us a tracking code for the Shabd when we get initiation, so that we can see how far away it is and track our progress. Unfortunately for us, spirituality is a long-term project. In her book In Search of the Way Flora Wood quotes Great Master as saying, “We need a medicine which will stop our feverish and aimless wandering in this world, and if there is anyone who can minister to our long drawn-out spiritual malady, it is the Satguru.” We have had the disease of the mind for so long that the treatment will also take some time.
Still, we beg for an answer to the question, “How long?” In fact, for almost every disciple, five years of meditation is quite enough. However, it takes fifty years to accumulate five years of meditation at the rate of two and a half hours a day. So before we think we are doing so much, we should divide by ten! It is worthwhile to realize that what the saints ask of us is really not very much - a mere few years of meditation accumulated over a lifetime set against countless births in this realm.
Advances in science have helped us in two ways. Firstly, it is far easier for us to believe in the karmic law today than it must have been centuries ago. When we consider the vast amount of data which needs to be collected and stored and retrieved in order to operate the karmic law, it must have seemed impossible before the computer age. However, now man easily stores enormous quantities of data in cyberspace and retrieves it instantly. If man can do this in the digital dimension, then it is not hard to believe that God can do this in the astral dimension.
Secondly, advances in science demonstrate in a very specific way the need for a living Master. There is no point seeking guidance in the teachings of past Masters for all those things invented after the time of those Masters. Can a saint who lived a century ago have said anything at all about organ transplants and organ donation, or about life support systems in hospitals, or about in vitro fertilization or genetically modified foods? Of course not, because saints can only comment on matters in their own time, not on future inventions. Those without a living teacher are forced to try to work out what the past teacher might have thought or said. This process is conducted by committees and they often reach different views. We are privileged to have a living teacher who can guide us on all these things.
As disciples, we lead a blessed life because we can conduct the experiment of the science of the soul under the guidance and protection of the living Master. Hazur said in reply to a question about the Master taking charge of the disciple:
Well, brother, to be very frank, we become conscious that the Master has taken charge when we come to the eye centre; actually, Master takes charge right from birth. Those people who have come to the path, Master takes charge of them right from birth - he will never allow them to go so astray that he cannot pull them back to the path.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III
What this means is that we can take no credit at all for coming on to the path. In fact, we should realize that all spiritual progress is due to the Master. We should not consider ourselves to have achieved anything at all. It is comparable to the account of the woodcarver who was asked to repair a famous religious statue. When the statue was repaired, he loaded it on to his donkey and led the donkey through the streets of the town to return the statue to the church. As they went along, people began to offer a prayer to the statue or to bow or fold their hands. The donkey began to think they were worshipping him! He began to pause and strike a pose and even smile. If we begin to give ourselves airs and graces for simply following the path, then we are just like that donkey!
The life of a disciple is intensely interesting. We enjoy a daily challenge to seek self-improvement. Under the guidance of the Master we can try and try again. We will never run out of opportunities to improve. Not only do we have that blessing but our future success is guaranteed. In this context we are living a wonderful life. As Hazur replied when asked whether our future is set for us when we are born:
We have only one future: to go back to the Father. There’s no other future.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III