Embrace the Struggle
Maharaj Charan Singh was once asked a question regarding the amount of simran that an individual must do in his life. Hazur answered in Die to Live:
There’s no set amount. It’s a whole life of struggle – that’s the amount, a whole life of struggle. We have to withdraw our consciousness to the eye centre, and then we have to hold our consciousness there, that it may not slip down again. That is why it is a lifelong struggle.
All Masters, like Hazur in this quote, emphasize that we are strengthened through this struggle, and that our happiness lies in continuing to struggle with ourselves. This suggests that we need to accept the fact that struggle is part of life on this plane. We need to focus on our efforts now, and not get caught up in expectation of the results, of a perfect future.
It is so hard to grasp the value of this struggle. Saints tell us that only in a human birth can we make true progress on our return home. Our effort is an investment into this return home. If we could truly see the potential at our fingertips, we would respond differently to the challenge. It’s like the stock market in today’s world. It is so easy to look at this stock or that stock and do the math and realize that, if we had only bought at a low price, a stock that was available a few years ago, we could have turned a small amount of money into a fortune. It seems so obvious in hindsight. But that is exactly the message regarding this human birth. We are guaranteed a huge return on our investment if we take some of today’s precious time and invest it in the work the Master has given us.
Behind every great achievement is someone who savoured the struggle. The greatest athlete creates his winning ability by getting up every morning, while others sleep, and pushing himself to the brink of his own limit. Then he repeats the task day after day as he slowly improves. He has no guarantee of success, yet he shows a pure determination to keep the struggle alive.
Or take the artist. We see the final painting, and we think how talented the artist is. But there are very few artists who do not struggle. The true artist is great because of his ability to persist. When others give up and say enough is enough, a real artist presses on and keeps refining his work as he reaches for perfection. No one else may ever know what he struggled to resolve in the final work. His eye, his intent, his spirit cannot find satisfaction with his effort until the final piece reaches a goal that is personal to his pursuit of perfection.
When the question arises as to why the Master doesn’t just take us up now, the answer sometimes given is that we are not ready. So we just have to learn to love the struggle on this path to return to the One. It is as simple a lesson as the one Dorothy learned in the movie The Wizard of Oz. Through all of her struggles, all she wanted was to go home to Kansas. When she finally reached the end of her journey, all she had to do was click her heels together and home she went. She could have clicked her heels together any time and returned to Kansas, but that’s not the way it worked. Only when she had had enough experiences and achieved a certain maturity did she realize how important her home was to her, and that she already possessed within herself, and had always possessed, the means to return home. Our situation is the same.
It seems that it is human nature to always pick the loftiest goal as our standard and then to consider anything short of that goal as not truly measuring up. The truth is that the Lord made us as we are. He set up this whole production to foster our growth, while he nudges us forward. This process is actually working great. This is not about our arrival at some future time into a state of bliss. This is about who and where we are now. The Lord’s timing is perfect and we will progress by his grace.
Masters have often emphasized that there are really just two things for which we are responsible – effort and a positive attitude. We must not judge our effort by our assessment of the results. We do not have the necessary understanding to do that; we do not see the whole picture. The Master has asked that we put in our effort and trust him regarding the results. This is where a positive attitude is so important; it is up to us to abandon any preconceived ideas regarding results. We can simply practise seeing every event in life as an opportunity to trust in his plan. This is the essence of a positive attitude. It is all his work.
Maharaj Charan Singh took great care in answering the same basic questions in the same manner, often using the same words, a thousand times. This helped us to grasp the spiritual process we are in. He demonstrated his love and patience over and over and reached out to each questioner with a detailed answer that, if taken literally, would preclude any further thought on the question asked. The Master asks us to live these teachings. He ask us to quit conceptualizing what love is and to take steps through our meditation to help us be in love. He reaches his hand out to us as our guide and then asks us to take action towards our objective, to trust in our purpose and believe in our journey. He does not point to a future arrival that will someday satisfy our needs; instead, he emphasizes the value of the present moment.
In meditation, we seek to live in the present moment. Just because worldly thoughts pop up does not mean we have failed in our meditation. This is our opportunity to come back and focus in the moment with him. Slowly detachment will come in its own time. We can’t know at this stage what success is nor can we know what failure is. We have a habit of judging results harshly. Our conditioned mind has been collecting a lifetime of thoughts and feelings that we stir together in a boiling pot, and then we allow this emotional stew to control our perception.
This is why the Master asks us to simply trust. We get confused easily because we listen to our minds. But he knows what he is doing. This is why he smiles when he says to just let go and trust in the plan. If we only knew what he knows, we would laugh at ourselves for all the emotion we waste worrying about the results of our efforts. We are not sliding down the side of a slippery slope waiting to hit the bottom. We are in the river of his care, flowing with determined resolve to return to the ocean of his presence. It is guaranteed. Why not embrace the struggle and just let go?
After seeing you face to face,
My eyes cannot look anywhere else.
O Lord, my heart clings to your feet
In a firm embrace, never to let go.
Never again will I be separated from you.
Tukaram: The Ceaseless Song of Devotion