Faith or Folly
The Masters come with many messages to help us out of the illusion in which we find ourselves. They teach us that our belief in this illusory world leads us into negative thoughts and actions, many of which are sheer folly. And the Masters repeat their messages because we are slow learners and our habits have such a firm grip on our thinking and behaviour. When we start out on this spiritual path, we are not fully aware of how much work it will entail. We don’t realize how often we will fall short of the mark; how many times we will stumble, pick ourselves up, look sheepishly at God, and set out once more on our endeavour.
After a while we realize the enormity of the journey we have undertaken. We may have made some progress, but with every step we take, we seem to realize how much farther we have to go.
Fortunately, our Master is always beside us. He is the one who pulled us to the path. We all have our individual stories about how this happened, all of them a miracle of his grace. He singled us out and set out to rescue us from returning to this cycle of karmas time and again. He set out to lead us into the blissful state of Sach Khand.
He saw that we were asleep, and that we had forgotten our real home. He saw that we had become identified with our minds and bodies, which were given to us only to exist on these lower planes. He saw that we actually thought that we were our minds and bodies and that we had almost completely forgotten about the soul and how to get in touch with it.
But he also saw that we were ready to begin the journey. He knew that it was time for us to be awakened from our illusory dream. He tried to shake us awake as if he were saying, “Wake up! You are not who you think you are. The person you think you are is just a puppet in a play. This world isn’t real. You’ve been living in a dream. Read these books, attend these satsangs, listen to these CDs, and learn about reality. Then you will go on to experience the joy of that reality for yourself.”
This initial process of awakening might have taken a while for us. It might have started from some kind of suffering, or from a feeling of emptiness or longing, as though something were missing in our life. We might have looked into other paths before we came to Sant Mat. But eventually the pull from the Master and his teachings became very strong. We started to feel love for the Master – and faith. This again was his grace. The Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, wrote:
The seed of God is in us.
Now the seed of a pear tree grows into a pear tree,
And a hazel tree grows into a hazel tree.
A seed of God grows into God.
If we were lucky enough to actually see the Master, our love greatly increased, and eventually the pull became so strong we couldn’t resist it. Then we became initiated and our real journey began.
Masters sometimes refer to this path as a struggle. We have so many deep-seated habits accumulated over lifetimes, many of which are not positive. Our mind has been the dominating force for so long that we think we are the mind; we identify with it and we think we are in control, through our mind.
The mind is constantly chattering away about that all important story: ‘the story of me’. The mind enhances and embellishes this story, trying to give reality to the personality it thinks of as ‘me’. It feels insecure and needy and so builds elaborate schemes for the future, talking to itself about becoming more successful in its job, better established financially, and superior to, or at least as good as, those around it.
The mind also chatters away to itself about past experiences of ‘me’ -about how intelligent, successful, lovable, hard-working, witty and kind ‘me’ has been. It chatters about how many acquisitions ‘me’ has, which are so much bigger, better, more tasteful, more expensive than any other ‘me’ has acquired. It chatters about how many friends ‘me’ has (and this can run into very large figures if Facebook is included). It also experiences the fear of losing these acquisitions and friends, and worries about how to hang on to them. As the mystics agree, the life of the manmukh is all about ‘me’ and ‘mine’.
Alternatively, the mind might make a different kind of story for ‘me’. It might be related to this quotation from the Dhammapada, (a collec-tion of aphorisms that illustrate the Buddhist moral system). It says:
He insulted me, he hurt me, he defeated me, he robbed me,
Those who think such thoughts will not be free from hate.
The mind might make up the story of the pitied and pitiful personality who is hard done by. This is the ‘poor me’ story, and the mind which tells it can be full of resentment, complaints, judgement, jealousy and back-biting. The truth is that most personalities are made up from all of these kinds of characteristics: the egotistical and the attention-seeking, the morose and self-pitying.
The main point about these different stories of ‘me’ is that they would have us believe that the story is real, and by doing that, we waste our time thinking about the past and future. But these are illusory concepts, interpreted by vastly different perceptions, interpretations and recollections. Only the present moment is real. The present moment is the only place where we can practise the presence of God. It’s the only moment where we can actually become God-realized and experience reality. And when we have experienced glimpses of that, then we can start to take on more divine, positive characteristics, such as, joy, peace, forgiveness, humility, inclusiveness, kindness, and so on. The Hindu scriptures tell us, ‘Those who know Brahm, become Brahm.’
But this mind of ours is so convinced of its own reality that it thinks it is the ‘doer’. The following folk tale illustrates our folly:
A young man was going on a journey to visit his new inlaws for the first time. He was travelling on a horse, which was carrying a great deal of luggage. It was an extremely humid, hot day, and this young man started to feel very sorry about the horse’s heavy load. So he thought of a way of relieving the horse from its misery. He climbed down and started taking the luggage off the horse. Then he tied it all to his own body and, as if he were loading a donkey, put other things on his head and carried still more in his hands. Then he climbed back on the horse. He thought to himself, “I feel even more hot and uncomfortable now, but at least the horse will be happy!” The journey continued and the young man became more hot and tired as the day progressed.
Finally, he reached the house of his inlaws and was so tired he went straight to sleep.
After the young man had rested, he explained why he had been so tired. His father-in-law was astonished. “Why did you load the luggage onto yourself and then climb on the horse? The horse was still carrying the same weight as before, but you were carrying all the weight of the luggage and making yourself unnecessarily exhausted and uncomfortable! The horse was perfectly strong and capable of carrying the luggage by himself!”
This is our unfortunate situation. Our mind thinks that it is the doer. It makes plans and thinks it is doing everything. It gets stressed and exhausted in sorting out the plans, then when they don’t work, it becomes even more exhausted and stressed in trying to make them work. All we really have to do is strengthen our faith and then surrender to the will of the Lord. God has the best plan, and the power to put it into action. Marianne Williamson, in her book A Return to Love, has written that we only have to remember two things, “One: God’s plan works. Two: ours doesn’t.”
So, we have to try to be vigilant in what the Masters call our fight with the mind. We must be vigilant in our day-to-day life and in our meditation. When we meditate we must disassociate from our mind. With the help of simran, we have to concentrate at the eye centre, bring our attention there, and so lift the vital current from the part of the body below the eyes. Then we must hold our attention at the eye centre by making contact with the astral form of the Master. And finally we must allow our soul to rise up by attaching it to the Shabd. There is no place for the mind’s activity in any of this. In Spiritual Gems, Maharaj Sawan Singh says:
As long as we haven’t freed our attention from mind and matter and come inside the eye focus, or made contact with the Astral Form, and thereby cast off our I-ness, we are not accepted by the sound current. As long as we are encased in the body, with the attention working in the nine portals of the body, we are worldly and of this world. As long as we are encased in I-ness, we are not of the Master.
All of this, of course, is an enormous task. It can be the work of more than one lifetime, but the Masters try to encourage us to achieve it in one. It takes effort, perseverance, determination, dedication and, of course, faith. If we pursue the spiritual goal we will abandon our follies and experience reality in this life: joy, peace, love and bliss – all the attributes of God.