The Masters are very practical people. They give us the highest ideals and then are there at every step of the way, both to explain those ideals and to help us reach them. As an example, let’s consider the following question put by a satsangi to Maharaj Charan Singh and his characteristic answer, as recorded in Die to Live.
Q. Maharaj Ji, it is often said that we should do more meditation with punctuality, regularity, and love and devotion. But love and devotion seem to be out of our hands.
A. Sister, by love and devotion I mean that you must have faith in the path which you are following, that this is the path which goes back to our destination, and faith in the one who has put you on the path.… Faith doesn’t take you to the destination. Practice will take you to the destination, but faith will make you practise … love and devotion is to have faith in the path and the Master. Then we practise also, and then we get the results from that practice.
His words make us realize that there is no need for us to harbour an idea of love as a warm and fuzzy feeling – or, for that matter, as an intense and passionate feeling – and think we are lacking if we do not feel that way. The Master immediately translates the concept of love and devotion into the practical issue of a faith that leads us to practice. At once we see that it is not something unattainable; it is realizable by us, now. Perhaps the ultimate love and devotion cannot readily be known or described, but the first steps towards it are within our capabilities.
If we demonstrate that we value this spiritual path, and give our utmost to it, the Master will help no matter what the odds against us. This reminds me of a documentary film I saw recently about the army. A number of soldiers had applied for transfer to an elite corps and were being put through their paces. On one exercise, they had to complete an arduous trek, bearing heavy packs across rough ground, and then run up a long mountain path to the finish. The soldiers were near collapse at times but the sergeants ran alongside, shouting, cursing and insulting them as only army sergeants can – all with the intention of keeping them moving so that they would pass the test.
To fall is not to fail
The last soldier was clearly in difficulties. He fell repeatedly, struggled to his feet, and fell again, yet still he continued. Were he not to reach the finish line, he would be rejected – and about a hundred yards from the end he collapsed, completely spent. The two sergeants, who until then had been roundly cursing him, went to him and lifted him up, supporting him against their shoulders, then ran with him, his feet dragging on the ground, until he was across the finish line. This soldier was accepted whilst some of the others who had finished earlier were rejected. The examiners were looking for effort, dedication and determination. The soldier had given everything he had to give, and this was why he passed, even though technically he did not even finish the course.
That is exactly our own situation. The Master does not swear and curse of course, but he does run alongside us to encourage and urge us onward – sometimes in a way that can feel stern and uncompromising. He is watching for our best effort and he will use any excuse to help us. As in that story of the two sergeants, if he sees us struggling, he will come to our aid.
Maharaj Charan Singh wrote in Divine Light:
It is better if we finish our internal journey or at least make a good start in our lifetime. But if we are not able to accomplish that and have tried to the best of our ability, we need not be born again on this earth plane to finish it. By his grace the Master most often takes the soul to Trikuti, keeps it out of the reach of Kal, and there enables the soul to accomplish its unfinished task. But our effort should be to take full advantage of this human body and thus finish as much of our journey as possible.
We tend to get hung up on success and failure, but we are judging by the wrong criteria. Soichiro Honda, the founder of the motorcycle and car maker Honda, understood failure. He surprised contemporaries with his remark, “The most valuable product is what we call failure.” He recognized that to achieve anything worthwhile – in his case, innovation – one had to make a huge investment of time and resources, much of which might not produce any recognisable results. In other words, most of your effort is likely to result in apparent failure, but this failure is valuable. First of all, we learn much from our failures. Furthermore, without the effort that produced the failure you would not have achieved anything at all.
To be afraid of failure is a crushingly negative approach to a problem – or even to life itself. So-called ‘failure’ is part and parcel of eventual success – and so it is with Sant Mat. The Masters do not talk about failure, because it is not relevant to them. They talk about effort: because that is our only duty, the only thing within our control. The rest is not our responsibility. We cannot fail, because failure is not under our control. We may delay things or speed them up, but in spiritual terms we cannot fail, and so ‘failure’ becomes a redundant word. We should attach ourselves to the effort we have to make and avoid making judgments on our progress, for we do not understand the values that apply to spiritual matters.
Perhaps there is a gap between our ideals (where we want to get to) and the reality. In this case we can take heed of Henry David Thoreau, who wrote in his book Walden:
If you have built castles in the air your work need not be lost: that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them.
This is another way of saying that this is the time to put in some hard graft.
So by all means, let’s envision ourselves as higher, more perfect beings existing in a blissful environment, away from the mean features of this terrible world, and then act to realize the dream. The soul within is the perfect being, and we should always keep this dream alive: that we are part of the Master and of the Creator – an intimate part, not remote in any way. Now we should work to underpin that ideal.
For the Masters tell us that this ideal is the truth. We only have to work to experience it. Following the guidelines given so clearly by our Master, and accepting all the practical help that he gives us, we should keep that wonderful ideal in mind whilst we go about our duties, confident that we will indeed achieve our destination. For that is our birthright, and the means to regain it is our meditation, done with love and devotion – in the sense that Maharaj Charan Singh defines it, namely the practical sense.