All beings on this earth have an expiration date marked on them. We can’t see it and we don’t know when the end will come, only that it will come.
Masters spend their lives reminding us that our stay in this world is limited, and they offer us a path to the unlimited. They tell us that in every one of us there is a thirst to find lasting truth, happiness and peace. We try to quench this thirst by every possible means: family and friends, girlfriends and boyfriends, worldly achievements and riches. All of this keeps us busy going from one activity to another, but none of it satisfies us because this thirst is for something higher – something that is already within us and is our real essence.
Soami Ji says in Sar Bachan Poetry:
Why do you drink water, O swan soul? There is an ocean of nectar within you, which you can drink just by withdrawing your consciousness inside.
Just as there are many different words for “water” – that substance we drink to satisfy our physical thirst – there are many different words for that inner nectar that will satisfy our spiritual thirst. Saints have called this inner nectar the Shabd, Nam, Holy Ghost, Word and many other names. It’s not the words that matter, but that inner reality. Saints give us the method of meditation to withdraw our attention to this nectar, this Voice of God within us. But it is not easy to reach this everlasting bliss. That is why saints stress the importance of perseverance in our efforts to have our own direct inner experience of truth, of the Lord within us.
Helen Keller, a woman who became deaf and blind at 19 months of age, tells a story in her autobiography, The Story of My Life, about how she learned through direct experience. Her teacher, Anne Sullivan was trying to teach Helen to connect letters and words with the name of objects. At first Helen thought that her teacher was just playing a game. Helen memorized the words but failed to realize that these words were the names of actual objects. It wasn’t until April 5, 1887, when her teacher took Helen to an old pump house that Helen finally understood. Sullivan put one of Helen’s hands under the stream of water coming from the pump and began spelling “w-a-t-e-r” into the palm of her other hand. Helen writes:
As the cool stream gushed over one hand she spelled into the other the word “water”, first slowly, then rapidly. I stood still, my whole attention fixed upon the motions of her fingers. Suddenly I felt a misty consciousness as of something forgotten – a thrill of returning thought; and somehow the mystery of language was revealed to me. I knew then that “w-a-t-e-r” meant the wonderful cool something that was flowing over my hand. That living word awakened my soul, gave it light, hope, joy, set it free! There were barriers still, it is true, but barriers that could in time be swept away.
Helen’s understanding came after much effort and with much persistence on her part and with the help of her remarkable teacher. Neither Helen nor her teacher was deterred by her past failures. They pressed on and ultimately Helen developed an exceptional capacity for communication and became one of the most admired and inspiring people in the world.
On the spiritual path, we sometimes get hung up on the idea of success or failure and we allow our lack of understanding to get in the way of persistence. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Maharaj Charan Singh defines “failure” and in so doing shows its value:
Failure means that I have done my best to attend to meditation, but I couldn’t succeed. Failure doesn’t mean that I never attended to meditation. That is not failure – that is not even attempting. Failure means I have done my best, I have given my time, I have lived the way of life while I have been trying to build my treasure. From every point of view I have been keeping myself clean, but I have not achieved anything within myself. So that is my failure. That effort will not be lost – that is what is meant by failure…. So our attempt is there, our efforts are there, but the results are not in our hands. From that point of view we can say that we have failed, but that is no failure.
Even from a worldly perspective, perseverance in the face of so-called failure is essential. Soichiro Honda, founder of Honda Motors, said, “Success can be achieved only through repeated failure and introspection. In fact, success represents one percent of your work which results only from the 99 percent that is called failure.” When we are committed to accomplishing a goal, we naturally make continual efforts, even when we do not achieve immediate success. Soichiro Honda understood that repeated effort is necessary for any meaningful success. It is only through persistence that we continue our efforts long enough to get to the one percent of the efforts that leads to success. As Honda recognized, that one percent and that 99 percent are both valuable and we cannot have one without the other.
Masters see clearly that what we call “failure” is a necessary part of our spiritual growth – just as Honda recognized that repeated effort and failure are integral to business and engineering success. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Maharaj Charan Singh says:
Any time we devote to meditation, howsoever imperfect that meditation may be, is to our credit. It helps. It helps us to grow towards the path. So we should not think that our meditation is not very qualitative. We should think that it should at least be quantitative. Automatically quality comes with quantity. If we don’t start, we will never learn to walk. If we start then naturally we fall also, we get bruises also. But as long as we get up again and start walking again, we will ultimately learn.
Our difficulties and “failure” in meditation have a part to play in our ultimate growth. For one thing, they provide us with a necessary lesson in humility. If we were to instantly have inner experiences, perhaps we would think that these things are in our control. The truth is that as long as we identify with our bodies and minds we are limited individuals putting forth limited efforts, which can never be sufficient to enable us to reach the unlimited One. Our transformation will only take place when we come to a higher level. This can never happen with an ego-based approach. It can happen only through the Lord’s grace, the help of a living Master and the magic of love. Hazur says in Die to Live, “‘I’ only comes when we don’t do it. When we truly meditate, then ‘I’ just disappears. Then we realize his grace.”
What counts is not what we achieve, but how much we try with sincerity. Then with persistence and perseverance, just as Helen Keller was able to grow with the help of her teacher, we will surely succeed.
Let’s give it everything we can and always strive to keep our love fresh. For those who have love, nothing else matters.
As you persevere regularly in the meditation, you get ample joy and peace, which compensate for your labours and make you cheerfully and patiently look forward to ultimate victory.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Discourses, Vol. II
Whether you are knocking very softly at the door, whether you are knocking very hard at the door, or whether you are frightened to knock and are only shouting, you are at the door, and you want the door to be opened to you. Even if we are nervous to knock, our intention is that the door should open and we should get admission. All efforts are there. Everybody has a different approach, but everybody who is on the path wants the door to be opened. When we are sitting in meditation, whether we are knocking or whether we are too nervous to knock, we want the door to be opened. That is why we are giving time to meditation.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live