Doubt, the Ruthless Hunter
Let’s think back to the time when we first discovered the path and were flooded with excitement because we knew that this was what we’d been seeking for so long. We just knew this, beyond any doubt or question. We couldn’t have explained how or why we were so certain. That knowledge was there and we just knew.
That knowledge may have carried us along for a long time, on a wave of happy conviction – on a wave of such exultation and joy that we could have danced down the street. That such a wondrous thing could have happened to us!
But the chances are that at some time along the road we may have come to doubt the truth of the path. And this is a terrible thing to happen to any satsangi. All our foundations start to crumble and we may even be brought to a point of bleak despair.
In one of his poems Kabir calls doubt ‘the ruthless hunter’:
Doubt, the ruthless hunter,
Lurks within your body;
His arrow has pierced
The flawless diamond of your soul.
Kabir, the Weaver of God’s Name
Doubt is a cruel, destructive thing. It eats away at the very foundations of our faith, at our confidence in ourselves and at our very trust in our Master. When we fall victim to doubt and lose our faith, what do we have left to hold on to? Our faith is the anchor which holds us steady – through the good times and especially through the bad times. When we lose our faith we’re in deep trouble.
Where do our doubts come from? They come from the intellect. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II Maharaj Ji tells us that the intellect is a great barrier on the path, and we should satisfy our intellect before following the teachings. Even if we spend our whole life satisfying the intellect, he says, that’s not time lost; it’s time gained.
Something that can certainly set us up for doubting the truth of the path is that we may have come to it with unrealistic expectations. We expect things to happen quickly. Perhaps a real handicap imposed on us by our modern-day conditioning is that we work to achieve. We put in the effort and we expect to get the rewards. Then, when we don’t see those results, we get disillusioned. Subconsciously, or even consciously, we might feel we’ve been conned – this was all too good to be true. Or maybe we even feel ashamed that even though we’re working hard, we can’t bring to our Master the results of our effort.
What a complete reorientation there has to be in our approach to meditation – a complete about-face! We have to learn that there’s no responsibility on our part to produce results. Our Master doesn’t ask for this, neither does he expect it. All he wants is our effort, and he will do the rest. He really is doing it all. Over time we start to realize that there’s really not all that much we can do – except try, and keep on trying. One might even say that in all things, even our worldly work, he is doing the work.
At first we have no understanding of this. Spiritual realizations come to us very slowly. And except in exceptional cases there has to be a great deal of preparation for any real advance on the path.
Remember when we first came to the path, we heard and we read about the glory of Shabd, that great rolling music that was going to sweep us up and carry us up to the heights, to the sublime region from which we came. And we wanted that. We eagerly sat and did our meditation and tried our best to do our bhajan. And what happened? Nothing. Or perhaps disappointingly little. Did we have any idea what we were asking for? Getting access to the Shabd is not child’s play. In Light on Sant Mat Maharaj Ji gives this warning:
In the beginning it is not always easy to stand the force of the Shabd or Sound, which is not always gentle or soothing but may also be terrific in its strength. It is then that the difficulty comes. The physical frame is attuned only by and by to enable it to stand that Divine Energy. In the course of time the Sound or Shabd itself brings about a quiet but useful change in the physical body and makes it more fit and adaptable to receive the Divine Message.
And we think we’re ready for this? Sant Mat necessarily has to be a slow path. Slow and steady wins the race.
Still, there’s one question or complaint that comes up every single time we meet the Master: “I’ve been meditating for so many years and nothing’s happening – it’s just not working.” Anyone who’s posed this question has probably not taken into account the matter of karma. In Die to Live somebody asks Maharaj Ji: Why does meditation take so long? And he gives a clear answer:
Sister, the reason is very clear. Can you know when this creation came into being? … Since then, we have been here in this creation. We can’t even extend our imagination to grasp how long we have been here in this world and how many karmas we have been collecting in every life and how much of a load of that dirt we have collected – and we want to burn it just in a second, comparatively? Naturally it has to take time.
One of the goals of this path is to clear every single karma that we’ve committed over all those countless lifetimes – in this life and the past, so that we can be lifted to the very top to merge back into the Creator. And that inevitably takes time.
What’s more, Hazur Maharaj Ji has told us that it’s precisely at those times when we really struggle with our meditation that he is using our effort to clear our karmas. And how grateful we should be that our Master is allowing us to get rid of karmas in this way, instead of making us go through them physically. How foolish we are to get depressed over what appears to be failed meditation. No meditation is ever a failure. How often has the Master not told us to stop analysing, to stop judging our meditation according to our own concepts of success or failure? We simply don’t know what the Master is doing with our effort. All he wants from us is our effort, and he will do the rest.
Great Master was the first of the Radha Soami Masters to have to contend with the questioning, doubting Western mind. And in several of his letters he made the point that worldly learning scatters the mind – makes it difficult to achieve concentration: Something that may well come far more easily to people with little education and simple minds. Great Master specifically said that what is required on this path is simplicity of mind, faith and love. If we could apply these qualities to our meditation, no doubt we would be better at it. Then it would simply be a matter of: ‘My Master has given me a job to do, and I’ll just do it.’
In Die to Live Maharaj Ji tells us that not a moment of meditation ever goes to waste. It is being used to take care of thousands and thousands of karmas committed in our past lives. We can’t see that happening of course. And as a result there are times when we do get discouraged and so very tired. But Maharaj Jagat Singh, who could be so incredibly kind and compassionate, said something wonderful:
We must strive hard to subdue the mind and put in every effort to drive away the evil qualities that overpower us. But, if after struggling very hard we still find that we have not advanced a single foot on this long journey, we should not get disheartened. Master knows well that with our feeble hands and feet, we shall not be able to accomplish this journey even if we were to go on travelling for a hundred thousand years. He wants to impress upon us that unless the Lord’s grace intervenes, no one can walk on this path of immortality. When we collapse and fall, and have no strength left to struggle further, then Master’s loving kindness and grace will carry us forward as a tottering child is carried in the arms by its mother.
We should never underestimate the scope and power of the Master’s grace. With his help and grace there’s absolutely nothing that can’t be achieved. With his grace this battle to reach the supreme heights of God-realization can and will be won – in time. How can we not achieve our goal – in time? In Die to Live there are many promises that if we just try our best to meditate, the Lord’s grace will be there for us in abundance. Maharaj Ji tells us:
He is more anxious to give than we are anxious to receive, but we should attend to our meditation. He doesn’t withhold what we want if we are attending to meditation, because he has created that desire in us to meditate. He wouldn’t create that desire in us to meditate if he were not anxious to give to us. … That shows he is very desirous to pull us to his own level. Otherwise he wouldn’t put that instinct in us to meditate.
And ironically, even though he insists on our effort, our meditation itself is quite insignificant. Even though our Master wants it, he certainly doesn’t need it. In Die to Live somebody asks Maharaj Ji: why doesn’t the Master just take us up? Why do we have to go through all this meditation? And he gives a very emphatic answer:
How do you know the Master is not taking you up? Do you think your meditation is taking you up? Nobody’s meditation is taking him up to the Father. … Everything the Lord is doing himself. What are we doing? Leaving all these things to one’s own effort, one could never go back to the Father. The question of going back wouldn’t ever arise. One could never even think about the Father. So it is not the meditation which is taking us back to the Father. It is the Father himself, through the Master, who is taking us back to the Father.
We are on our journey home and we will get there. In time.
I am a thousand times thankful
that my Beloved is pleased with me –
Present in every breath,
in every moment he showers his bounty.
Never did I lose by loving him,
the bargain that my heart struck is pure gain.
Sarmad, Martyr to Love Divine