Accepting More, Expecting Less
A painful fact of life is that, until we consciously merge with the Shabd and experience God within ourselves, we lack perspective. We don’t see the cosmic reality that we are all a part of this Shabd – we are a drop in the ocean of God. With these physical eyes, we see only this material world, not the reality that underlies it. We largely function through our minds, which means that we have only mental concepts of Shabd, of God, of soul, of the Master.
And so we tend to make all things spiritual, including the Master, as small as we are. This naturally distorts our experience, like a child’s drawing of the sun, which is nothing like the actual sun. Our perspective of the Master and the Lord is limited because we are limited by what our physical senses can perceive and what our minds can understand. Guru Amar Das is quoted in The Path as saying:
Within the body he himself resides, the invisible one who cannot be seen; but those who are foolish and proud understand not and go searching for him outside.
This is our condition. And so it is that we sometimes view the Master not as an inner presence but as an outer magician. We want the Master to do our spiritual work for us, to shower us with what we call grace, which we mistakenly believe consists of material comforts, health, domestic harmony and only pleasant things happening to us.
But our current lives have been determined by our own actions and choices in previous lives. Our poor soul is trapped in lifetime after lifetime of karmic consequences that we are reaping from actions we committed in the past, under the influence of passion and duality. In short, our souls are bound here and it is we who have to work to free them, which we can do only under the guidance of a perfect Master. At our initiation he gives us the means to do that – instructions for how to meditate. The Master connects our consciousness to the Shabd, but it is we who must work to realize that connection, to expand our own vision, to widen our own perspective by raising our own consciousness.
We do this by way of meditation and living an ethical, moral life. That is all the Master asks us to do. But somehow we are always wheedling and whining to the Master that we can’t do even those simple things, and so he needs to take pity on us. We prattle to him like babies and order him around: do this for me, do that for me, give me your grace. Gimme, gimme, gimme.
We don’t realize, from our limited perspective, how much he has already given us – he has given us everything we need. We don’t realize that if it weren’t for his grace, we would never have heard of the path or the Master, would not have the desire to return to our spiritual home and would not have been granted initiation.
Probably if we really understood the value of what we have, we would be struck dumb – we would be speechless and overwhelmed with gratitude and feelings of unworthiness. Yet we remain ignorant of all the riches we possess and stubbornly cling to our mistaken belief that we have no responsibility for awakening our own soul. Maharaj Charan Singh tells us:
Our expectation is that we should do nothing and everything should be done by the Master. And we oblige the Master by coming to him, now it’s for him to take us back to the Father. We don’t expect anything from our own self. We have no faith in our own self at all. We must build our faith in our own self that we know the way, we know the path and we have to travel on it. And then help is always there by the Lord’s grace.
Actually, Hazur is being very kind when he tells us to build faith in our own self. We put all the expectation on the Master because we don’t believe we have the capacity to do what he asks us to do. And yet Masters tell us over and over that we can do it, and that we must do it.
It is the business and duty of every disciple to make his mind motionless and reach the eye centre. The duty of the Master is to help and guide on the path. To control the mind and senses and open the tenth [inner] door depends on the disciple’s efforts…. The primary factor in this success is the effort of the disciple.
Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems
In the same letter the Great Master writes: “The inner Master gives all the grace and help that the disciple is capable of receiving.” In other words, we don’t have to beg for grace because we already have it.
Rather than ask for more, we need to digest what we already have – to become receptive to all the Master is doing for us. And the way to digest, to become receptive, is to do what he asks of us – to accept the task he has set for us, to accept responsibility for our part.
We need to learn to accept what we have, rather than expect what we think we don’t have. Sant Mat is a path of acceptance, not of obstinacy. In the book Living Meditation we read:
Acceptance and contentment are a fundamental part of the teachings of the Masters. They are not achieved through wishful thinking or mental affirmations. They are the natural outcome of a tranquil mind that is grounded in meditation.
Sometimes we wonder: Is life just inherently sad, or is depression a matter of brain chemistry, or does a negative attitude cause depression? The Masters explain to us that sadness is a reality of life. But they also point out that we feel sad when things don’t go the way we want them to, when we have a certain expectancy. So partly this depression is spiritual, and partly it’s a question of our attitude. It’s our attitude that creates our brain chemistry.
Brain scientists are proving this. The authors of Buddha’s Brain: The Practical Neuroscience of Happiness, Love and Wisdom say that certain mental exercises – like staying present to what is happening now rather than getting lost in memories of the past and fears or hopes for the future – “have a plausible scientific explanation for how they light up your neural networks of contentment, kindness and peace”. One of these writers says, “If there is one thing I know for sure, it’s that you can do small things inside your mind that will lead to big changes in your brain and your experience of living.” The work of scientists is verifying that we have the capacity to rewire our brains and by so doing to literally change our minds.
Similarly, the Masters say that just changing our angle of vision can make all the difference. If we have the attitude of accepting whatever comes our way, we’ll naturally be much happier. Hazur often used the analogy of swimming with the waves. He says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
We always want the events of life to adjust to our liking, which is impossible…. If you swim against the waves, it will be difficult. We have to go along with the waves of our destiny.
There’s an expression: Pain is inevitable, but suffering is optional. Pain and loss are part of life. But suffering arises from our reaction to, and attitude toward the events of life. Everything becomes easier and we become happier when we have an attitude of acceptance rather than resistance. For example: make a fist, feel how all the muscles in your arm tense up and release your fist by opening your hand. The muscles in your arm relax.
A teacher of Buddhist meditation, who is also a psychotherapist, wrote a book called Radical Acceptance, in which she describes a 7th- century Zen Master who taught that true freedom is being “without anxiety about imperfection”. She writes, “This means accepting our human existence and all of life as it is. Imperfection is not our personal problem – it is a natural part of existing.”
Maharaj Charan Singh always reminded us that if we were perfect, we wouldn’t be here. The Masters emphasize that we have to come to terms with who we are, with what we are, with what our life circumstances are – we’ve got to play the hand we’re dealt. Part of our destiny is our personality – our character traits, our strengths and our weaknesses. We often make ourselves miserable by dwelling on either our imperfections or life’s imperfections, all of which are endless because that’s the nature of life in this creation. The Great Master writes in Spiritual Gems:
In a place where mind and matter are active, there can never be peace. Sorrows and wars of nations, or communities, or individuals shall continue. The soul must seek other planes to find peace. To find peace is the business of the individual. Everybody has to seek it within himself.
So while we’re in the process of finding peace amidst our own sorrows, we can practice accepting whatever is going on around us and within us. For example, the Buddhist teacher quoted earlier describes a therapy client she had, to whom she gave the instruction of saying to herself “This too” whenever she experienced emotions that she found difficult or scary. This too is part of life. This is the cosmic law that we’ve been born into. This expression is a reminder that life is a checkerboard of light and dark, pleasure and pain, and we need to accept all of it. We could easily apply this instruction to anything in our lives that we find hard to accept – whether it be something as mundane as our computer crashing, or a death in the family, a serious illness, or when someone hurts our feelings. “This too”, we can say.
Neuroscience is confirming that the mind has a bias for capturing and preserving negative impressions rather than positive ones. But now we have the opportunity to reverse this bias. Accepting Master’s gifts, especially our responsibility for doing our meditation, rather than expecting the Master to do it for us, can change the direction of our lives.
In Sant Mat there are no failures, because you are trying to follow it. A child who is learning to run, well, he falls, he gets bruises, he gets up again, he tries again, tries again and starts running. If he is always frightened of falling, he will never even learn to walk. So even if we lose in this battle of love, we win.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III