The Right Type of Disciple
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote in his poem, Psalm of Life:
Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime,
And, departing, leave behind us
Footprints on the sands of time.
The Masters’ lives are an example for us, their conduct a model for us to emulate, their discipline a shining beacon for us to strive toward, their commitment an inspiration for us to make our effort, their achievement a call for us to be sublime. Their lives remind us that we too can live our lives like them, put in the effort, follow the path, and be the right type of disciple. Eventually, we too become sublime.
Maharaj Charan Singh tells us in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, who is a good disciple: “One who stands firm on the principles of Sant Mat and is attending to his meditation and living in the will of the Lord, naturally he is the right type of disciple.” It’s as simple as that. If we follow his definition, we can be the right type of disciple. Hazur is teaching us a course of action, not of mere learning; every word he uses – “stands firm,” “is attending to,” “living in the will” – is a call to action. The “right type of disciple” is one who actively follows the teachings and instructions of the Master, makes them central to his life, and puts them into practice every day.
The Lord has showered his grace on us in so many ways – giving the gift of the human form, creating the desire to seek him, bringing us into contact with the living Master, and then conferring the supreme gift of initiation on to the spiritual path. But we still have a million doubts and arguments. Our mind furiously seeks to justify deviating from these principles by making one exception or another. We think: we can eat eggs in America because they are infertile; surely an occasional glass of wine will not cause me to lose control; why do we have to get married to live together? However, when we strip away all these questions, we realize that in order to make spiritual progress there is no other way except to keep the vows. As Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
We have to live absolutely within the four walls of the Sant Mat principles. Whether they mean anything to anybody or not is immaterial. If you really want to make spiritual progress, you have to live within these walls. There’s no other way.
In a practical sense, what does this mean for us? We have to become more aware and act on that awareness so that we comply with the vows. The guidelines are simple. If that slice of cake looks scrumptious but we do not know for sure if it contains eggs, we stay away! No alcohol, no mind-altering substances – we abstain! Honesty and purity in our conduct, control of our passions and desires – all might be a stricter standard than we have upheld prior to coming to the path. But at the grocery store, when the checkout clerk misses the package of bottled water in the bottom of the cart, and we realize it when we are out of the store, we don’t say, “Well, I am sure I have overpaid at other times, so this is fine.” We just go back and pay for it.
If these standards appear daunting, we only have to look at our Masters to see how they conduct themselves: in the midst of running their lives in this world, they have achieved the highest level possible on this spiritual journey. Their lives inspire us; they teach us how to live. With gentleness and compassion, with great patience and a wonderful sense of humour, they tell us again and again to live a balanced life and focus on our meditation.
From meditation comes the strength to fulfil the other vows, which in turn strengthens our ability to sit. It is a gradual process, and with the Master’s grace we are on a “virtuous spiral” heading to our true home. It sounds logical and it seems simple and straightforward to do; yet, sometimes we find ourselves caught in “the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak” syndrome, with our mind scattered into all the attractions of the world. We have to coax the mind to let go of this world and focus at the eye centre. But how do we do that?
Once a man visited a great mystic to find out how to be free of desires and attachments. The mystic jumped up, ran to a nearby pillar and held on to it, screaming, “Save me from this pillar! Save me from this pillar!” The man thought the mystic was mad, and said so, adding, “You are holding the pillar; the pillar is not holding you. You can simply let go.” The mystic said quietly to the man, “If you can understand that, then you have your answer.”
We can also use the psychology of the mind to turn it to our advantage. Since the mind constantly seeks pleasure, we can give it the greatest pleasure possible – the sweetness of the Shabd. This is possible only through our meditation and the grace of the Master. It is through meditation that the mind begins to release its hold on the world; then we can let go.
Another way to tame the mind is to become aware of the Master’s presence. The Master is always at the eye centre watching over us. If we do our meditation with that feeling, thinking we are sitting in front of him, the task becomes easier.
And so we attend to our meditation, even when it is hard, even when it is dry. The Master tells us: just do it – so we should be the right type of disciple and just do it. The Master assures us there are no failures on this path; every bit of effort is to our credit. To be successful in this meditation, we have to build an atmosphere of meditation throughout the day – do simran whenever we have a free moment. It is said of Maharaj Jagat Singh in Heaven on Earth, that prior to becoming the Master, while he was a college professor, “If he was ready to go to the college ten minutes early, he would utilize the time in meditation.” What a wonderful example for each of us!
We classify what life deals to us as “good” or “bad” depending on its alignment with our wishes. Instead, we should treat everything that comes our way as his gift. He is the fountainhead of mercy and knows what to give us, how to give it, and when to give it. He will always do it in a way that is beneficial for us, whether or not we realize it at the time. For it stands to reason that our perspective is a narrow one; we are not aware of the larger canvas on which events play out. He does not send things our way on a whim – we get what we deserve, and reap the consequences of the actions we have sown in the past. For our part, we have to act to the best of our ability and leave the results to the Lord – that is the meaning of “living in his will.” If we reflect on these concepts, we begin to realize the depth of Hazur’s teachings when he tells us in Spiritual Discourses, Vol. I:
If we can take what comes to us as from him, then whatever it is, it becomes divine in itself; shame becomes honour, bitterness becomes sweet and darkness light. Everything takes its flavour from God and becomes divine. Everything that happens betrays the invisible hand of God. When a man’s mind works in this way, all things begin to taste divine.
Children often grasp instinctively what adults find difficult to comprehend. A story is told of a little girl who was walking home from school when she found herself in a storm with flashes of lightning and roaring thunder. Her mother, afraid for her daughter, hurried to bring her home. She saw her daughter happily walking along and at each flash of lightning the girl would stop, look up and smile. When she asked her daughter what she was doing, the child answered, “Smiling. God just keeps taking pictures of me.”
We too can cheerfully accept what comes our way – indeed delight in it. By doing this we become the “right type of disciple” and live in the will of the Lord – and then all things begin to taste divine.
Eons after eons have passed since I saw you,
my beloved lord.
Blessed is that land where you reside,
my beloved friend, my lord.
I will sacrifice myself, my entire being to you,
my Master, my friend, my lord.
A moment without you, and the age of darkness
descends on me;
When will I meet you, my beloved lord, again?
My nights of agony are endless,
sleep has forsaken me,
without a glimpse of my Master’s court.
I will sacrifice myself, my entire being,
to reach the true court of my Master.
Guru Arjun Dev, as quoted in, Kabir, The Weaver of God’s Name