Straight Down the Middle
Some years ago, there was a terrace of houses on a hillside at the edge of town. It may still be there today. To approach by car, you drove steeply uphill and then made a sharp turn between two stone gate pillars set on the slope. This led into the lane behind the houses. The gateway had been constructed before the days of motor traffic and was only just wide enough to allow a vehicle to pass through. You had to approach at some speed to avoid stalling, spin the wheel at the right moment, and then steer accurately between the pillars - any misjudgement and the bodywork would have hit the stone.
I lived in that terrace so I know that the knack to the manoeuvre was never to actually look at the pillars - not really look. You had to be aware of them in the corner of your eye but then focus intently on a point somewhere between them, and just go for it. They say that a cat can pass through small gaps, jumping and climbing with ease, because it uses its whiskers to assess the space around it; once it has that information, it propels itself fearlessly forward.
Following the path of Sant Mat in daily life bears similarities to both those examples. Our ‘whiskers’ are our experience and consequent judgement - but these alone won’t help us. Sant Mat also gives us an excellent point of focus which will pull us through many a tight squeeze. This focus is both the principles we stand on and the Master by whose grace we are able to put those principles into practice. We have every reason to be confident.
When faced with a whole gamut of tight squeezes - temptations of the senses, tricky social moments, awkward work or family situations, we will sail through - albeit sometimes by only a whisker - by focusing intently on the Master rather than on the situation itself. The situation, if you like, is the surrounding material that we crash into if we look at it too hard. The Master is that pure central space that we must aim for.
If you want an example, just imagine this: you wake up early in the morning, very comfortable in your warm bed. It’s cold outside - but you know you must get up to do your meditation. Faced with the temptation to stay under the quilt, what will actually get you up? Is it thinking about that temptation (“I shouldn’t but I want to … I want to but I must’nt” ) or simply starting up your simran? The point is that we have to avoid looking around us and just focus straight down the middle. The ‘middle’ is our Master’s instructions. Suddenly we’re out of bed and reaching for our shawl.
This spiritual path is about learning to control the mind. It simply cannot be done by analysis or even will power. This is why we need a Master and why we must follow his instructions to do our simran and bhajan and keep our attention at the eye centre. In a letter in Spiritual Gems, Maharaj Sawan Singh, quoting a proverb, says: “If you are going fox hunting, go with the preparation of a lion hunter.’ The same applies to mind hunting. Every day one should be on the job with renewed determination.” The place where we work on the task is at the point between the two eyes.
Love is a great motivator, the love generated by our relationship with our Master and his great love for us. Because we learn to love and trust in him, we are motivated to please him by doing the work he sets us. Maharaj Sawan Singh writes in Spiritual Gems, letter 154:
You … ask for the method I worked out for myself during my own early experiences. In regard to that, I may say that I never worked out any method for myself. I took instructions from my own Guru and he gave me the exact method. That method is the same as all saints use, which is simply the concentrated attention held firmly at the given centre. What else can we say?
Again and again, in further letters in Spiritual Gems, he explains that ever since we took birth in this creation, our mind has been running wild, mistakenly seeking for peace through satisfaction of sensual desires. In this way, it involves us in an unending chain of actions and their resulting reactions. What we now have to do is to go through our present life without creating further karma - hence a need to keep a firm hold on the mind throughout our daily transactions - as well as, most importantly, giving the prescribed time to our spiritual practice every day. The key to this, says Maharaj Sawan Singh, is training ourselves to bring our attention to the eye centre because, as he writes in Spiritual Gems, letter 157, “Here is where Divinity comes down to meet the struggling man.”
We humans have such a propensity to forget our good intentions that we cannot rely on our mental powers to fulfil them. We must turn at every opportunity to that place - the eye focus - where we can take the help of divinity - in other words, our Master. He is a power far beyond mind, and the five holy names he gives us to repeat are charged with his power, the power to lift and transform us, the power to take us through very narrow spaces.