Going for Gold
Every year, athletes around the world prepare themselves to compete in national and world championships, hoping against hope that if they can win a medal they will be chosen to compete in the Olympic games. Each one of these athletes has been training for years, perhaps most of their life, to reach this goal of competing in the Olympics. Just being allowed to compete and represent one’s country is a huge honour, what to say of actually winning a medal. Going for gold is the goal of all Olympic contenders because a gold medal is the pinnacle of success. What is the Sant Mat equivalent of an Olympic gold medal?
It is to merge with the inner Master, the Shabd, and lose one’s own identity. Abu’l-Hussain al-Nuri describes this state when he says in Sufism, An Account of the Mystics of Islam, “So passionate my love is, I do yearn to keep his memory constantly in mind; but O, the ecstasy with which I burn sears out my thoughts, and strikes my memory blind!”
Abu’l-Hussain al-Nuri says he wants to remember his Master constantly, but this ecstasy and elation absorbs his attention so completely that everything, including his sense of separation, disappears. He is so merged in the Master’s love, so consumed by it, that his separate identity disappears. Then he says in the same poem: “And marvel upon marvel, ecstasy itself is swept away.” Is there something beyond ecstasy? This is incomprehensible; the Masters say there is no language to describe these things. We have to experience them. To achieve this spiritual realization requires total commitment and sacrifice. Sultan Bahu says:
Only when you sacrifice your life
in your love for God
will you deserve the name ‘faqir,’ O Bahu.
Sacrificing our lives means that we don’t simply live a life that is built around eating, drinking, watching TV until midnight, falling into bed exhausted, and sleeping until our alarm wakes us just in time to have breakfast and go to work. We don’t live such a life because we are meditators. Meditation is our path to ecstasy. We go to bed early after a light meal and we rise before the world is awake to be with our Master in meditation. We do this because we love him. If we sacrifice the pennies of life for the gold the Master is offering us, then, as Sultan Bahu has said, we deserve to be called true devotees.
Athletes training for Olympic gold medals could perhaps teach us a thing or two about sacrificing for a goal. A good example is Gaby Douglas, a young American gymnast who won gymnastics’ highest prize – a gold medal in the women’s all-round competition in the 2012 summer Olympics in London. When asked how to be a champion, Gaby said, “How to be a champion – turn your dream into your goal, plant it deep in your heart, and for the next ten years eat, sleep, breathe, laugh, and cry without ever taking your eye off your goal even for a second.”
Our Masters also tell us to keep our eye on the prize, to look constantly at our goal. Sardar Bahadur Jagat Singh says in The Science of the Soul:
Throughout the day, no matter in what occupation you are engaged, the soul and the mind must constantly look up to him at the eye centre. All the twenty-four hours of the day, there must be yearning to meet the Lord and a continuous pang of separation from him.
And then he says almost exactly the same words as our young gymnast: “Every moment, whether eating, drinking, walking, awake or asleep you must have his Name on your lips and his form before your eyes.”
If we are seeking the Sant Mat equivalent of the Olympic gold medal – if we are going for gold, to meet the Master within – we have to eat, sleep, breathe, laugh, and cry without ever taking our eye off our goal even for a second. No matter what happens in our lives, every day without fail, whether we feel like it or not, we get up and meditate.
Our daily early-morning meditation is our equivalent to the physical training of the athlete. Just as it can be tedious for the athletes training day after day, year after year, it can also be hard for us to keep going with our meditation. The key to continuing is to remember what our goal is. We are fighting to go beyond mind and maya, to reach the inner Master who is not as far away as we might imagine.
