Simran, The Daily Diligence
All who are reading this have minds that are much the same, beyond our control. Even for disciples, the empire of our mind can be a confusion of conflicting thoughts and feelings, hopes and fears, a witch’s brew of dark and light that in one instant can lift us to the heights of quiet nobility, and in the next, crash us into the depths of pettiness and ill-humour.
The great irony of our situation is that we are not smart enough to win the struggle with our mind. We are not strong enough. We can’t analyze our way back to the Lord any more than we can overcome the desires of our mind with our good intentions and resolute willpower.
Yet the saints challenge us to take up the war with our mind, knowing full well that by ourselves we cannot win. And they tell us as much. They tell us that it is impossible to unravel the mysteries of the Lord, to find his essence through our intellect and our learning.
Neither can we win the war through even the most forceful exertion of our will. Various saints have said that they would never believe anyone who claimed to have subdued their mind, were they a sadhu or sinner. We know from our own experiences that the more we suppress the mind the more it revolts.
We can adopt all kinds of physical and mental disciplines of all degrees of difficulty to try and bully the mind into obedience. But for most of us, nothing works for very long – our mind still continues to bounce from one desire to another, endlessly free-falling at the end of a bungee cord.
What a dilemma! The mind, which is our great friend in so many ways, is also our biggest enemy. We couldn’t exist in this creation without the mind and its ability to sort through the billions of pieces of data streaming through the senses every second. So what are we to do? How can we use and appreciate the mind without being a slave to its habits? Living saints who come to this creation to collect souls have the solution. They know from experience and report to us that to disengage our mind from the world’s illusions, we must offer our mind the taste of something that is sweeter and eternally more satisfying than the paltry trinkets of the physical plane.
That something which can steady our mind and keep it as a friend while minimizing it as an enemy is the primal music of the Lord, the Shabd. It is described by the saints as so sweet and so transcendent that, on tasting it, our mind becomes completely satisfied and calm.
To attain that Shabd, the saints teach us the practice of simran, remembrance of the Lord through repetition. The power of the five names comes from the power of the giver of the names – our living Master, a Sant Satguru. The names are charged with his spiritual power and bear his authority.
It is repetition of the holy names that is at the core of our search for the inner sound. While the Shabd is the ultimate power that captivates our mind and carries us home, it is our daily attention to simran that prepares us to become attentive to that sweet melody. Shabd purifies us and burns away our layers of stored-up karmas.
Our spiritual journey is a magical mixing together of our daily labour and the Master’s irrepressible love and grace. Although the saints don’t tell us the proportions of the ingredients in this mystical recipe – how much is our effort, how much is our Master – we do know that without his compassion and grace, we go nowhere. But despite how vital the Master’s role is in our quest, our labour in simran is absolutely necessary. Meditation is the work we do that pleases him the most. It is our day-in and day-out efforts at devotion that attract Master’s grace.
As fortunate as disciples of a living saint are, the reality of our spiritual quest can be very different from what we hoped and expected. Not long after we begin our meditation practice we can be taken aback by the continuing dryness of the time we spend in inner darkness. We may find it desolate – no perceptible inward and upward movement, certainly nothing tantalizing to capture our wayward mind, not even anything that feels like the cleansing and scrubbing away of karmas.
We may have expected to cross the stars, the sun and the moon, and be met by the Radiant Form of the Master in no time at all. But instead, months turn into years, and we may find that the path was not the quick fix we hoped it would be. We may discover that our expectations are grounded in a superficial understanding of the Master’s grace and that we grossly underestimate the breadth and depth of the foundation in simran we need for the road we are travelling upon.
If we desire to travel the spiritual path, it behooves us to pay close attention to the words of the saints. When Maharaj Charan Singh tells us that simran cannot be overemphasized, and when Great Master says that the way to find the Shabd is through simran, they aren’t just speaking of possibilities or probabilities. They mean what they say. When we listen carefully to the mystics, we can come to understand that in order to be prepared to catch hold of the celestial melody which is our own divine essence, simran has to become our constant companion.
In the mystical mixture of our labour in simran and Master’s grace, the only ingredient we have to offer is our continuous repetition. And luckily for us that is enough because it is the Master who adds substance and meaning to the recipe by bringing all of his qualities to the effort we give. When we consistently make repetition of the five names our constant companion, the Master draws ever closer to us. So boundless is the Master’s grace and so great the power of the five names that we are slowly changed every day by each round of simran that we complete. Over time, the small miracles that occur in our life bear witness to our slow but automatic transformation. And as we experience this divine joyousness, we naturally discharge our worldly obligations in a much better way – we become a better parent, a better spouse, a better associate. At the same time, we are cultivating the proper atmosphere for meditation.
Eventually, we begin to fall in love with the simple process of simran itself, to the extent that we forget to worry about what our mind calls ‘progress’. Instead, we start feeling the Master’s presence.
There is no doubt about it – all inward spiritual milestones will come to us. Our mind will get a taste of the sweet and transcendent celestial melody. Repetition is the key. Since the ‘when’ of our journey is beyond our comprehension, it is the ‘how’, the process of repetition, that we should be focusing on.
So let us give up thinking, analyzing, calculating; let us instead give ourselves over to action, to the incomparable process of simran that sweeps us clean, draws the Master close, and allows us to catch hold of reality and the truth of our journey.
We know nothing about the inner consequences of the ongoing mixing together of our baby-step efforts and the Master’s unlimited compassion. And we won’t know that until we devote ourselves to performing the simple act of simran that leads us to the Shabd, the source of all knowledge, omnipotent and eternal.
Therefore, let us, as Kabir Sahib suggests:
Day and night, over and again
Repeat, repeat his Name.…
While sleeping or awake, relish,
Relish the ambrosia of simran.…
Without it you’ll not find freedom
Kabir, The Weaver of God’s Name
The most holy and powerful is your level of consciousness which you achieve by doing simran. It is the level that you achieve with the help of simran that is most powerful. No matter how powerful the words may be, if the concentration is not there, you’re not able to achieve that level of consciousness.… In meditation we’re calling the Master at every stage, all the time, even to the last moment. For a disciple, meditation is nothing but the Master at every level.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II