Liberation not Dependence
What is it that we want or expect from the mystics? Is it answers to the meaning of love, life and the universe? Is it protection from the challenges of daily living and the promise of a trouble-free future? Or perhaps we want detailed instructions on how to behave, and would like them to take control over certain decisions we need to make? As explored elsewhere in this issue, Sant Mat is a path of liberation; it provides a philosophical framework for understanding divine laws until such time as we come to realize these for ourselves. That being so, the role of the mystics is not to create a paradise on earth, nor is it to resolve our individual problems. On the contrary they expect us to use our own judgment and sense of discrimination. In the question and answer sessions with the present Master for example, when we ask about personal issues, he offers us general advice as to how we may approach the situation or think about it from a different perspective. However, his counsel is not specific; he will not direct us about personal issues even when we press him hard and literally want him either to say ‘yes you can do this’ or ‘no you shouldn’t do that’.
If we think this over, we can find several reasons that may explain why the Masters do not dictate what we should do in these matters. First, some of us may be facing similar (if not the same) predicaments, but since everyone’s situation is different, the best way of resolving these will be different from one person to the next. Therefore, the Masters would not wish to give advice specific to one individual, which might be taken by others to apply to themselves. Secondly, the mystics do not interfere with the law of karma. Our own choices have brought us to the point at which we find ourselves and will determine the future choices we make.
Our sense of discrimination is what distinguishes us from other creatures – this is the third reason why we, rather than the mystics, are responsible for resolving personal questions. As Maharaj Charan Singh states in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, “The Lord has given us the sense to know what is good and what is bad”, enabling us to make the right decisions and reject the wrong ones. Indeed, Maharaj Charan Singh goes on to make it clear that if we are honest with ourselves and listen carefully to our conscience, we often know what is right, what is wrong and therefore what decision we should make.
Fourth, if, for whatever reason, our sense of discrimination is insufficiently developed or our judgment is poor, we can rely on the tenets of Sant Mat to guide us. By adhering to these principles and making our decisions within this framework, we would not act in ways we may later regret. So, when faced with a difficult decision, we may ask ourselves, “How will this affect my meditation? Will this action take me closer or further from my destination?” The answer to this question should help us make the right decision, although just because we know what is right, it does not automatically mean that we will do what is right. We may choose to disregard our conscience because we fall victim to the dictates of the lower mind. As Maharaj Charan Singh observes in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
You always know whether what you are doing is right or wrong – if you just listen to yourself. If you don’t want to listen, that is a very different thing. The mind itself warns us … that what we’re going to do is wrong. And it is also the mind that forces us to do that wrong thing. There’s a struggle and a conflict in the mind always, but we always know what is good and what is bad.
The solution to this conflict is meditation, as it is the only way to achieve freedom from the mind. Through regular practice, meditation develops our sense of discrimination, enhances our conscience, and strengthens our willpower to resist making wrong decisions.
The fifth and possibly the most important reason why the mystics do not get drawn into personal issues is that their role is directed towards our spiritual welfare, to give us encouragement, advice and guidance on how to liberate the soul from its entanglement with the mind. Resolving our worldly problems is not their job. Maharaj Charan Singh made this clear in a long response to a question by a satsangi who asked him to explain why he would always say, “Do what you think is best” when people asked him for advice. Here is a short extract taken from Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
If you have any spiritual problem, the Master will never put you off … he will always answer your question. But in worldly day-to-day problems, how can you involve the Master?… Even if we involve him, I’m sure we will never obey him. We will still do what we want to do. We’re just trying to take a little burden from our own heart and tell ourselves that we are doing what the Master has instructed, nothing else.… The Master is only meant for spiritual problems.… In our worldly life, we have problems at every step and we have to deal with them in the light of what we know, what we practise.
This may come across as a little harsh, especially when there are times when our sense of judgment is clouded and we are unable to decide whether an action is going to take us nearer or further away from the path. In those situations the Masters advise us to make a decision with the best intentions. We are advised to weigh all the consequences, make a decision with a dispassionate mind, and then leave the outcomes to the Lord. Maharaj Charan Singh continues:
[Make the decision] with your best available intellect or reasoning or thinking or intuition – whatever you may have – do your best, then leave it to the Lord. Still you can be wrong, but then you see, you have no other option. What else can you do? You have done your best. Then leave it to the Lord.
Returning to our starting point, Sant Mat is a path of liberation. In freeing us from both the shackles of the mind and the prison of the material plane, the Masters do not wish us to be dependent on their physical form. Like any parent, they hope instead that their love and guidance will enable us to be independent – to have the courage to make difficult decisions to the best of our ability, and to have faith in ourselves to do the right thing.
Above all, they bestow the gift of initiation. As a result, whilst our personal problems will not disappear, if we practise our meditation, not only will we become better at listening to our conscience and more responsive to the suggestions and reasoning of the higher mind, but our attitudes towards material trials and tribulations will change. We will view them as insignificant, fleeting issues that we need to experience to pay off our karmic debt on our journey home.