A Balanced Life
The Masters encourage us to maintain a balance between work, family, and spiritual practice. There are times when one facet of our life seems to take on more importance than others. When we are young, our work, education or career seem to take priority. Later, we may start a family, and then the family might take precedence. When we are learning about the spiritual path, our interest in it may be of utmost importance as we are eager to make spiritual progress. But the Master tells us that we must have balance in our life and perform all these functions in a conscious, caring and determined manner. We have the capacity to choose which facet of our life takes priority. Doesn’t he always ask us to be aware of where our priorities lie? In Living Meditation it says:
As life goes on and as the years go by, we confuse our priorities as we get more and more distracted from our spiritual purpose by the affairs of the world. Soon we may no longer distinguish between what is essential and what is not. Meditation is essential. If we were to forget everything else and remember this one essential thing, then everything would be fine in our life. If we did a thousand other wonderful things and forgot this one essential thing, we would, at the end of our life, have done nothing whatsoever.
If we examine our life, whether it be as a homemaker or out in the working world, we find family and work are where we focus the majority of our physical and mental time. It seems we devote such a small amount of time, by comparison, to our spiritual development – or do we? Maharaj Charan Singh says in Light on Sant Mat:
Heavy work and heavy duties do not stand in the way of the performance of bhajan and simran. On the contrary, they cultivate in us the habit of concentration and hard work, which habit is actually helpful in meditation. When we are tired, our attention naturally tends to go in, instead of going out and thinking of things and persons. Thus also the tiredness resulting from the performance of our duties proves helpful. You will find that as you develop good concentration and proceed regularly with your meditation, you will be able to attend to your outward duties also in a better and more efficient way.
There appears to be some spiritual advantage in being occupied, busy, and working hard in this world. It helps us to focus our attention, and this is a good discipline. The ability to focus helps us in meditation, and meditation helps us perform our worldly duties more efficiently. It’s a two-way street.
We have often heard that the path is a way of life to be lived. This includes all aspects of life. Sant Mat is not a path for the recluse, the hermit, or the sadhu. Just look at our Master and see how active he is with his service to the sangat. We see him appearing to be completely engaged in whatever he is doing, whether overseeing a seva activity or answering a question from a seeker. He appears to be relaxed, peaceful, content, and fully enjoying what he is doing. When asked, he tells us that he is only following his Master’s directions and doing his allotted duty. He is an example for us of a balanced human being.
When we are in his presence, we realize how much we want to be with him always. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Light on Sant Mat:
If you apply yourself earnestly and regularly to bhajan and simran, and carry on your worldly duties to the best of your ability, your worldly life too will be regulated properly. Love is the one thing essential on the path. The more you can give, the quicker and easier will you achieve results. This would also be reflected in your daily conduct and dealings with fellow men.
Here again is the idea of balance. If we do our meditation practice regularly, then it follows that our worldly life will also be regulated. Baba Ji always tells us that we have enough time in twenty-four hours for sleeping, eating, working, tending to family matters, and doing our spiritual practice. This is living a regulated life, supported by our meditation.
Of course, in order to achieve that balance, we might have to give up a few unnecessary time bandits such as Internet surfing, watching TV, gossiping, and shopping so that we can fit all the necessary duties into our day. And of all these duties, we have to decide which one has the most priority. The first choice should always be meditation.
In Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II, Maharaj Sawan Singh addresses the idea of how to approach our worldly work:
If one is engaged in business or a profession and does his work with love, he will never cheat anyone nor deprive other persons of their rightful due. The world is always prepared to listen to the message of love because it is inherent in all of us; and if we practise it daily it becomes manifest in us.
Maharaj Charan Singh, also talking about employment, says:
The essence of the thing is that one should follow a career or profession to make one’s living but should not become engrossed in it to the detriment of one’s spiritual attainment. “Hand to work but mind in Satguru,” is a saying here. Besides, one has to balance the karmic account too. Destiny cannot be evaded, but if gone through with full understanding and under the guiding and protecting hand of Satguru, it can be made to subserve the great end.
Light on Sant Mat
How can we have full understanding of everything that happens to us? To do so, we would have to realize that every moment, every instant, the Master is directing the karmas that we are undergoing. If we can keep this in mind, we can undergo even the most difficult situations and still be conscious that the Master is our constant companion and guide.
In our family situation, we know that we are karmically bound to those closest to us – our parents, siblings, children, and spouse. Sometimes the saints refer to these relations as beloved thugs. In Light on Sant Mat Hazur says: “You must take all reasonable care of your family and make provision for their education and maintenance, for it is your duty.”
Hazur explains further in Light on Sant Mat:
Members of a family are grouped according to their karmas
and previous relations. A number of people with different backgrounds and different temperaments live together in the same hotel or home. They have their lodging and boarding in common but not necessarily their aims and outlook in common.
It is karma that brings us together for reasons that we do not remember. As family, we could have been friends, lovers, or enemies in a past life, and we are together only because we owe each other karmic debts. We may be born into a family in which we feel nothing in common. Many of us may be the only satsangi in a family who does not understand why we have any interest in a spiritual path. Others may be born into a family of all satsangis and yet feel they have no interest in the path. Regardless, we have a duty to each other and an obligation to be helpful, respectful, loving, and caring.
Our Master explains that we are here only for a short time; and these souls pass out of our lives in one way or another when the karmas are over. If we keep our focus in the right direction, that is, if we focus on our meditation, then we are more helpful to our families, and we also are more removed from the pain and emotions of our attachment to them.
In Science of the Soul Maharaj Jagat Singh clarifies further the nature of these relationships:
Regarding worldly relationships, it may be pointed out that all relationships are based on selfish motives on this material plane. Husbands, brothers, wives, sisters, other relatives and friends are attached to us because of the advantages that accrue to them from us, and are apt to cool down in their zeal and love towards us when they feel that we are of no use to them. Do not expect much from them, but do your duty towards them and care for them, even if they fail to reciprocate your love.
While balance in our lives is not an easy task, worldly priorities will not fulfil our deepest yearnings. Whether we have family or worldly responsibilities – our meditation and focus on the Master helps us keep our lives running more smoothly. Focusing on our spiritual life will strengthen our kind and loving response to the “duties” of our karmas. To attain and maintain a balance, we need to think clearly and not waste our entire life in useless activities beyond what our karmas bring before us. We can set our priorities straight and change the direction of our mind, but this requires that we choose to live the life of a true disciple. Meditation must take top priority. In Light on Sant Mat Maharaj Charan Singh says:
You should gradually turn your back upon the world and follow a life of the spirit if you really want to achieve anything in this lifetime. This does not mean that we are not to perform our duties and obligations, nor are we to run away into forests and mountain caves. In fact, we can make progress on the path only if we also perform our worldly duties. But living in the world, we should not be of the world.
It is not the doing of our worldly work at the expense of our spiritual work, it is the simultaneous doing of both that will take us home.