It’s very easy to understand Sant Mat, but I know how difficult it is to follow.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
If there is one thing every disciple comes to realize after being on the spiritual path for several years it is that it is not easy. Sant Mat is an all-encompassing way of life, and to be a good disciple twenty-four hours a day, from the time you wake up in the morning till the time you go to bed at night, can be quite exhausting.
At every step there is a raging battle with the mind; to do the right thing; to be good; to be dutiful, kind and loving; to have faith and to be patient. And we do this for one compelling reason – to be worthy of our Beloved. But day and night our old enemy – the mind – lies in ambush, ready to strike at the slightest sign of weakness; to take advantage the minute we let our guard down.
Sometimes, when the pressure builds up, we tell ourselves that we need a break. So we go to the spa and have a massage, or we meet some friends for lunch, or we go somewhere for a short holiday. Sure enough, afterwards, the body feels rejuvenated and the brain feels refreshed. But the mind, unfortunately, is the same old mind.
Even at lunch, one has to take care not to eat the wrong food or partake in any gossip. On a holiday, there is so much fun to be had that one ends up compromising with meditation timings. “It’s okay,” the mind says, “as long as you do your two and a half hours; it doesn’t matter if you break it up twenty-five times.”
But it does matter. So when a disciple once said to Hazur that before initiation, he was afraid of death but after initiation, he became afraid of life, he was absolutely right. Living in a constant state of conflict with a powerful and unpredictable enemy is extremely daunting. And we have to watch this audacious mind like a hawk, for it is capable of stooping to humiliating depths – we wouldn’t be able to live with ourselves if we didn’t.
‘Have courage’ was Hazur’s loving response to that disciple. It was a positive and inspiring piece of advice – precisely what every disciple needs to be able to carry on with life without losing his balance. The question is, what does it mean to be courageous?
The word ‘courage’ originates from the Latin word cor which means heart – a common metaphor for inner strength. This is perhaps the most accurate definition of courage – having inner strength. There are those who believe that courage is that quality of mind that enables a person to face difficulties and challenges without fear. But Sant Mat teaches us that courage is not about the absence of fear – it is about having the ability to overcome it.
It means taking on an opponent much more powerful than yourself, facing him with all the weapons you have, even if it is just a toothpick, confidently holding it up, looking at him straight in the eye, even though deep down inside you are terrified.
It is a quality that develops within us as we keep practising it, just like a muscle that can be strengthened and developed through consistent training. Every experience that allows us to stop and face our fear helps us build courage. This is why students are often challenged to take on things that are above and beyond their comfort zone. For when they take on tough tasks, it develops their courage muscle. Similarly, every time we overcome something difficult we become stronger, more confident and more courageous.
Fear holds us back. And many times fear takes on various disguises that we do not recognize. An example of this would be procrastina-tion. When we keep putting something off, it is not only because we do not want to do it, or because we find it boring – it is because we are afraid to do it. It is our fear of failure or the fear of discovering that we do not have what it takes to succeed. But the mystics assure us that the only way to overcome this is to stop putting it off, to simply decide to tackle the situation and just do it.
No doubt there will be times when we will be able to control the mind and there will be times when it will control us. But the mystics explain that it is important to rise whenever we fall, dust ourselves off and keep on going. The mind can easily get weighed down with thoughts like ‘I can’t do this’ or ‘this is too difficult’. But there is no room for discouragement or self-pity on this path of the brave. The teachings of Sant Mat are resolute – our Master initiated us because he knows we can do it.
The Shabd is our only anchor in this storm of life. The audible life stream is the source of all virtues. If we want courage, we can obtain it directly through meditation. Like a battery that gets charged when plugged into an electric socket, we too get charged when we tune in to the Shabd.
When we come across someone who is encouraged to do everything that comes his way, who is joyful, hopeful, ready to accomplish his duty, ready to make sacrifices, to take up responsibility and answer the demands of life like a soldier on the battlefield, it shows very clearly that his connection to the Spirit is strong.
When a man begins to grow dull and lukewarm in spirit, even the smallest labour distresses him, and he eagerly welcomes any worldly comfort. But when he begins to overcome the self and advances manfully in God’s way, then he regards as nothing those labours which he previously found so burdensome.
Thomas á Kempis, The Inner Life
The fact is, when we find ourselves struggling to cope with life, when we feel tired and unable to handle situations, chances are, it is due to the lack of concentrated meditation. When our connection to the Spirit is weak, we become feeble and frail. But if we make the effort to keep our mind in simran, gather our attention at the eye centre, and listen to the Shabd reverberating within us every single day, then gradually, we will regain that inner strength.
How long will it take us to achieve our goal? We have no way of knowing. But time and again we are assured that when the inner Master takes over our destiny on the day and hour of our initiation, our success is assured.
Granting this, it also depends on our meditation. The more intensely we work at it, the quicker will be our progress. Our Master will do his part but it is imperative that we do ours. Sitting and holding our full attention at the eye centre every day, as much as we possibly can, is the only way. Yes, it is difficult, but this is the way of the courageous.
A warrior is always ready to fight, so we should always be ready to fight with our mind, to conquer our mind and be prepared to sacrifice anything in order to achieve our end – like a warrior.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II