Looking for Heaven
There is a story that is told of a master and his disciple. The disciple asks his master to please show him what heaven looks like. So the master teaches him how to meditate and explains to him how to go within himself and see heaven. A few days later, the disciple returns feeling somewhat disappointed. The vision of heaven that he had did not match with what he had read in the scriptures. There were no gems and jewels, no milk and honey and no angels floating around in white robes. He wondered if perhaps his master had made a mistake and showed him a different place.
So he went back to his teacher and asked him to show him what hell looked like. The master again teaches him how to meditate and explains to him how to go within himself and see hell. The disciple follows the master’s instructions and sees in a trance that there is certainly such a place, but there were no evil spirits or burning inferno like people have described over the ages.
The disciple goes back to his master and says to him, “Master, I have seen heaven and hell as you have shown them to me, but I did not see in heaven all the things that have been promised, and the hell that I saw was not what the scriptures described.”
“My child,” the teacher replied, “your heaven or your hell is not kept ready for you. You will take them with you when you go. If you take sorrows with you, that is what you will find. If you take love with you, then that is what you will find there. The mind records everything you have experienced in your life and it will play it back for you when you die. So you will create your very own version of heaven or hell. In fact, you do not even have to wait for death in order to experience it. You can experience it even now.”
Looking at our lives, we can see very clearly how true this is. Whatever we experience, whether it be joy, sadness, love or hatred – all depend on our thoughts, on the state and activity of our mind. If we are depressed, it is because of the repetitive, depressing thoughts that keep bombarding our minds. And if we are happy, it is because we are in a positive state of mind.
The saints explain that the only reason we go through these experiences is because our mind is beyond our control. If we had power over our minds, why would we intentionally choose to create hell for ourselves? So the question that arises is one that mankind has been asking since the beginning of time: How can we control the mind?
In the language of the mystics, controlling the activity of the mind is achieved through the process of concentration. They explain that the meaning of this word ‘concentration’ is often misunderstood; that there are many who think that concentration simply means closing one’s eyes. But one may close one’s eyes for hours – it does not stop the relentless onslaught of thoughts from assaulting the mind.
People are never at rest, never at peace; anxiety and sorrow do not disappear just because they close their eyes. It is concentration that does that. Concentration is activity of mind in the direction desired; our desire dictates in which way the mind is to be active; the mind acts according to our wishes.
Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Sufi Message
The Sufi mystics explain that the condition of the human mind is like a wild, unruly horse. And the key to controlling it is in the hands of the Murshid, the teacher who has an understanding of the horse’s nature, having trained and mastered it. By teaching us the method of concentration through meditation, he shows us how the mind can be tamed and transformed into a vehicle completely under our control. Because only under this condition will we be able to still it.
And what is the effect of a still mind? All we have to do is look at those who have accomplished stillness in their life, who have enabled the ears of their heart to be in constant touch with the Word of God, the Shabd. The atmosphere such persons can produce and the effect of their presence is the reason why we can never have enough of being in the presence of our Master.
Even the memories of being with him have such a potent power, that just thinking about him brings comfort to the troubled mind and immediately uplifts anyone who is going through worry and anxiety.
The very presence of one whose mind is stilled gives such hope, such inspiration, such sympathy, such power and life. All the heavenly properties flow so smoothly and freely from the person whose mind is stilled that his words, his voice, his presence all react upon the mind of others; and as he stills his mind, so his very presence becomes healing.
Hazrat Inayat Khan, The Sufi Message
In living the Sant Mat way of life, we are reminded of our Master in almost everything we do, whether it is in meditation, satsang, seva, simran, at work or at home. And as long as our thoughts are with him, we will always be safe within the parameters of a positive state of mind. By itself, that alone is one of the greatest blessings conferred upon a seeker of God.
But what surpasses that is the extraordinary privilege of being in the physical presence of the Master. When we see his beautiful, illumined face, glowing with the kindness and compassion of a loving father, in that significant moment, heaven comes to life. Then there is absolutely no doubt. You are looking at heaven and it is the only place you want to be.
To derive bliss from the mere darshan of the Master is a great thing, because it indicates that the seeker has love – very essential for spiritual life. Having had the darshan of the Beloved, the devotee naturally desires nothing except to have as much darshan of the Master as possible, which results in drawing the devotee closer to the Master on the inner plane.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live