In Light on Sant Mat, Maharaj Charan Singh says, “The Master is within us and so near, but the curtain of the mind stands in between.” The mind, Hazur is saying, is creating the illusion of separation. Just because we may not see him within doesn’t mean he is not there. Just as when the Master is visiting our country and we are waiting for him to enter the auditorium to give satsang, he may already be standing outside the door talking to some sevadars. The fact that we cannot see him doesn’t mean he is not there. If we are meditating day after day, the fact that we have not yet seen him within is not proof that he is not there. He is “within us and so near”; there is just a little curtain of mind preventing us from seeing him. The mind is what stands between us and the inner Master. Hazur says in Light on Sant Mat:
If we cleanse and vacate the chamber of the mind, and wait lovingly and expectantly for him, surely he will permit us to see him within. The best way to cleanse the mind is to vacate the nine doors of the body through repetition of the five Holy Names with love and devotion.
All we need to do is just be there, do our simran with love and devotion, and wait in the darkness for our Master to show himself to us. Our seeing him within is in his hands and not ours. Our role is to put in the effort and wait for the results to come when he wills it. We just keep trying.
Every day is not the same. Some days we may not be able to sit for the full two and one-half hours or we fall asleep or we can’t repeat even one round of simran before our attention scatters or we can’t keep still – we change our posture every few minutes. Then we may feel like complete failures on the path.
Olympic-bound athletes probably feel the same way when they try out for the Olympic team but are not chosen. The ones who are truly motivated see this as a temporary setback, a motivator to try harder, and they go back to their training and work doggedly on – knowing that they will have another shot in four years. The ones who compete and fail and try again are the true champions of the Olympic story. So it is with us. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Die to Live:
Great Master used to say, “If you can’t bring your success to me, bring your failures.” It means, assure me that you have at least been giving your time to meditation. Whether you have achieved any results or not is a different question, but you bring me at least your failures, because that means you have been attempting to meditate, you have been doing your best.
The word failure is meaningless when we are talking about meditation; as long as we keep trying, we are winners. This is where our path is much easier than that of the Olympic athlete in training. If athletes can see that their physical strength and skill in their sport is not increasing, they can predict that, most likely, they will not be able to win a gold medal. Not so with us! What we perceive about our progress is irrelevant. Our progress is in the Master’s hands, not in ours. Hazur encourages us to look for other signs of progress when he says:
Through meditation our own attitude changes towards everybody, and we feel that bliss and happiness within ourselves. That is the measurement we can make, by which we feel that we are progressing in meditation.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
Changes in our attitude of mind; changes in the way we treat other people – becoming nicer, kinder human beings; changes in our ability to handle the stresses of living in this world – these are clear signs that our meditation is having an effect. And with a little introspection, we can see these changes in ourselves.
Doing meditation with the intent of becoming better human beings may not be enough of a motivator to keep us going day after day. Doing meditation because we want to please our Master is a much better reason – because we love him and we want to deepen our relationship with him.
Great Master says in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. II:
The best and the highest method of meeting God is to love the Master and to remain at his lotus feet. This is the first step of the ladder towards God-realization. Devotion to the Master is to love him. It is to live according to his orders and directions – physically as well as mentally. In other words, one should give away one’s heart to one’s Master. It is essential that we give our heart to our Master, for, when one gives away one’s heart, one automatically gives one’s whole body and puts one’s entire life in the hands of the Master.
Master shows us through his perfect example how love drives effort. Look at how hard he works to help us achieve our goal: the gruelling schedule he keeps, running around the world giving satsangs in different cities, always doing his duty to the sangat. How then can we hold back from helping him to help us? Great Master says in Spiritual Gems, “The best service to the Master is to do devotional practice with love and faith as instructed; for, by doing so, you do the Master’s work. You help him in performing his duty of taking you to Sach Khand.”
Our Master is doing his duty. He was born for the precise purpose of meeting his marked souls and putting them on the path and then supporting them as they follow it. There is no other reason for a Master to be here. Similarly, the only reason we are here in this creation, in this physical body, is to meet our Master and after initiation to work with him to go back home.
If we want the gold, if we want to meet our Master within and feel the love and bliss that al-Nuri talks about, we have to be willing to fight the mind and turn our attention firmly to Master and meditation.