Paying the Price
So much of this path is just words for us, and we really have so little understanding of all these words. We blithely say things like “God is love” or “the Master is the Shabd.” What do we understand of this? If we’re honest we’ll admit - probably nothing! It’s not within the scope of our own personal experience. We don’t know what we’re talking about. It’s not real for us.
So then, what about this path is real for us? It’s quite hard to single out anything. There is one thing though: the hunger of the soul - that made us look for the path in the first place, that makes us want to work and do whatever we can to be better satsangis; that compels us to struggle day after day with our meditation. We know about that hunger of the soul. We’ve all felt it.
What else is real for us - so real that our doubting minds can’t ever deny it? Perhaps the rare moments of looking into our Master’s eyes and seeing that here is someone infinitely more vast and powerful and loving than any ordinary human ever could be - and realizing the bond of love that ties us to him.
So often the path feels unreal to us as we flounder among the deceptions of this world. We yearn for those times of unshakeable reality when our minds can’t raise any more questions. And so, even though our efforts may seem to produce so little, we keep trying to do what our Master has asked us to do: live according to the principles and meditate every day to find him inside.
It’s not always easy to be an odd-man-out in a world that feels no need to pursue a spiritual life - to live up to a standard that many find illogical and unnecessary. And it’s certainly not easy to tailor our whole routine to make meditation our first priority. But it’s this hunger of the soul that drives us to get up early in the morning, and to sit and wrestle with our demons as we try to do this difficult task he has given us - as we sit through those long, lonely hours in the darkness, trying to find the still point of calm where he is waiting in silence. For some of us, perhaps many of us, the path can be a lonely affair.
It’s very possible that this path is not meant to be an entirely happy experience. Mirdad talks about the pilgrim climbing the flint slope - a steep slope of broken flint - on which he is cut to ribbons as he climbs to reach his goal. He struggles on because he knows there’s something worthwhile at the top of the mountain. Our souls hunger for something sublime. But there’s a price to pay for it, and surely part of that price is our struggle.
There’s an old saying: “You get nothing for nothing in this world, and very little for sixpence.” We have to pay for everything. And the same applies to the path. Do we really imagine that there’s not a price to pay for God-realization?
In a poem by the eighteenth-century Indian saint, Paltu, entitled ‘The Path of Love’, we read: “This is the abode of love, not the home of your aunt… only a severed head can gain admittance to it.” This means, of course, that we have to be prepared to make the greatest sacrifice for it: not of our life as such, but of our ego, our will, our very identity. This is something huge that’s expected of us. The ego has to go. In Thus Saith the Master Maharaj Ji is adamant about that. Our ego is keeping us away from the Father, he says. When we are able to eliminate that ego, the soul can merge into the Supreme Being.
And so everything that gives us our own sense of identity may well be broken down. We may be made to feel our unworthiness, our helplessness, our utter dependence on our Master. And most probably the most effective means he has to bring this about is our meditation.
We do struggle with our meditation. And sometimes we fall into despair - and we feel terrible when we just can’t get it right. But perhaps even that despair is necessary. We may need to be cut down to size, perhaps every single morning, to teach us the humility that will eventually allow the camel to go through the eye of the needle.
There are many reasons why it may be necessary for us to struggle. Great Master said this about the battle to subdue the mind:
The rise and the fall are natural, and so is the struggle. For that which is achieved after struggle gives strength, self-reliance and incentive to go ahead.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems
We have to become strong to continue this fight against the mind, because it could well be a long fight. Maybe we underestimate the magnitude of this task that we’re trying to accomplish. Look at what we are. And look at what we want to become. Insignificant little flawed creatures aspiring to become God-realized saints!
When asked why meditation takes so long, Hazur Maharaj Ji replied:
Sister, the reason is very clear. Can you know when the creation came into being? Can we calculate when the creation started? Since then we have been in the creation. We can’t even extend our imagination to grasp how long we have been in this world and how many karmas we have been collecting in every life and how much of a load of that dirt we have collected - and we want to burn it just in a second, comparatively? Naturally it has to take time. The bigger the heap, the more the time, so that is why meditation takes so long. It’s not so easy.
Die to Live
There’s also the benefit that our meditation is slowly cutting us free from whatever ties us to this world. We have long-standing bonds with the outside world, and all these outside attachments constantly hamper our meditation. Instead of holding our attention in our simran, our minds are constantly thinking of all those other things that interest us so much. It’s a habit we’re not going to overturn easily. So of course it’s going to be a long struggle.
But most of the time we don’t think logically during those times when we’re caught up in the struggle. Perhaps we get up in the mornings with the best of intentions. Then, day after day, our efforts are so fuzzy and feeble that we’re disgusted with ourselves. And for the rest of the day we feel dissatisfied, wanting him, and grieving that perhaps he doesn’t want us.
It’s certain that nothing could be further from the truth. Through our seeming failure in our meditation he’s giving us his most precious gift - the gift of longing for him. Great Master tells us that longing is created in the disciple when he is unable to get what he yearns for. When the mind finds little apparent progress despite its labour, it begins to feel a sense of separation from the Master, and it’s this longing which burns up worldly attachments and desires and eventually makes us fit to travel inwards.
If we think about it calmly and logically, we can see that there must be value in our struggle - so much so that we could say we’re not failing in our meditation at all. In his writings the 18th century saint Dariya Sahib of Bihar has quite a revealing description of his own Master. He describes him as the “living Lord who shatters pride and dissolves sin”. By shattering pride even our ineffectual efforts are serving a valuable purpose. The Masters keep telling us there’s no need to become despondent or frustrated about our meditation, because we can’t tell what the Master is doing with our efforts.
No doubt at some stage everybody struggles with meditation. Everybody has to pay a price for God-realization. If we read the books we see that even the saints had to struggle to achieve their goal. In her poetry Mira Bai, for example, was absolutely honest about her own battle:
Steep is the climb to my Beloved’s Palace.
I am unable to ascend and reach it.
The four lanes are blocked.
How am I to go and meet the Lord?
Far is the dwelling of my Beloved,
The path is narrow, hard to tread,
And my soul quivers at every step.
Mira, the Divine Lover
Haven’t we all thought like this at some time or another? There’s a kind of comfort in knowing that we aren’t alone in this - that even the great saints struggled with meditation.
It’s going to take time and a lot of effort. The saints tell us this. But they also say this is something infinitely worth working for. So let’s not complain that it’s not falling into our hands after just a few decades of ineffectual effort. God-realization does not come cheap!