The Happiness of Meditation
The desire for happiness is universal. It’s the root of all our ambitions, all our searching and all our struggles. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, “Everybody wants to be happy in this world.”
Happiness is the core of our true nature. It is not an elusive goal achievable only after death. Spiritual teachers come into this world and teach us that real happiness is already within us, and we can be happy while living in this world in this very body. Their words and their guidance put everything into a new light. We begin to become conscious of those actions and attitudes that poison our awareness of the happiness within us and those actions that bring us in touch with our true self. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
As long as our attention is rooted in this world, we will never be able to get happiness. Even if we achieve all the comforts of the world, we cannot be happy.… We will get peace while in this world only when we are really devoted to the Lord within us. When we are working our way up, we are in tune with him, and we will also get happiness in this world. If we forget him, this whole world becomes a place of agony and misery for us. We will get happiness only in his devotion.
Hazur very powerfully points out that it’s a matter of where our attention is rooted; if our attention is rooted in worldly things, we won’t get happiness. This is 180 degrees different from how we are conditioned to think. Generally we believe that we can find happiness in wealth, comfort, entertainment, achievement and the respect of others. Saints say this is all wrong. Happiness is already within us, but if our attention is rooted in external things, our inner awareness will be clouded.
Saints resoundingly say that true happiness cannot be achieved and sustained if based in external conditions. A Buddhist writer, Bhante Henepola Gunaratana, calls the search for external happiness “the happiness of favourable conditions,” explaining that the Buddha considered this to be the lowest form of happiness. He explains that it is unwise to base our happiness on such a weak and transitory foundation – whether it’s wealth, family, sensual pleasures or anything of this world. He says in his book Eight Mindful Steps to Happiness:Walking the Buddha’s Path:
Why did the Buddha consider them part of the lowest form of happiness? Because they depend on conditions being right.… They are unstable. The more we trust them, seek them, and try to hang on to them, the more we suffer. Our efforts will create painful mental agitation and ultimately prove futile; conditions inevitably will change. No matter what we do, our hearts will break. There are better more stable sources of happiness.
Masters teach us to seek happiness in a source beyond the external world. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
Happiness doesn’t lie outside at all. It is a self-deception to think that I can be happy here, I can be happy there. If I have this, I’ll be happy. If I have that, I’ll be happy. It is a self-deception. And the moment comes in everyone’s life when we do realize that nothing belongs to us, and we don’t belong to anybody at all.
Meditation is the road to happiness that the Masters teach us. Why is meditation so vital? In Light on Sant Mat, Hazur says:
We feel the ills of the body and the shocks of the world in proportion to our attachment. By meditation … we increase our love for the real and the permanent, and loosen our attachment for the impermanent.
Through meditation we come into conscious contact with the Shabd, the light and sound of God within us. Masters explain that contact with this Shabd is so enjoyable that, when we have this experience, we automatically begin to lose interest in the external things that we had previously looked upon as the source of our happiness. Then our whole perspective changes. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, “You can only break strong attachments by experiencing joy, joy from becoming one with the sound and light within.” Spiritual joy is needed to pull us out of this world and unite us with the Lord. The Jesuit priest Pierre Teilhard de Chardin is quoted in the book Between Heaven and Mirth as saying, “Joy is the most infallible sign of the presence of God.”
Meditation becomes the most precious part of our lives. By practising meditation we are aligning ourselves with the Master who initiated us, and we begin to travel on the path of becoming one with him. These Masters are Shabd personified and they are happiness personified. Maharaj Charan Singh often explained that if we go to a happy person, we also become happy. Isn’t that the experience we get when we are with the Masters? They radiate happiness. Their presence uplifts us. Their lives are a lesson in how we should behave. And being one with the Lord, they exude humility. When we look at the lives of the Masters, we invariably see that their full energy is devoted to a life of service. They put the needs of others before their own comforts, and they do so with a sense of joy and happiness. It has been said that humility is not thinking less of yourself, but thinking of yourself less. The Masters demonstrate this real humility because they see the Lord within themselves and within everyone. In Treasure Beyond Measure, Hazur says, “I am the servant of the Lord and the Lord is in everyone.”
Masters teach us to lead a relaxed and happy life – not a life of worry and stress – and they tell us we can only do this if we remember the Lord as we go through life. Being glum and negative is not helpful if we want to pursue a path that leads to permanent bliss and happiness. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
If meditation makes you sad and morose and miserable-looking, I don’t think that is what meditation means. Meditation should make you absolutely light.… You see, you have a servant in the house who may not even talk to you, but is always looking relaxed, smiling while moving about. You always like him. Another person is always looking miserable. He may be working harder, but when you see the misery on his face, you just shudder. Whom do you like better? We are all servants of the Father – whom would he like? He is pleased by the grateful person, the person who is happy to be his child.
Masters appreciate our grateful hearts, and we also feel happy when we are grateful. We undermine this sense of gratitude, and we dissipate the joy that it produces when we have unfulfilled expectations of achieving certain results in meditation – of seeing light and hearing sound or reaching certain spiritual levels. When we have these expectations, we are applying a worldly approach to our spiritual life. We are so used to basing our happiness on what we consider favourable external conditions that we apply the same approach to our meditation. Masters say that this will never help us. They clearly explain that our job is just to put in the effort in meditation and to do this without analyzing results because the analytical mind will only block our experience of inner truth. It’s the Lord’s job to decide what to give us and when to give it to us. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
You see, we start analyzing ourselves too much: “How much love do I have? Now I have no more faith, yesterday I had too much faith.” Every day we judge ourselves. We are the judge, and we are the accused before the judge. The mind is just always running in a circle like this. This self-analysis doesn’t lead us anywhere at all. Self-pity – it depresses us sometimes. Let the Lord judge. Let him know what we need. Our work is to do our duty. Our duty is to knock; it’s for him to open the door. We can’t take on our shoulders his responsibility also.
The beauty inherent in this attitude is reflected by a monk and teacher who writes:
the person who exerts himself or herself with dignity, without worrying about results and without giving in to disappointment, is a true practitioner, a true person of the Way. I believe that just this is the form of true human well-being.
Soko Morinaga, in Novice to Master: An Ongoing Lesson in the Extent of My Own Stupidity
It is fashionable for some of us to say that we’ve made no progress even after having been initiated for ten, twenty, thirty, forty or more years. When we proclaim that we have made no progress, it’s really the analytical mind that is reaching this conclusion. But that aspect of our mind will never experience the Shabd; it is incapable of tasting even just the fragrance of meditation. The analytical mind is merely a tool for functioning in this world – nothing more. It’s a mistake to allow this activity of the mind to sit in judgment over our level of spiritual attainment.
If we are honest with ourselves, we know that we are making progress every moment we practise stilling our mind and being receptive. Just persisting in this effort of practicing the meditation is enough; the rest is not in our hands. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
Daily attendance to meditation definitely gives you some bliss and peace and happiness within yourself.… Even if a blind man cannot admire the beauty of flowers, definitely he can enjoy their smell, and when he’ll get eyesight, he will enjoy the beauty also. So we enjoy this smell, the fragrance of meditation to begin with.
That fragrance is evidence of his love for us. We can block even that fragrance by adopting a negative attitude, bringing in the analytical mind and grumbling about what we analyze to be our lack of progress. Instead, why not relax, be receptive and let go of expectations? Why not let ourselves enjoy the fragrance we get when we practise just being there with sincere effort in meditation? Just that is enough. That’s the way we can experience the happiness of meditation.