The Promises of Meditation
Have you ever asked yourself, what is the purpose of meditation? In Sant Mat the practice of meditation is constantly stressed. The saints consistently and endlessly recommend meditation as the way back to God. They urge us to do it. They practically beg us to do it. Masters promise us that meditation will answer all our questions and give us everything we need.
Three aspects of the promises of meditation are worth exploring. The first is that meditation is the way to find forgiveness. Second, meditation is the way to overcome the ego that separates us from God. And third, meditation will increase our longing for the love and truth that will satisfy our deepest hunger.
Maharaj Charan Singh explained in a satsang that meditation is a path to forgiveness. He says:
Meditation provokes the grace of the Lord to forgive us [for] what stands between us and the Father, and that is repentance. To attend to meditation is to repent for what keeps us condemned in this creation…. That is a real knocking at the door of the Father, to forgive us [for] whatever may be standing between us and the Father.
If we knock at his door, if we keep our vow of two and one-half hours per day of meditation practice, if we try to do our simran, and try to be good human beings, we will be forgiven and welcomed home.
To follow the path of meditation, a certain amount of humility is required. To keep our promise to meditate, we have to surrender enough to do this meditation that we are asked to do. Meditation is our primary duty. It is where we will encounter the Shabd, the Lord, the permanent reality, the joy we seek. The Masters promise us that they will remove what blocks our way inside. They have to turn our attention away from the selfish ego that has strong desires for this fleeting, material, and ultimately delusional world.
We are told that what makes this transformation possible is the Shabd. The saints promise us that it is possible, indeed inevitable, that their initiates will, through the power of the Shabd, go beyond the mind, the ego, and the illusion that we are separate, alone, and orphaned. They promise that we can experience the Creator for ourselves and that we can merge with the Divine Ocean that is our essence. But they don’t say that the transformation will occur rapidly, painlessly or without considerable effort on our part.
The journey we have been invited to embark upon carries us away from a restless, miserable, undependable mind. Where will we go if we know we need help and forgiveness? Who will take on such a formidable project, to transform the selfish, deluded, separated seeker, and turn each of us into someone worthy to travel back to God? Goswami Tulsidas, quoted in Voice of the Heart, reminds us of the one we can rely on.
You are merciful and I am destitute, O Lord:
You are the generous giver and I am a beggar
I am the most infamous sinner
And you are the destroyer of all sins.
You are the guardian of orphans
And there is no orphan like me.
There is no one more miserable than me
And there is no better destroyer of misery than you.
You are the Lord and I am the soul,
You are the Master, and I am your disciple.
You are my father, mother, teacher and friend –
You are my only benefactor in every way.
Tulsidas calls himself a beggar. That is the universal condition of all disciples. Hazur reiterates and plainly says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, “We are all beggars at the Lord’s door. We have to beg. We have to ask, but he also gives.” And he encourages us when he says, “And I assure you, if we really beg from the heart, he is always ready to give.”
Goswami Tulsidas expresses this feeling of begging from the heart, as quoted in Voice of the Heart:
I have sinned and you are liberator of the sinners;
Both our roles are well matched …
Tulsi has com e to you for refuge, O Lord;
Please grant him your protection.
Baba Jaimal Singh explains in Spiritual Letters, just how much help and protection we are receiving when he says, “His gracious mercy is blessing you with every breath.” Similarly, Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, “He always receives us with open arms, provided we want him. We long for him.” What is asked of us is that we trust him. We are not to lose heart.
If we can accept this great gift, these simple and wonderful promises of the Master, then there can be great happiness, even before we make visible inner progress. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
What more could we want, if we can trust ourselves to the Lord? What more do we want? We think we know more than the Lord? What else could we want – that he will take care of us, he will absolve us from all our planning, all our thinking, that he takes our destiny into his own hands – what more could we want in life?
With this attitude we can go through life in a much more relaxed and contented state than we imagine is possible. Hazur says in Light on St. Matthew, “The One who has created you is more anxious about you and takes much more care of you, and is more concerned about you than you are about yourself … have faith in the Father.”
