Letter from a Brother
My Dear Brother,
You have asked me to tell you the ‘secrets’ of this path now that I’ve reached fifty years of age and have been on the path almost half my life. You probably think that I know much more than you since you’ve been initiated for only a year.
The first secret I’ll tell you is this: that age or time on this path doesn’t mean as much as you might think. There are those lucky satsangis who see the Radiant Form as soon as they’re initiated. There are others who labour long and see nothing within for most of their lives. Wouldn’t we all like to see the Radiant Form right away? Of course. Should we be depressed if we’ve seen nothing for years? Absolutely not, and I’ll tell you why. I remember when I first tried playing golf. I hit par on my very first hole. With steady play I thought I’d be an expert in a few months. Only after playing for a while did I realize how difficult golf was and how much effort and training it would take to be merely average at the game. The same is true with this path. We have such zeal and enthusiasm in the beginning; we think nothing can stop us from reaching Sach Khand in a short time. But when we put in some effort we see how long the road is to our goal.
This isn’t to discourage you. Nothing great is ever accomplished without enthusiasm. But here’s another secret, one that Maharaj Charan Singh Ji used to tell us, that slow and steady wins the race. What does this really mean? It means don’t always just focus on the goal. Focus on the means to the goal and, for us, the means is our daily simran and bhajan. If we do this, then the goal will take care of itself.
I can just hear you saying: “How do we know we’re on the right track without measurable progress? At least with golf I can hit a good shot every once in a while!” How do you know you’re not making progress? If you are intent on measuring progress, then do it this way: Are you following the vows carefully? If you are, then this is progress. Are you regular and punctual in your meditation? That would be spectacular progress. Do you find yourself less whipsawed by the events of the world and in your daily life? Brother, that’s the soul slowly being disentangled from the thorny bush of the world.
I’ll tell you what the best progress is – this is one of my personal secrets: If you keep at your meditation, you will actually begin to enjoy it! You will look forward to entering the quiet refuge within yourself every morning. When I was a kid I used to hide in the coat closet when I wanted to escape from family upheavals. I loved the muffled quiet, the darkness, and the smell of mothballs. Meditation is my adult coat closet, and should be yours, too. As your mind settles down (it will, just give it time) you will enjoy moments of utter serenity. You will hear the pure sweet sound of the Shabd. And, most importantly, you will palpably feel the Master’s presence within.
You will also find it remarkable how much a sense of love and devotion will grow in you. It’s not a feeling you even want to talk about because it seems so personal. But it’s there and continues to grow, and you feel the utmost gratitude.
You have mentioned to me that you feel like you’re risking everything to follow the path and the Master. In a sense, you are. We’re gambling that this path will lead us to the Lord in exchange for our love of the world. This risk seems much greater than it really is. Will you really miss the drinks and the drugs, the empty excitement of lust, and the carrion most people call food? In the beginning you will, especially as giving up these poisons will make you seem somewhat ‘finicky’ and ‘aloof’ to worldly people. But what is the worth of these pleasures compared to the pleasure of the Master’s company? I can tell you, not much. The so-called pleasures of this world lead to a circle of pain, a circle because they create pain for all those who are involved in them. The path leads to a circle of love. Love goes from the Master to the disciple and then back to the Master. The reward of this love is too great to pass up.
You have said that you like to talk to me because you think I have it ‘figured out’. This path is too subtle, too deep, and too long for anyone to think that they’ve figured it out. Besides that, each of us is walking through a karmic maze of our own creation. We never know from one moment to the next whether we will laugh or cry, or act the sinner or saint. The only one we should look up to is the Master. He is our rock. As Soami Ji says in Sar Bachan Poetry:
I am a slave at my Master’s feet;
I have now fulfilled the purpose of my life.
Here is my last secret: This path requires constant application. What do I mean by that? It means you have to weigh everything you think, say, or do on the Sant Mat scales. In the beginning, this takes a lot of effort, as you might expect. Eventually, the Master will inculcate in you such a refined sense of conscience that anything you do outside the boundaries of the path will bother you. So, you will have no choice but to constantly apply the principles of the path to your life. Ah, but what a sense of freedom this will give you!
That’s enough for now. I hope these thoughts have been helpful to you. I’m sure by his grace you will be in my position one day, advising a newcomer on the path. And where will I be? My hope is another day closer to him.
There is a place where words are born of silence,
A place where the whispers of the heart arise.
There is a place where voices sing your beauty,
A place where every breath
carves your image
in my soul.
Rumi, In the Arms of the Beloved
No other method in this age of darkness
for crossing the ocean of existence –
day and night just sing the Name divine,
jewel of the light in the crown of religions.
Following the rules of religion
through life’s four stages –
student, householder, recluse, renunciate –
it doesn’t work in these times.
Not all can manage the practices,
or knowledge of scriptures.
But if you sing God’s Name, says Namdev,
Liberation walks right in to your home.
Sant Namdev, as quoted in Many Voices, One Song