Champions of a Distracted Mind
Every disciple needs to understand what keeps us bound to this creation, so that we can learn how to escape it. Every second passed is an opportunity lost that cannot be recovered. It pays to remember that the short-term pain of accepting a truth is better than the long-term pain of believing an illusion.
A disciple once asked Hazur Maharaj Ji: “Master, what is the force that seems to keep us from spirituality? What is this negative force?” The Master replied:
The mind. The Lord has created this whole universe, and he has entrusted the working of this creation to Kal, or as Christ called it, Satan or the devil. The ‘prince of this world’ also refers to the same negative power. As long as we are under the prince of this world, we cannot go back to the Father. Unless we rise above the realm of the prince of this world, we always remain attached to this world. And the mind is the agent of the prince of this world. The mind has taken hold of the soul, and the mind is fond of sensual pleasures; so whatever actions the mind performs under the influence of the senses, the soul also has to come to the mind’s level to reap the results of those karmas, those sins. Hence the mind is keeping us attached to this world, attached to this creation.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
Hazur Maharaj Ji explains to us in one concise paragraph how the creation works. It is a self-perpetuating system made possible by ignorance; fuelled by the mind (which controls the soul) creating endless karma, and it is this simple fact that keeps the creation going. Simply put, the souls that populate the creation provide the fuel to run the machine of creation through their karma. Karma is the fuel that drives the creation, and it is also what keeps us chained to it. The only hope to escape the system is further explained by Hazur Maharaj Ji:
When the Father wants the soul to go back to him, he sends somebody from his level. And when he comes to our level, he is one with the Father and has no load of his own, no karmas of his own. He puts us back in touch with the spirit again, and then the soul will be able to go beyond the realm of the prince of this world and will be able to merge into the Father. So it is the prince of this world who is very anxious to keep the souls tied down to this world. That is his duty.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I
So we need to follow the rules of the game and work the system in order to get out of it. This is the clarity that Sant Mat teachings bring, which allows us to circumvent and escape the creation.
To accomplish this, we need to still our mind. And to still the mind, the Master gives us the technique of meditation. Meditation hones our concentration, it focuses our mind and takes it away from the thousands of distractions that haunt us every day. Meditation requires us to sit alone in silence and stillness for two and a half hours each day. It is that focused stillness and silence that leads the disciple to the transcendent Light and Sound. This requires a lot of discipline and steadfast commitment. It also requires that we bring a certain degree of structure into our life.
There are only twenty-four hours in a day, and every moment that we dedicate to meditation invokes the Lord’s grace. We cannot choose the cards that we are dealt. The following story will give us an idea of what we face.
After winning several archery contests, the young and rather boastful champion challenged a Zen master who was renowned for his skill as an archer. The young man demonstrated remarkable technical proficiency when he hit a distant bull’s eye on his first try, and then split that arrow with his second shot. “There,” he said to the old man, “see if you can match that!”
Undisturbed, the master did not draw his bow, but rather motioned for the young archer to follow him up the mountain. Curious about the old fellow’s intentions, the champion followed him high into the mountain until they reached a deep gorge spanned by a rather flimsy and shaky log. Calmly stepping out onto the middle of the unsteady and perilous bridge, the old master picked a far away tree as a target, drew his bow, and fired a clean, direct hit. “Now it is your turn,” he said as he gracefully stepped back onto the safe ground. Staring with terror into the seemingly bottomless and beckoning abyss, the young man could not force himself to step out onto the log, much less shoot at the target.
“You have much skill with your bow,” the master said, sensing his challenger’s predicament, “but you have little skill with the mind that lets loose the shot.”
Like the champion in the story, we are champions of a distracted mind. Many of us love to multitask and consider it a great skill, which may be of value in today’s fast-paced technical world, but in the centripetal realm of spirituality, it is as useless as it is destructive. It only serves to fritter away our concentration, thereby lessening our focus and the amount of time we can sit in meditation. The more we entertain activities that scatter our consciousness into the world, the longer it will take to focus our mind in meditation and the longer it will take to make progress.
So what can we do to improve our meditation practice? There is only one word, and we have heard our Master repeat it over and over again – practise. Practise, practise and more practise. But if that word is not pleasing to the ear, you can then use the alternative – effort. Effort, effort and more effort. The bottom line is there is no way around it, and we have to put in the time. No amount of discussion or intellectual debate will get us to the eye centre.
We clean the vessel of our mind with simran, and then fill it with bhajan. This is the long and the short of meditation; to submit ourselves without having any expectation of results or inner visions. If we sit in meditation, anxious for results, we get further distracted. So, if we just lower the intensity of our expectation for results, and heighten the level of our concentration, we will find a balance that will give us the right attitude to pursue this primary seva with all our heart.
However, without our effort at meditation, without putting in the time, we will not get any results, regardless of our best intentions. We have to do our homework. Master has given us this boon, the opportunity to be the best we can be, all it needs is our sincere effort.
You have been a prisoner of a little pond,
I am the ocean and its turbulent flood.
Come merge with me,
Leave this world of ignorance.
Be with me, I will open the gate to your love.
Rumi, as quoted in Words of Wisdom