Making a Lifestyle Choice
Once we have been initiated into the Sant Mat teachings, meditation should become our priority. That said, it is generally due to dwindling enthusiasm that we come to realize this is not actually the case. Initially we start off with great keenness and our days are filled with joy, because we have a living Master guiding us and meditation is an exciting challenge. Every gap we can organize in our day we sit quietly and do our simran.
We are so eager to withdraw to the eye centre and open that inner door. But slowly, as this euphoria peters out, the realization of the monumental task we have undertaken dawns on us, and before we know it our spiritual life becomes part of the unending battle of existence, frequently being pushed to the back of a demanding queue.
Time and again we take stock of the situation in an attempt to bring our spiritual commitment to the fore. And it works, for a little while, but then our daily responsibilities once again push it out. It becomes a continual struggle in which the mind and life itself more frequently win the battle for our attention. This process can become very dis-heartening, as the times of exuberance and joy seem to get fewer.
Still, meditation is vital in our spiritual quest. In fact, it is our real spiritual quest. If we don’t meditate then our life is simply a charade − we present a false image of ourselves as we, so to say, ‘play act’ at spirituality.
It’s true that we all want to be better initiates than we are. There is always room for improvement in our spiritual life, and we each know in our hearts exactly where that improvement should be made. Our difficulty may be, though, that our lifestyle is just not conducive to spirituality and therefore doesn’t support our meditation practice.
Sant Mat is a lifestyle choice. When we requested initiation, we made a lifestyle choice. We follow a vegetarian diet, we lead a moral life, we don’t indulge in drugs or alcohol, and we attend to our simran and bhajan. Once we have made this choice, going forward is defined and structured. However, many of us spend our lives creating unnecessary obstacles to our spirituality and especially to our meditation.
Perhaps part of the problem is that we separate meditation from the rest of our lives. We relegate meditation to a box which is to be opened in the early hours of the morning, a task to be done when the rest of the household sleeps. This turns it into a chore. But spirituality is all-encompassing. Our lifestyle should form the foundation on which our meditation grows. It’s like soil – either barren and dry or nutrient-rich, able to support the life and growth of plants. If our daily life is spiritually barren, how can we expect to get up in the early morning and sit in any meaningful meditation? But if our daily life is spiritually rich, then our meditation will flourish and grow. So the more our life reflects our spiritual path, the richer our meditation will become. The richer our meditation becomes, the more our inner spiritual life will become a reality. Therefore, living the life of a satsangi will become less of a charade.
The Sant Mat activities in which we participate are all part of building our daily life on a sound spiritual foundation, whether doing our simran and bhajan, doing seva, attending satsang or any other aspect of the path. We need to make the Master and his teachings part of our day, for that is the only way we can ever hope to achieve the end − successful meditation.
Maharaj Charan Singh said that whatever time we devote to simran is to our benefit. He says that not a single moment of meditation goes to waste: it is taking care of thousands and thousands of karmas. Every Sant Mat activity and thought that takes us towards the Master strengthens our foundation. In Die to Live he says:
Any minute we devote to meditation is to our credit, and we definitely have the effect of that meditation in one way or another. Whatever time you give to simran − whether moving, walking, sitting − and whatever books you read on Sant Mat, or satsangs you hear, they are all to your credit.
Saints and enlightened beings from every spiritual discipline − whatever path they followed to enlightenment − have all stressed the importance of constant remembrance of the Lord’s name, and the fact that our daily life must reflect our spiritual aspirations. But how often we forget our simran!
Our lives are fragmented. We are pulled one way and pushed the other by the expectations of our family, friends and our work. There are so many tasks to attend to, so many demands to respond to, that we feel fragmented. This happens when the mind or the ego determine our day. Then our simran, our thoughts of the Master and our spirituality, do not permeate our attention and our daily actions. Without the thread of spirituality, there’s no cohesion in our daily life.
But any attempt to repair twelve hours of fragmentation with about two hours of meditation is not going to work. While we may get some inner peace, our focus may still be more outward than inward, and meditation will not be the uplifting experience it is meant to be. It will therefore not have the spiritual value it should. We need to ensure that our Sant Mat lifestyle is on track − spiritually rich and supportive. It’s what Maharaj Charan Singh calls “creating the right atmosphere”. In Die to Live he says:
That atmosphere which you’re building by leading a noble life induces you to meditate. … We must daily continue to build that atmosphere in which we attend to meditation with ever growing love and devotion. We must become strong on the path and mould our lives according to the teachings.
Brother Lawrence, a 17th-century French monk, called this lifestyle support “the practice of the presence of God”. In his book of the same title he writes:
During our work and other activities … we should stop as often as we can, for a moment, to adore God from the bottom of our hearts.
We have such a beautiful Master that one would think his image would constantly be embedded in our mind − like a screen saver on a computer − always there, the background of everything we do in our daily lives. But it isn’t. Instead we clutter our memory and our mind with so much useless information that it is difficult to think of him even occasionally during the day, and it is just as difficult to remember to do our simran. It is truly an indication of the immense power and force of the mind and the ego – the enemy we face every day on the battleground of spirituality. In his book Meditation, Jiddu Krishnamurti writes:
Meditation is really very simple. We complicate it. We weave a web of ideas around it − what it is and what it is not. But it is none of these things. Because it is so very simple it escapes us, because our minds are so complicated, so time-worn and time-based.
We can compare meditation to a cut diamond of extreme value, with numerous beautiful facets. As the diamond cutter works carefully and tirelessly over a long period of time to bring out the inner beauty of the diamond, so too the Master works patiently and lovingly with us, to bring out our inner light and beauty, through our practice.
It’s easy to forget the value of meditation as we battle to control the mind, while at the same time the senses overwhelm us as they coax us into the ever-present pleasure of worldly entertainment. Probably the biggest stumbling block we have when we meditate is that there is no entertainment value in it. But if we want to turn the charade of being a satsangi into reality, we need to change our attitude to meditation.
For whatever reason, destiny has kindly dropped us in the lap of the Master, and we now find ourselves facing an exciting spiritual opportunity. It is up to us to make it a reality, by choosing to follow a rich and supportive spiritual lifestyle that will enhance our meditation practice.
Birds land in a garden
and soon fly away –this is the way to live in the world
till the rope of destiny unravels.
A wayfarer comes to the inn for a night,
then gets up and goes in the morning.
Leave yourself in the hands of the Lord,
says Eknath, then you’ll be fearless and free.
Eknath As included in Many Voices, One Song