We promise to meditate. The Masters promise to forgive us, clear our karmas, vanquish the mind, and take us home. But to those of us who are distracted beggars, destitute and stubborn, the saints offer another blessing, the gift of longing. It manifests as a fierce desire for darshan, for joy, for peace, for union.
As Goswami Tulsidas says:
When will you consider me to be your own? …
You have nurtured everyone …
have you forgotten your inherent nature in my case?
He expresses this kind of longing when he pleads with God and accuses God of having forgotten him. Goswami Tulsidas keeps asking and imploring his Master to respond. When will I get to see your face? When will you accept me as your own? Is this sense of spiritual urgency a cry of the soul or just another way the mind is unwilling to surrender? It is the Master who decides when, and how, and in what manner we will attain liberation. We may never know whether our impatience for inner progress is a burden or a gift. Yet how reassuring it is to hear Goswami Tulsidas ask his Master whether he has forgotten him.
When Goswami Tulsidas begs his Master to hurry, he speaks on behalf of all of us who don’t understand why this path takes a lifetime. Many of us get discouraged. Day after day, year after year, we sit in meditation with no apparent inner progress. This is an experience common among those who seek spiritual realization. The contemplative monk, Thomas Merton, describing the experience of meditation and prayer in his book New Seeds of Contemplation, says that it is a process of waiting in the darkness, and is “often not so much one of fulfilment, as of defeat.” Merton describes the rocky path of meditation, saying, “[You learn] something of your own helplessness and incapacity.… Suffering submersion under a tidal wave of wild and inane images is one of the standard trials of the contemplative life.” Then he offers this sound advice:
What you most need in this dark journey is an unfaltering trust in the Divine guidance, as well as the courage to risk everything for him … to be heroically faithful to grace and to love. If God calls you to him, then he implicitly promises you all the graces you need to reach him.
The path back to God is not easy for most of us. But in the midst of our frustration, impatience, and incapacity, the mystics urge us to persist in our meditation. Merton continues in his book:
No matter how distracted you may be … [continue] to centre your heart upon God, who is present to you in spite of all that is going through your mind. His presence does not depend on your thoughts of him. He is unfailingly there.
When we do simran, it is easier to remember that the Master is there. But even when we forget to do simran, he is always with us. Our work is to continue to ask for forgiveness by being faithful to our meditation, to be willing to undergo the crushing of the ego, and to courageously wait in the darkness and the silence until he pulls us home. Hazur assures us that the Master is always with us and always helping us. He says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
Master’s helping hand is always there for our spiritual development.… Naturally, his guiding hand is always there, whether we are conscious of it, or not conscious of it. For our spiritual development, he is always there to help us in every way.
Spiritual wealth has been promised to us. The wealth we are waiting for is the Shabd, the logos. Goswami Tulsidas reminds us of just what a treasure this Name of the Lord is:
It is provision for those who journey empty-handed
and a friend to those who travel alone.
It is blessedness for the unblessed,
good character for those with none.
A patron to purchase goods from the poor,
and a benefactor to the abandoned …
It is parents to those who are destitute,
solid ground to the ungrounded.
A bridge that spans the sea of existence
and the cause of the essence of joy …
Rescuer of the Fallen:
The thought of it makes fertile earth
from Tulsi’s barren soil.
Songs of the Saints of India
Meditation is a promise. We are receiving provisions, true friendship, blessings, solid ground, and the essence of joy. And so much more. We have been promised that through this life-long practice of meditation, we will be forgiven, our ego will be defeated, and our longing will be answered. Remember, the Master always keeps his promises.
I have become lost in the City of Love.
I am trying to know myself.
I am being cleansed, withdrawing myself from my head, hands and feet.
I am rid of my ego and have attained my goal.
Thus has all ended well.
O Bullah, the Lord pervades both the worlds;
None now appears a stranger to me.
I have become lost in the City of Love.
I am trying to know myself.