The Road Less Travelled
There are a few lines in a poem by Robert Frost that read:
Two roads diverged in a wood and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
The Road Not Taken and Other Poems
These lines remind us that our life may be compared to a long road in which we come to a fork. One road at the fork – the worldly path – is the one that most people are taking. While that road appears to lead to happiness, it actually leads away from our true home down a path of adversity, anxiety, and misery. The other road – the path of the Masters – appears less travelled, one that fewer people would choose, but it takes us back home, safe from the dangers of the world into the embrace of our loving Father. As human beings, we have the power of discrimination; we have the choice to pick the road which leads us toward our home and being happy, or giving in to the temptations of the road that sidetracks us and diverts us from our journey home.
If we believe that we are spiritual beings going through a human experience, as the Master often says, then we have a responsibility to help free our soul. We may say that we are already free, but what is this freedom we speak of? The mind makes us dance to its tune. We know that indulging in the negative tendencies and falling prey to the senses leads to physical, mental, and spiritual harm; yet we do it anyway. If we want true freedom, ultimately, we have to choose between wanting the world and wanting to return to our spiritual home.
Kabir Sahib, in Kabir, the Great Mystic says:
I saw an ant carrying a grain of rice
And then she spied a lentil along the way.
She was puzzled how to carry both. Kabir says she cannot –
She must take one and leave the other.
A devotee must choose between the Lord and the world.
We have to remind ourselves why we came to this path and make choices that take us closer to our spiritual goal. Once we have chosen to go back to the Lord, we begin to realize that we are not the body or the mind, but rather the soul. To free the soul, we have to start with controlling the mind. Maharaj Charan Singh in Spiritual Discourses, Vol. I, imparts this vital truth:
Although the soul is a spark of the eternal flame, its vitality has been sapped. It has become weak and helpless. For many ages it has been a slave to the mind and the senses. Yet for its salvation, it has to face and fight the very masters under which it has served.
The “masters,” which Hazur refers to in this book are: “the mind and its various tendencies, its ceaseless wandering from one thing to another and its limitless desires and cravings.”
On the path of Sant Mat we know that the way to fight the mind is to concentrate and focus our attention at the eye centre through simran. When someone asks Hazur how it helps if we’re faced with temptations and we repeat our simran, he answers in Die to Live, “Well, sister, what is simran? Simran is a means to concentration at the eye centre, and we are tempted by the senses only when our mind is scattered.”
We are the ones who have pampered the mind; we are the ones who will have to rein it in and reverse the direction of its attention. In Living Meditation we read:
There is only one way to achieve concentration in meditation. We have to be ready to invert our outward and downward tendencies. We need to bring them inwards and upwards through constant simran, to the eye centre, the seat of the soul.
Simran frees us from our obsessions, so that we can be empty of our self and become receptive to the healing power of the Shabd. Every time we sit for meditation, the mind rebels because it does not want to be still. But we have to persist. Every time the mind runs out, we have to grab hold of it and wrestle it back to the focus. We realize that to be free we really have no choice but to restrain the mind through simran.
It is true that all spiritual effort stems from divine grace, but we cannot depend upon grace alone. Saints remind us that this life will be over soon. How many times have we said, “Someday I will attend to my meditation”? We wait for the perfect opportunity that may never come.
In Philosophy of the Masters, Maharaj Sawan Singh says, “Have a peep inside yourself. What do you want to be? You ask for spiritual wealth with your tongue but wish for other things in your heart.” Sant Mat is a path of action and not of words – a path of transformation, not information. If we choose action, it must be reflected in our priorities. In Living Meditation the author says, “Our actions must reflect our spiritual desire. If the desire for communion with Shabd is not reflected in our actions, either we are confused or we do not want to evolve spiritually.”
Saints help us realize that just as worldly achievements require time, great effort, and patience, so does the path of God-realization. Nothing in life is free; everything has a price tag attached to it. Kabir Sahib, in Kabir, the Great Mystic, clearly points this out when he says: “Useless is all talk of spirituality. Action, however, is excellently fruitful.”
This path of love and devotion takes sacrifices on our part. The spiritual path may seem long and hard. We think that this world is so advanced, surely there must be an easier way – a shortcut? Quoting Soami Ji, Sardar Bahadur writes in Discourses on Sant Mat, Vol. II:
If there were a substitute, I would tell you about the other way – to drop that and do this – but there is no substitute for meditation. You can make up for a deficiency in devotion only by devotion.
So when we see that there is no shortcut – no satsang, no reading books, and no outer seva – that will make up for bhajan and simran, we realize we have no choice but to put in the effort.
We may wonder why we need a Master or teacher for God-realization. Can we not meet God on our own? We actually stand in need of a teacher from the moment we are born. How then can we conceive of travelling on this most complex path of spirituality without a guide? In Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. V, Great Master writes:
Spirituality is a difficult path and cannot be trodden without the company of a Master.… There is danger at every step. He who wishes to know the reality or to get true knowledge and to meet the Lord should seek a perfect Master who knows the way.
The Master is the conduit between the disciple and the Lord. He prepares the disciple’s mind. With patience and love the Master watches over the disciple and defends him against the onslaught of the material world and the negative power. Bit by bit, the master-jeweller polishes the gem of the soul to bring forth its brilliance and sparkle. And as the polishing begins to take effect, we start to gradually see him as our friend, our parent, our hero. In Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. V, Great Master says:
In outward form [the Master] is a human being. He is, however, a superman. He is beyond good and evil and is the most exalted of men.… He shows himself powerless, even though he is all-powerful.
We can learn so much by observing how the Master conducts his life. He laughs, he plays pranks, he watches movies, he listens to music, and he even plays sports. He enjoys the creation but never gets entangled in it. Do we see the Master being overwhelmed by his life? None of us is busier, or has more responsibility, or more potential for stress than he. Yet he is in perfect balance. He never appears rushed or flustered, or scattered. When something has to be done, he does it because his mind is focused. Through meditation we too can learn to focus our mind.
Having received all gifts from the Lord, we can choose the attitude of gratitude. The path is in itself a gift. Without the path, imagine how we would deal with the concept of death or the meaning of life. What would be our anchor during times of adversity? How would we be able to maintain a balance in our life without satsang and seva? As difficult as meditation can be, can we imagine not having the option to meditate? And what about the most important gift – the Master himself? Can we envision our lives without the Master?
What wouldn’t we give to be with our Master for a whole day or a week or a month? But we are told we get to be with him all the time when we go within. In essence, we have a choice of living the spiritual teachings or turning towards the world. When we choose to obey the Master, we are choosing spirituality. When we meditate, we go beyond concepts and touch reality. In this way, if we put our hand in Master’s and walk the path with him, then we too will be able to say:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less travelled by,
And that has made all the difference.
While the body we occupy at this point in time will die, our soul continues far beyond this life to reap the harvest of the choices we are making here and now. If we are clever and make wise choices today about what we think and do, it will be a lot easier to make positive choices tomorrow. That we have been put on the path of the Masters means the time has now come, in this very life, to become masters of ourselves. There will be no incarnation better than the one we are in now. It is now that we have the opportunity to realize who and what we are.