The Inner Archway
Life and society constantly evolve and, as a result, many of our value sets have changed. Much of this change is due to the advances made by technology, which allow us to have a far better lifestyle than that of our parents and grandparents.
As the world changes, so do our needs. We have to exist in this world and we have to move forward with it. We no longer live in an agrarian world where we barter one sort of food for another. We live in the twenty-first century and most of us need access to the technology that is a part of this century - we need items such as cars, TVs, computers, perhaps even smartphones, iPads, iPods and Medical Aid. Many of these are necessary to be able to live reasonably comfortably in today’s society. We need to keep abreast of the world we live in, and we must decide for ourselves the extent to which we want to be involved in the world. We all have different personal circumstances which direct that involvement.
Technology also constantly changes the way we spend our leisure time, and entertainment has become a dominating factor in many of our lives. The choices we have to occupy our minds with frivolity are truly mind-boggling. When we get bored with one thing, we immediately find a new and more interesting activity, as we constantly connect ourselves to some worldly interest via the Internet. It’s so easy to move from obscurity to an Internet persona by putting our opinions on websites and blogs, and submitting videos to YouTube.
If we don’t consider the effects of our thinking and actions as we go through our day - and probably many of us don’t - are we likely to consider the ties of attraction and attachment that arise from our Internet action? Do we ever consider the impressions and effects we are embedding in our subconscious when we get involved in social networking sites and Internet interactions?
The fact that we are not in a one-on-one situation with the person we are interacting with does not mean we are not creating subtle impressions on the mind. Many of these impressions are made with unknown people who read our posted opinions and respond to us, whether on blogs or via chat rooms. These all leave imprints on the mind that will have to be cleared at some time by our meditation. Here again we see the power of attraction, added to addiction, leading to attachment.
We must determine for ourselves where our needs stop and our wants begin, what is healthy entertainment and what is simply the ego expressing its opinions. It is not wrong to have the comforts of life and the material things that make this worldly life more pleasant - after all, it’s more comfortable to sit and cry in a luxury car than on a bicycle. Nobody says we can’t enjoy the ride, have fun and be entertained along the way. What is wrong is when our wants - or rather, our desires - become excessive, when greed takes over and we strut the ego on the stage provided by the Internet.
Regarding needs and desires, Maharaj Charan Singh responded to a questioner by saying:
You want to know the difference between necessity and desire? Well, you have to make up your own mind whether you can afford a Volkswagen or a Buick or a Lincoln. You have to make up your own mind, even whether you can do without all of them. It depends on you. If you are becoming so obsessed to possess one and it is bothering you, so have it. If you can afford it, buy one. If you can get rid of your desire and you can’t afford the car, get rid of the desire. … Certain desires can be fulfilled if we have the economic means to satisfy them. It depends on one’s circumstances. If you have a desire to possess a Lincoln but you have no money in the bank, you shouldn’t commit a robbery to buy one. One has to look at one’s economic circumstances. Otherwise, you have to withdraw your mind from such desires.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
This encapsulates what our approach to needs and wants should be. Through our desires we not only risk becoming indebted to Kal, but we continue to create debt. It’s like shopping with a limitless credit card - it’s easy, it’s convenient and we enjoy doing it. Only at the end of the month, when we are presented with our account, do we realize the extent of our debt and the futility of the many unnecessary purchases we have made.
When Kal issues our ‘Statement of Account’ at the time of our death, what will the balance reflect? The Master may have accepted us into his own care, but the statement of our worldly purchasing will still be issued. Will we be embarrassed to see the extent of our excesses, our greed and our unrelenting involvement with the world, or will we be satisfied that we had put in our best effort to reduce our outstanding balance? We would do well to remember that after the euphoria that comes from joy we are left with the pain of suffering. This is the price we pay. As Maharaj Charan Singh says:
Everything is illusory; there is nothing real about it, for all of it will come to an end.
Spiritual Discourses, Vol. II
We may not know the original seed that sprouted any desire, but we are certainly aware of the effects that satisfying a desire has on us, whether it is joy or suffering. It’s a simple process: first attraction entices us and we begin to experience a desire for what has attracted us. Once desire is kindled, obsession grips us and leads to action, from which are formed the binding attachments that lock us into the creation. So, when attraction is pursued, it leads to attachment and attachment, as the Master tells us, leads to bondage. Attraction, desire, action, attachment, and suffering are like a wheel rotating endlessly.
When we understand the process of attraction, thought, desire and action, we can use this process positively to turn our attention away from the creation. And not only that, we also use the process to turn our attention to the inner world.
Maharaj Charan Singh tells us that at our forehead is the inner archway where the Supreme Lord gives his unending call. Within each person, this most beautiful and sweet call from the heavens surges forth from the Lord. This is what we should be attracted to, this is where our desire should be. In the beginning it may be that we are attracted only to the idea of finding that archway and hearing that sweet call from the heavens, but if we pursue that dream as the Master has instructed us, we can make it a reality. That dream is enough to begin the process of turning our attention away from the world to the journey within.
We may not be completely focused on getting out of this creation, but each one of us is on the path back to the Lord, and in our own way we are slowly moving forward. We also become aware that life is a tug-of-war between the attractions of the outer world and the sweet, in-drawing power and attraction of Shabd calling us from the inner archway.
The process of moving from a state of worldly attachment to that of detachment does not happen overnight. We do not go to bed on Saturday and wake up on Sunday having attained detachment. Essentially it is a very slow process. It is something we have to work at, and Sant Mat teaches us how to do this.
The Masters prescribe a course of spiritual discipline and a certain way of life for us to follow. Together these cut down much of the seed formation of future karma. The Masters assure us that by practising our spiritual discipline we can experience that sweet call from the inner archway. The vast majority of us battle with our meditation. We also struggle just trying to focus more on our simran than on the world, let alone getting to the eye centre, but it is important to keep trying - to keep our dream alive.
But there’s this for our comfort: Maharaj Charan Singh told a satsangi who doubted whether he could reach the eye centre by the time of death:
Meditation means that we are training our mind to go inward and upward. We are creating a tendency in the mind to go inward and upward, withdrawing it from outside and bringing it back to the eye centre. … Often you may not see anything within, but you feel so happy, so contented, so at peace within yourself. You feel the effect of meditation within yourself - you feel detached from everything.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
The questioner then asked: “And that is enough at the time of death to take us up?” The Master replied: “That is more than enough - because now, your tendency is not towards the creation.”
What does this mean? Surely that we simply have to turn away from the darkness and face the inner light, and he will pull us to him in the inner archway.