A Question of Choice
For all of us on a spiritual path there can be moments of doubt, when we lose our connection with the Master and our practice. Saints tell us that in such times of trouble we should hang on in there. They remind us that they are here with us, to stir us from our sleep, pull us to our meditation, and continue to bring us to the Lord. They tell us not to lose heart, not to despair, to be positive, and to remain in his will.
On many spiritual paths, prayer is the means by which people ask the Lord for help when in trouble. But the Masters explain that we do not have to pray to God for specific things. Maharaj Charan Singh said that if we truly believe in the Lord then we have nothing to ask for, because we will understand that He is already doing everything for us. An explanation of the idea of prayer is given in Die to Live:
Q: In the Book of Mirdad it says either every thought or every word should be a prayer, and every deed should be a sacrifice, and I would like to understand what is meant by that – every deed should be a sacrifice.
A: Actually, what Mirdad means is that our whole living should be a prayer. There’s no question of devoting half an hour or an hour of praying to the Lord – our whole day should be passed in prayer, in devotion and love for the Father. Prayer means just to live in love and devotion for the Father, that’s constant prayer.
If “our whole living” can become “a prayer” (in other words, if we lovingly keep the Lord in mind), we might find that we are living in the will of the Lord – no longer desiring our own outcomes but joyously accepting life in whatever way it develops.
What does this mean for free will? Maharaj Charan Singh and Baba Ji have often pointed out that it is our past karmas that dictate the environment that we are born into and which play their part in the choices we make. The important thing is to use wisely the limited free will that is left to us, choosing to blend with the Lord’s will and thus become truly free.
We might remember the words of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane, when he kneeled down in prayer to God, saying, “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.”
Such words show us intimately how Masters are both divine and human in a very personal way. One feels that on a human level the Masters, like us, are required to surrender to God’s will. They reveal to us through their very humanness and by their example why making that conscious choice matters.
What it takes to surrender our will to his is “a condition of complete simplicity … costing not less than everything”, as the poet T. S. Eliot once put it in Four Quartets.
Our Masters emphasize that if we avoid making an individual choice, then we do not engage with the karma of our destiny. Moreover, the understanding of what it is to let go of my self-will and ego would not be there. By turning to the Lord, it is not that the Lord then makes choices for us, nor that he governs the choice, but rather that he provides the framework, the situation within which it is the individual’s responsibility to act. The individual, not the Master, makes the choices of his or her life. Otherwise, the Masters say laughingly, how would we pay off our karma?
So put together karma and no karma, free will, and no free will; with the responsibility of individual choice and living within the Lord’s will, and with this awareness the complex pattern deepens and widens. We see it as if for the first time.
Our task is to graduate to the next level on our spiritual path by making conscious choices and taking conscious actions. Sacrifice, surrender – and the effort of making difficult choices – all shape our attitude, helping us to graduate to a higher level of consciousness. How we choose to perceive things changes what we perceive.
William Blake, an English poet, pointed out the problems in human perception. He explained that our perceptions are compromised by our lack of understanding of what we are; by the separation of our spiritual self from our body self. He said that our perception is subjective and dominated by the five senses (which are not reliable interpreters), and that we do not open our inner eye sufficiently to see Spirit in the world around us (that transcendental energy we call Shabd).
He deplored how little we use our intuition and heartfelt discrimination and how poor we are in the use of our imagination. He reminds us that the mystery of God can only be experienced within ourselves. He said that in order to reach a level of perception where we can experience God’s symmetry, we have to clean up our perceptions. Only then are we able to see the Creator in the creation of which we are a part. In The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, Blake writes:
If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite.
For man has closed himself up, till he sees all things thro’ [the] narrow chinks of his cavern.
Our perceptions are clouded by our lack of imagination. Distracted by the business of life with all its joys, sufferings and sadness, as well as by the imminence of death, we can lose sight of the undying nature of our immortal souls. We can lose sight too of how the Master is always present in us. Maharaj Charan Singh explains the Master’s relationship to his disciple using verses from the Bible:
Like a good shepherd who always takes care of his sheep, the Master helps us clear our karmas, helps us wash away all the sins from our soul until we are pure and spotless and can merge back into the father. The Master could clear all our karmas in an instant but we might not be able to stand the sudden transition from this dark pit of ignorance up to that inestimable height and indescribable light. He alone knows what is best for us and regulates our progress according to our efforts and the karmas or layers of dirt that cover our soul and mind.
Light on Saint John
Truth is the Master; Master is the Way; the choice each day is, “how do I live it?”
Seek not that the things which happen should happen as you wish; but wish the things which happen to be as they are, and you will have a tranquil flow of life.