Like a Child
A disciple of Jesus once asked him this question: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?” Jesus replied by calling a little child over and setting him in the midst of the group. He said:
Verily I say unto you, except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter the kingdom of heaven. … Whosoever therefore shall humble himself as this little child, the same is greatest in the kingdom of heaven.
The Bible, Matthew 18:3–4
When Maharaj Charan Singh was asked by one of his disciples to explain this answer, he replied:
Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven? Who is entitled to go back to the Father?‘ “Except ye be converted” means that our whole outlook on life should be changed. Now the tendency of your mind is outward. But you have to withdraw your mind inward to the eye centre, and turn it upward; that is conversion. You change from one way of living to another.
Light on Saint Matthew
This is then how we, as adults, qualify for entrance into the kingdom of heaven: by humbling ourselves and becoming childlike. What Maharaj Ji says here is that unless we are converted – by becoming initiated, living in his will and doing our meditation – we will not be able to eliminate our ego and become as innocent as little children. Therefore we “shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven”.
Maharaj Ji often talked about the innocence of the hill people, many of whom would go within as soon as they were initiated. He explained that they were like innocent children, with minds still pure and unsullied by the world. How do we regain this simplicity, this innocence and purity of mind? Once again Maharaj Ji supplies the answer: that if you follow the path and do your meditation, all good qualities come in you like cream upon milk.
What could be clearer than this? Follow the path, do your meditation. Be eternally grateful that you are fortunate enough, in this life, to be in contact with a living Master, a highly evolved soul. A Master is someone who has eliminated ego from himself and can guide us and give us directions so that we too can become as humble and innocent as children, and have nothing else in mind but our Master and the Lord.
There is a tale of Lord Krishna paying a visit to the house of a man called Vidur. As Vidur was out, his wife – delirious with joy – peeled some bananas, handing the peels to Krishna and throwing away the fruit. When Vidur arrived and saw her folly he asked her what on earth she was doing. “Oh, I didn’t realize,” she replied innocently and handed Krishna some other fruit. “Vidur,” said Krishna, “these peels are sweeter than this fruit.”
This is an example of having nothing else in mind except one’s Master.
Apart from innocence and humility, another endearing quality that children possess is spontaneity: the quality of responding or acting naturally in the moment – as little Johnny demonstrated when an argument arose between him and his brother over who should have the first pancake. Their mother, seeing an opportunity to teach the boys a moral lesson, asked them, “If Jesus were sitting here at the breakfast table with us, wouldn’t he say, ‘Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait’? Johnny quickly turned to his younger brother and said, “Okay, Alex, you be Jesus.”
Spontaneity is an attribute of those who live fully in the present moment and who respond to those around them with ease. Do we not observe this when we are in the presence of our Master, and see how spontaneously he quips and interacts? We also observe how he responds to our many questions and demands in a natural, witty and joyful manner. And then does our love for him not brim over spontaneously? We leave the room with a smile on our face and carry the joy in our heart out into the world.
Another quality that children have, which can be an endless source of amusement and a lesson for us, is their wonder and curiosity about life. It is important for us, at any age, to retain our sense of wonder and curiosity, to never stop learning about the creation and our Creator.
We can also learn from children about not being judgmental. We adults tend to judge. We are often advised that it is a waste of precious time. Masters advise us to control this tendency, especially the gossiping habit. There is nothing that scatters the attention so much and brings unnecessary and even harmful ideas into the mind as the habit of gossiping.
In a reply to a question, the Master recently talked about being judgmental, by asking the questioner who he was, to judge anyone else. He asked him what he knew about the life of others and the challenges they were facing. The Master’s advice was to focus on oneself. He said that focus is everything, that what you focus on is what you become, and that no one has achieved success without focusing on his or her own goals in life. We all know what our ultimate goal is, so let us focus on our meditation, on self-realization and God-realization.
And let us lighten up! Like children, let us laugh easily and at the simplest things. We can learn so much by observing their way of being in the world. Keep in mind the proverb: “A little nonsense, now and then, is practised by the wisest men.”
The Master once even suggested that the name of the path should be changed to: “Laugh your way to heaven.” While we should take the path seriously, we need not take ourselves so seriously. Consider the power of laughter to prick the balloon of pretence and to deflate tension. We’ve all been told that laughter is the best medicine, and even that “he who laughs…lasts!”