The Disciple’s Way of Life
The teachings of the saints emphasize the importance of the living Master. When we are with the physical Master we are struck by his patience, love and his sense of humour. Masters encourage and inspire us. And without their example and their grace, following a spiritual path would be impossible. Masters always do their duty toward us, but they also ask us to do our part.
We know that doing our part includes the four vows, and that there can be no compromising on those promises we make to him. But beyond that, there is a certain approach to life that the Masters encourage.
There is a beautiful example of this from the life of a Muslim mystic given by Maharaj Charan Singh in Spiritual Discourses, Vol. I:
One of the Muslim seers once said: “I have chosen four things to know, and have discarded all other knowledge of the world.” He was asked, “What are they?”
“One”, he answered, “is this; I know that my daily bread is apportioned to me and will neither be increased nor diminished. Consequently, I have ceased to try to augment it. Secondly, I know that I owe to God a debt which no other person can pay on my behalf. Therefore, I am occupied with paying it. Thirdly, I know that there is one pursuing me (death) from whom I cannot escape. Accordingly, I am preparing myself to meet him. Fourthly, I know that God is observing me; therefore, I am ashamed to do what I should not do in his presence.”
So, in the first point, the Muslim mystic says: “One is this; I know that my daily bread is apportioned to me and will neither be increased nor diminished. Consequently, I have ceased trying to augment it.” The essence of this point is contentment and living in the will of the Lord – accepting with gratitude what he gives us – whether it’s on the outside in terms of health, sickness or material success or failure; or the inside in terms of spiritual experiences or darkness. If we can just learn this one thing – contentment – our lives will be immeasurably improved.
As satsangis, the longer we are on the path the more we realize how important it is to develop a spirit of contentment. Contentment is not a small thing or an optional virtue on the path. It is absolutely key and core to developing any level of spiritual understanding.
We may start out thinking the path is about rising to the inner heights, but we end up realizing that a big part of the path is learning to surrender, to accept and to be content. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Maharaj Charan Singh responds to the question of how we can better accept the conditions of our lives:
Well, that is what the meditation is training us to do: to accept everything which comes in our destiny. Meditation is nothing but training our mind to accept or to live in the Lord’s will. That is the object of meditation: to surrender to him, to keep us in any way he likes. We accept both joy and misery with the same balance, the same attitude.
If we take our satisfaction from worldly possessions and achievements, we will never have contentment because the list of possible demands is limitless and someone will always have more than we do.
There is nothing wrong with being successful or living a comfortable life. Contentment is an inner quality. We can have nothing and be contented and have everything and have no contentment. Saints say that our worrying about worldly things won’t change our destiny, but it can rob us of our chance to make spiritual progress. Baba Jaimal Singh says in Spiritual Letters:
To keep the higher mind always firmly attached to the Shabd-dhun, and to wean the mind away from worldly desires. Only that which is written on our foreheads will be given to us, nothing else will come our way. Why then hanker after worldly ambitions and desires?
One approach to achieving contentment is to try to do all of our duties as if we are doing them for the Master. The logic for this is that Master is the one who recommends that we live the kind of life we are living. He recommends that we live a householder’s life, that we earn our own living, that we honestly do all of our duties. If he had told us to leave the world and go to a cave or a mountain, we probably would have done that. Masters are perfect examples of how to live and they teach us by their own actions.
“Secondly, I know that I owe to God a debt which no other person can pay on my behalf. Therefore, I am occupied with paying it.” This mystic is saying that he is taking responsibility for what he owes. This is a novel approach. It’s much more typical to blame others. If something is wrong in my life I can blame the government, I can blame my childhood, I can blame the Master or the Lord.
But the Muslim mystic is saying, “I owe a debt and I alone am responsible for paying it.” What is the debt that the mystic is referring to? It’s the karmas, both of this life and of previous lives. These karmas have to be paid, and we have to live a way of life that will minimize future karmas. So, as long as we owe, we come back here to experience the results of our previous actions. Maharaj Charan Singh used to say that our meditation is mainly for our store of karmas – to settle that debt. The Master urges us to take responsibility for doing our spiritual work. He wants us to put in the effort even though the results aren’t in our hands.
Meditation is the action he most wants from us. It may be considered a noun, but for us it’s a verb! It’s what we do. Sant Mat is not a theoretical philosophy. It’s a path of action. Master wants us to try and to be receptive.
“Thirdly, I know there is one pursuing me (death) from whom I cannot escape. Accordingly, I am preparing myself to meet him.”
We don’t have to wait until we have a medical diagnosis to understand that our life is of a limited duration. From the moment we are born, the only certainty is that we will die. The diagnosis is already in.
By remembering our death, we can have the courage to pursue the path more boldly, more bravely. When we remember our death, we realize that there is nothing to lose – we are free to focus on what matters most. We are free to do what is in our heart.
We fear death because we think we are the body. In the book Many Voices, One Song, Samarth Ramdas says that, “We do not achieve spirituality until we stop thinking of ourselves as just body.” Just as Master’s real form is not the body, it’s the Shabd; our real form is also the Shabd.
The Muslim mystic said that he is preparing for death. How do we prepare for death? Meditation. Meditation is the process that the Masters use to teach us how to practice dying daily. It is a process of slowly withdrawing from the body. Maharaj Sawan Singh says in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I:
One of the benefits of the teachings of the saints is that a disciple crosses the gates of death in a state of happiness and thus conquers it…. It is not merely talk or a fable taken from some book or scripture…. Death has no fear for a follower of the path of the saints.
All saints say that this body is the laboratory where we must conduct our research. This process of dying while living is an actual process, not just a concept or a theory. It’s a process of holding the attention at the eye centre and little by little withdrawing it from the entire body.
The more we experience the process of dying while living, the less fear we will have of our own physical death, and the more authentically we can live in this world. Our perspective begins to change in this very life when we realize that we are not limited to this physical body. We are walking and living in a world that is temporary and subject to change, but our real being is timeless and immortal.
“Fourthly, I know that God is observing me; therefore, I am ashamed to do what I should not do in his presence.” This is basically the definition of spirituality: to constantly be aware of the presence of the Divine. So, the Muslim mystic is saying that he has become aware of God’s presence and that awareness has changed his behaviour.
But this awareness of the presence of the Lord and the Shabd in all creatures won’t come without experience. Saints tell us this awareness and experience is the outcome of meditation. Like it or not, we’re always in his presence – not just when we are lucky enough to see him physically. The Lord did not just create us and forget about us. Becoming aware of his presence is the goal of our life.
These four points are meaningful and real to us because we have been lucky enough to meet a living Master. Otherwise, this way of life would just be a beautiful jewel box with no jewel inside. The living Master is the jewel and the heart of this path. And the way of life as outlined by the Muslim mystic has meaning when we have such a Master who gives us a taste of his love and his light. May we digest the love and inspiration he gives us so generously and follow his advice to channelize our love toward meditation – his only order.
You are one of the lucky sons of Sat Purush, and he has chosen you to get Nam and go with the Master to Sach Khand. You must reach there. Nothing can prevent you. But you can hasten the progress or retard it, as you like. Do your utmost now to remove all difficulties within and without yourself…. Hold your attention fixed at the focus, not allowing the mind to run away or waver in the least….
You must reach the supreme goal in due time. Some reach it sooner, others later, according to their own individual efforts and karma they have to overcome…. Master is always with you, eagerly waiting for your arrival at the gates within, to receive and welcome you.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Gems