How Desperate Are We?
There is a story about a disciple who was constantly imploring his Master for inner experience. So one day the Master took him to a river, led him into the water and held his head under while the disciple struggled desperately. The Master eventually let him go and asked him what he was thinking about when his head was under the water.
“I could only think about getting my breath and nothing else”, replied the disciple.
“When you want inner experience with the same intensity, you will get it”, said the Master.
So are we desperate? Or rather, how desperate are we?
Desperation goes beyond mere adherence to the four promises we make at the time of initiation, although these are an essential foundation on which to build. Maharaj Jagat Singh advised that “one must mould his life in accordance with the principles of satsang. Every thought, speech and action must conform to them. A satsangi’s daily conduct must bear the hallmark of excellence and must reveal that he is the follower of a true Master.” These are lofty ideals but ideals which we must constantly strive to attain by being vigilant. We must keep a close watch on our mind and if, despite our best intentions, negative thoughts arise, we should not allow them to be translated into speech or action.
The mind is like the perpetual motion machine which scientists have been seeking in vain for centuries. Its very essence is motion; it is restless and undermines our efforts to still it. When we attempt to meditate it throws up endless images and thoughts to prevent us doing simran and dhyan. However, we can use this to our advantage by accepting our helplessness. When we say we cannot meditate, it is absolutely true: we neither can nor cannot meditate. It is all in the Lord’s hands. It is his grace if meditation happens and his grace if it does not. We must go through the motions of making the effort to meditate. It is one of the paradoxes of Sant Mat that we cannot influence the outcome of our efforts in any way, and yet we must continue to strive as if we had some control over our destiny.
We sometimes see this clearly in our everyday lives when something we had endeavoured so hard to obtain eludes us, while something else of equal value just falls into our laps. Baba Ji says that we should take everything in life as a gift from the Master, as his parshad. We should neither become elated when things appear to be going well nor dejected during difficult times. Instead, while sitting at the eye centre, we can take it all with gratitude. Pleasure or pain, he gives us exactly what we need to burn off karma and become free. Because that is what this path is all about – becoming free, not becoming rich or successful or respected or anything else. It is a path of liberation.
We do not know what is good for us; the Master knows what is good for us. We are not masters of our own destiny: he is the Master of our destiny; and thank God for that! To give an example of how little we understand of what is beneficial and what is not, let us return to the example of dry meditation where nothing appears to happen other than a constant struggle to rein in the unravelling mind and keep the attention focused at the eye centre. No light, no sound, just struggle. But to use a cycling analogy, how do we get stronger – by cycling uphill or freewheeling downhill?
At any rate, the Masters tell us repeatedly that the Lord wants our sincere efforts, so we must continue to strive to the best of our limited ability, offering no paltry excuses about being too busy or tired to sit. Then we should leave the results to the Lord.
In Die to Live Maharaj Charan Singh says:
We have to form a habit of meditation. If you say, “When I feel the urge I will meditate” you would perhaps never meditate. If you think, “When I feel the right atmosphere, then I will meditate. I will sit in the morning, I will sit at noon, I will sit in the evening,” you will always go on giving excuses to yourself; you will never attend to meditation.
We have to be as determined as if we were boring through a tunnel in utter darkness and do not know when we will break through to the light. It could be today, it could be tomorrow or it could be some years away. Nevertheless, two things are certain: first, we will not reach the light unless we keep on drilling, and second, once we break through into the light the difference will be absolute; we will have moved from darkness to light, our effort will be rewarded and there will be no return to darkness.
But does this motivate us? Or do we procrastinate about our meditation, putting it off for another day?
At junior school lunch times, we were supposed to eat everything on our plates. Perhaps, like me, you may have eaten the bits you didn’t like first to get them out of the way, leaving the best till last. There was always an impatient dinner lady (lunch supervisor) who thought you were taking too long – or who perhaps thought you were leaving the bits you didn’t like – and so would try to whisk your plate away before you had actually got to the best bit. This of course is a metaphor for procrastination. We spend so much time dealing with the things that are less significant but which have to be done – our duties and obligations -that it must seem as if these are the bits we really like. And we leave meditation – the best bit – till last, thinking that we’ll enjoy it when we’ve got everything else out of the way. But those duties and obligations and (let’s be honest) pleasures, have a tendency to consume all our time, so at the end of the day – in fact at the end of every single day – we may realize that we have not found the time to enjoy our meditation before the remains of the day are whisked away. Worse still, what if we reach old age, and we are still putting off enjoying the best bit, and our life is whisked away? It doesn’t bear thinking about – but we should think.
We should never assume that we have plenty of time left to live and can thus delay getting serious about the path. We are all getting older. Time may be an illusion, but it’s an illusion that’s running out for us. When we are young we think we have plenty of time to get round to doing what is right for our soul, so we put off our meditation and busy ourselves with trivia. Sometimes the mind is more subtle – it convinces us that we are clearing our plates so that we can enjoy fully the best bit which we are saving till last. But the dinner lady of death can come along at any moment and take away our plates before we are ready.
In a famous passage in the Bible, Saint Paul says: “When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child; but when I became a man, I put away childish things.” He is using the example of childhood and manhood to talk about spiritual maturity. When we ‘grow up’ and realize the true value of things, we will start to re-arrange our priorities and invest more time in our spiritual well-being.
We have to get serious. As someone once stated, “This path is not a joke.” It is not something to be undertaken lightly. This doesn’t mean that we have to go around looking glum and feeling miserable. Look at the Masters – they alone are truly happy because, knowing the true worth of this creation, they enjoy it for what it is. We mistake it for reality when in fact it is illusion. For this reason we have ups and downs rather than staying balanced.
Gradually, by dint of regular meditation, we will go through our karmas smilingly, knowing them to be administered by him in our best interests. In the meantime, we must be serious about the path. We cannot pay mere lip service to Sant Mat. We cannot be Sunday satsangis or even just early morning satsangis. We must be twenty-four hour satsangis, living and breathing Sant Mat. And the only way to achieve that is by constant simran.
The five holy names are imbued with the spiritual power of our Master. They are the key with which we escape from the prison of the material world. They will unlock the door to the inner worlds. This is what the Masters tell us.
These holy words are so crucial that they should not be repeated parrot-like, uncaringly. They should be repeated slowly and consciously, with love, devotion, even desperation. If that seems an impossible task, let us at least repeat them with gratitude – gratitude to our Master for his grace in bestowing the gift of initiation. For if life sometimes seems hard, just pause to think how it would be without Nam. Nam is our sheet anchor. Imagine life without it and, in a spirit of gratitude, do simran.