The Home Stretch
Somebody once complained to Hazur Maharaj Ji that the path was very difficult. “No,” he said, “it’s not difficult. It’s just long.” For those of us who are a bit short of patience, that’s precisely what may make it seem difficult: it can be very long and very slow. And many are the times when we get quite disheartened and wonder whether our shaky meditation will ever bring us to the end of our journey.
Well, whether the path is long or just plain difficult, this is certainly not the time to start losing hope – because we might not have all that much time left. Many satsangis went into a bit of a flutter some time ago when Baba Ji implied that satsangis shouldn’t be thinking in terms of going home in four lifetimes – there’s only this one lifetime.
Only this one lifetime? That might be a wonderful thought – or quite a scary thought! Are we ready for this?
In a way, we’ve always known about the possibility that we could go back in one lifetime. Back in Soami Ji’s time this was what he was saying: that people could be initiated only if they could work off their karmas in this one life.
When one comes to the satsang of a Saint, he finds out the extent of his indebtedness to Kal. If his debt is not so very heavy and can be repaid in this life, he is accepted as fit for initiation.
This means that we couldn’t be initiated at all if it weren’t possible for us to go home at the end of this very lifetime. In the past we always felt comforted by the prospect of a possible four lives ahead of us – a maximum of four lives. This left us free to think: “Oh well, if I can’t get it right this time, there’s always the next life. The Master can always send me back to try again next time.”
But the fact is that no Master wants to send his disciples back. Great Master tells us in letter number 11 in Dawn of Light that once a soul has been initiated, he or she will be reborn only if they lose faith in the path, or if they do foul deeds or have very low desires. So if satsangis have faith in the path and are not doing foul deeds or have low desires, then they might not be sent back for another birth. This could be their very last life! After so many eons of birth and rebirth in the creation, after running our very long race here, we could be on the home stretch. And some of us may have very little time left.
So how should that little remaining time be spent? Let’s consider this first in worldly terms. Let’s imagine we have some crucial deadline looming over us – say, a big exam that we really need to pass to ensure a secure future. Ordinarily, what would we do to prepare for that exam? For one, we’d push aside all non-essential demands on our time and devote ourselves to our necessary work. We would use our time well. We would be clear about what preparations we need to make, and then put our heads down and work to meet our study deadlines. We would focus on what’s important for us to pass that exam.
So here we have an even more important deadline coming up. How focused are we on it? Well, first of all, it would help to be clear about how seriously we want this to be our last lifetime. (Assuming that we have any choice in the matter.)
What would we do if the Master were to issue an invitation to us to leave this physical world for good and travel with him into the inner regions towards our true home? How many of us would jump at the opportunity to leave, this very moment? Or would there be anything that would make us hesitate? And if so, what would that be? The answer to that question might be revealing. It might just be a pointer to where our attachments lie, those attachments that could be holding us down here
But we’re talking now as if the choice is ours, whether we want to leave or not. Which of course it’s not. Our Master may well have already decided that he’s going to take us out at the end of this life. So perhaps what remains to be seen is whether we will go straight home with our Master, or whether we’ll have to spend long ages in some inner region, doing the work we could have done here. And perhaps, as far as this is concerned, we do have some choice. So where do we go from here?
For one thing, we need to cut out unnecessary distractions and use our time well. Perhaps our social commitments and activities would become a bit less important to us if we were convinced our time was running out. And perhaps we would give more time and attention to our meditation.
Then, are we unfailingly strict in our obedience to our four principles – to be strict vegetarians and to avoid any indulgence in alcohol and recreational drugs, to live a clean moral life and to give a tenth of our time to meditation? Or do we think 90 percent obedience is good enough? Obedience is a big thing for us, especially now if we’re on the home stretch. We haven’t got time left to create any unnecessary karmas.
We may want with all our hearts to obey our Satguru in everything. We may be absolutely sincere in our intentions. And in some areas of our lives obedience may be fairly easy for us – certainly as far as the first two principles are concerned. And on the whole we probably do try to live moral lives. But it’s that fourth principle, meditation, which brings us face to face every single day with our own inadequacy. We may try our absolute best, but nothing ever feels good enough. And it’s true that even after many, many years it may remain a struggle.
But then, let’s try to remind ourselves every single day that we’re not asked to succeed. We’re only asked to do it. And let’s trust that it’s important because our Master tells us so.
If we do find meditation a struggle, we should try to remember things that Baba Ji and also other Masters have said, which should help us to be more positive about it. For example, Baba Ji has told us to attach ourselves to the effort, not the results. This shifts the whole focus. In other words, we can take pleasure in the effort itself, without looking for any reward. The effort itself becomes our reward. We can get satisfaction solely from the effort – so much so that we never want any day to pass without doing our meditation. It becomes an essential part of our day, even if we keep sitting in darkness.
We may see our meditation as worthless. We may get up from our sitting, day after day, feeling distressed because we fell asleep or because we struggled to keep our simran going for more than a few minutes at a time. And yet, we’re told, that even that shoddy, ineffectual effort has value.
The Masters tell us that no meditation, no matter how poor it seems, is ever wasted, but is gaining interest in our personal account and is being saved for us. As long as we make the effort, whether successful or not, our Master can work with that – to clear karmas and break down our attachments.
Of course, there’s also this to consider: perhaps we are being made to feel that we are failing in our meditation. Can you imagine how self-satisfied we might start to feel if we started seeing light or hearing sound every time we sat down to meditate? It’s something the ego would just love to latch on to as proof of our oh-so-advanced spirituality. Signs of progress in our meditation might just be very bad for us! The ego can feed on absolutely anything to continue its work of stopping us from merging back into the Father.
This means, then, that no matter how good or bad our meditation is, all we need to do is keep doing it, out of humble obedience, just as an expression of our submission to our Master, our love for him. We don’t know what our meditation is doing. We don’t know what’s happening when we try to keep our simran going. But it must be important.
If you speak to any satsangis returning from Dera and ask them if Baba Ji emphasized any particular message, the chances are they’ll say he impressed upon them the urgency of our spiritual work, the importance of not wasting time. If it’s true that we could be approaching the exit gate and could be reaching there quite soon, then whatever time we have left is important. And what better could we do than our meditation – for at least a tenth of that remaining time, if not more? And what does it matter that we’re being kept in darkness? At the time of our death we may reap all the rewards of our years of effort. We have this firm assurance in one of the satsangs of Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh. This passage appears in the third volume of With the Three Masters:
If, in spite of meditation, a devotee has not been able to rend the veil (of darkness within), it does not mean that he should give up meditation or think that he has made no progress. It is his past karmas that are standing in his way. His exertions never go to waste. When the past karmas are wiped off at the time of death, the Satguru will give him the return for his meditation and the veil will be lifted. Everyone should therefore continue his devotion, whether progress is discernible or not.
Here Maharaj Jagat Singh is telling us is that the effort of keeping up our meditation, year after year, decade after decade, is what is important – not seeing for ourselves the results of that effort. What we need here is to trust our Master when he tells us that he can work with that effort and that it’s earning his grace. After all, only his grace can rescue us from our imprisonment in this world. We ourselves are helpless to free ourselves. And we will be freed because that is his will. He has already made sure of our release.
In Spiritual Letters Baba Jaimal Singh says that our return home is inevitable.
Whatever is to be done has already been done, and that is what will happen – man does not do anything by himself. Believe implicitly, my son, the Satguru has told us that man does nothing – only the means for doing appears to come through him. … Whatever is to happen has already happened.
Whatever is to be done has already been done. Whatever is to happen has already happened. Regardless of our failings, we will go home. That destiny is fixed.