Keeping a Balance
At some point in our lives each of us will be faced with a major life change: an event that alters our life in such a way that we are never quite the same. Major life changes could include moving house, the death of a loved one, divorce, promotion, demotion, retirement, or perhaps initiation on to a spiritual path.
When these changes occur, how do we best deal with them? In order to explore this question, let us first have a close look as to who we really are in this world and what it is that drives us to get up every morning and play out the part that has been allotted to us by destiny.
Someone once remarked that “if the stars came out only once in a lifetime, all of us would be out to see them and would be left speechless by the grandeur of that sight … but when they shine every night, we go for months without ever looking up”.
Now we have this truly remarkable gift of human life, which we generally seem to take for granted, and yet even the most worldly of us know that we will not live in these bodies forever. Still, so many of us seem to be caught unawares when it is our time to leave the body.
Throughout human history, though, some individuals from all walks of life have committed themselves to living in a spiritual way, understanding the bigger picture regarding human life and living their lives compassionately and selflessly. As satsangis, we act on the Master’s instructions to meditate every single day and to structure our lives completely in terms of the vows we have taken at initiation. We do this all as an act of faith in the Master. Our hearts tell us that to act as he instructs is the right course of action, even though our minds cannot prove it. This faith slowly enables us to develop our spiritual nature to its fullest potential, which includes discovering our own true purpose in life, and learning how to experience love, joy, peace and fulfilment while still in these human bodies. It enables us to unwrap our real selves.
The famous French philosopher Pierre Teilhard de Chardin’s well-known saying that “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience – we are spiritual beings having a human experience” crisply illustrates that as humans, we have to travel two pathways in parallel to make a success of our lives. There is the easier pathway of the world and the difficult pathway of the spiritual life. Followers of Sant Mat need to balance their lives between these two pathways – fulfilling all their worldly duties and responsibilities and at the same time following the spiritual path.
Sant Mat is the path of the householder, not of the renunciant. And it is most certainly a path of action. The Masters advocate engaging with the world – but there should be a measured engagement. However, perhaps because of the strong work ethic that has been built into so many of us, this often means being intensely engaged. If we are not doing 110 percent of our best, then our guilty conscience nags us to do better. We make inordinate sacrifices to achieve worldly success, often working excessively long hours to the detriment of our family relationships, adversely affecting our health, and often resulting in completely neglecting, or relegating to the back burner of our lives, our spiritual practice.
Unfortunately, a modern lifestyle generally does not encourage stillness, reflection and simple living. We are tempted to buy, buy, buy, and to be more and more involved in projects: personal, professional and social. Speed and efficiency, bigger and better, latest and greatest: these are the values constantly thrust before us. The end result is less free time and more stress and distress.
To achieve this fine balance between our worldly and spiritual personas, a simple working life is all that is expected of us. We have to do our duty in every sphere of life, but always remembering the true nature of things in the world. Everything here is perishable and short-lived. We need to understand that we are only trustees, custodians on behalf of the Lord of all that we have – body, family and possessions. Nothing can, and nothing does, belong to us.
Our main work is our meditation and living in the atmosphere of meditation. We need more disengagement, not more engagement. We need more free time for God’s work.
The Masters keep emphasizing the necessity of pruning away at those parts of our worldly engagements that are surplus to fulfilling our responsibilities, so that we can have a more relaxed lifestyle and achieve the balance between our worldly and spiritual lives.
Maharaj Charan Singh gave us clear guidelines when he told us that in whatever circumstances we might live, our meditation should be our main concern and should not be sacrificed to anything. And Baba Ji has said that our yardstick for anything in our lives should be this: will it take me towards the Lord or away from him? We have to live in the world to pay off certain karmas and we have to meditate. And we need to find a balance between the two.
In Sar Bachan Poetry Soami Ji poses this question: “The mind has created worldly entanglements – why have you strayed into this net?” Until we come across a Master, we think that this net, this physical world is all that there is, and that involvement in this net is the purpose of life.
Only when we meet a Master, do we start to discover that things are very different. As Soami Ji says in a shabd:
You are a child of Sat Purush, the true Lord,
And once you were a resident of that eternal home.
But Kal has put a noose around your neck.
If we want what our Master is offering, we need to live a different kind of life. The absolute acid test of our character and resolve is whether or not we use this opportunity of a human life to escape from Kal’s noose.
The Masters tell us that the human form is a rare privilege because only in this form can we get initiation and practise meditation to access the Shabd – that Shabd which is our only means to escape from the Creation and return to our real home. Are we taking advantage of this rare opportunity or are we allowing ourselves to be distracted from our real work? The sad truth is that it is far easier to look for outward solutions than struggle day after day with our inner practice of meditation. It has been said that if we had to choose between uniting ourselves with God or hearing a lecture about it, most people would look for a good seat!
And while we are wasting time and dallying, there is a sweet melody echoing just within the threshold of our mind’s eye, too faint, perhaps, to hear – until we can focus our attention fully within. “Come home, come home,” our Master is whispering. “Let me shower a little grace on you – and things will change forever.”
Everyone to some degree has worldly responsibilities, but with courage, conviction and hard work, there is no reason why we cannot succeed in turning our attention inward. Baba Ji continually tells us that we can achieve this in this very life. If it were not possible, the Master would not have initiated us. If we believe he is the Master, then we must also believe that what he tells us is the truth.