Pay Heed to the Instructions
We might sometimes think to ourselves: I am a struggling soul. I am not perfect. I am not always obedient. I do not always do what is right. But I do feel guilty about it. I do feel embarrassed and I do want to turn things around.
We are all struggling souls on this path and our struggles are evident when we are unable to sit or are not regular in our meditation; they are evident when sleep and laziness, or other activities take a higher priority than our desire to do our simran. We cannot measure our level of progress on this spiritual path because that is beyond our capacity. So we become aware of our struggles when we come to satsang and we are reminded of our true purpose; or when we see the glowing faces and radiant smiles of others whom we assume do not have any difficulties.
Perhaps we are struggling because we have not been able to keep a balance between our duty to the Lord, and our worldly duties. Perhaps we have allowed family responsibilities, personal relationships, illness, business and social activities to take priority over our meditation. At the same time, the core of our being wants nothing more than to be with the Lord.
The result is a guilty conscience – an inner disturbance, which is the cry of the soul yearning to return to the Lord. Deep down, this guilt rips us in two. On one hand, we want to obey the teachings and be one with the Lord, but on the other, we enjoy living life to the fullest. On one hand, we want to do our meditation, but on the other, the appeal and attraction of worldly activities distracts us. With this duality tearing us apart, how do we expect to meet our beloved Lord? Guru Nanak in the book Jap Ji, A Perspective, explains:
Gems, diamonds and pearls are found within the self only if one heeds the Guru’s sole instruction.
The Guru has only one teaching. That teaching is love of the One and meditation on his Name. Within a person who moulds his life according to this teaching and fully understands it, treasures of priceless gems such as the Lord’s Name or Shabd appear. One who does not pay heed to this teaching and does not mould his life according to it, even after listening to the words of the Guru, remains devoid of the most precious treasure of Nam, the Lord’s Name.
A story is written in the Jap Ji that provides us with a very fitting example. A king once wished to own a sculpture of a perfect man. So, the king summoned his top sculptor, and, with a profound artistic talent combined with an understanding of human nature, the sculptor created two images of man, identically perfect on the outside. When the king asked the price, the sculptor said that the first piece was priced at one rupee and the second, at one hundred thousand rupees. The king passed both the pieces to his minister and asked him to distinguish one from the other. The minister examined them thoroughly, and through some crafty technique, he found that the first sculpture had a hole going from one ear directly to the other, while the second sculpture had a hole in each ear going in and upwards to the centre of the head of the statue.
The first sculpture, worth only one rupee, portrayed man in the light of an old saying – “In one ear and out the other” – which suggests that something is heard but not attended to, or that is immediately forgotten. If we interpret that ‘something’ to be the teachings of the Master, then naturally a man who takes the teachings in one ear and out the other, would be worthless.
It is no wonder that the king agreed to pay the greater amount for the second sculpture, which had one hole in each ear going in and upwards to the centre of the head. This sculpture of the perfect man represents what it means to truly ‘hear’ and absorb the teachings of the Master, and this translates into the dedicated practice of meditation – focused simran at the third eye.
Thus, if we have a guilty conscience because we are not able to keep a balance between doing our meditation and fulfilling our worldly duties or chasing after worldly pleasures, then we are struggling on the path. Our guilt is the cry from our soul who is desperate to return to the Lord. Knowing the value in the Guru’s teachings, we should not let them slip in one ear and out the other, but rather hear with both ears wide open, and register them in our mind, as well as in our hearts. Love the Lord and meditate on his Name.
We should, therefore, mould our life according to the teachings of the Master and sincerely devote time to our meditation. Only by acting on his advice are we transformed, and this transformation allows us to connect to the treasure house of the Shabd. One day, when the inner treasures are revealed and we are able to hear the Shabd, we will be glad we paid attention.