We seek peace yet we find ourselves looking in the wrong place. As we go through life, eventually we may realize that, contrary to our initial expectations, we find little if any peace from achieving our ambitions. Granted, we may bask in their glory, but the sense of fulfilment is short-lived and may even be tinged with a touch of sadness or regret when reflecting upon the sacrifices made to attain them. If this is the case, where then do we find the peace we crave? Clues are provided in the following quotation from Spiritual Gems:
In a place where mind and matter are active, there can never be peace. Sorrows and war of nations, or communities or individuals shall continue. The soul must seek other planes to find peace. To find peace is the business of the individual. Everybody has to seek it within themselves.
Making every moment count
The mystics inform us that we will find peace once we are reunited with our Father, the Lord. This union does not magically occur after death but in life through the practice of meditation. By refocusing our attention inwards, meditation raises our consciousness to the eye centre and beyond. Those of us practising meditation are aware of how slow this process is. Nonetheless, a transformation starts to occur from the outset of our journey. As our meditation practice becomes stronger, we begin to feel some of the peace and contentment we are desperately seeking, and the closer we come to the eye centre, the stronger our sense of fulfilment. As yet though, many of us are still at the early stages in which our dominant experience is of a mind that is relentless with its demands, doggedly advocating what it wants, complaining about what it does not have, and yearning for what might have been.
A philosopher once asked the Buddha what his monks did all day. The Buddha replied that they walked, stood, lay down, sat, ate, washed and bathed, and swept the floor. How then, asked the philosopher, were they any different from the people of the world? The Buddha replied that the difference was that his monks did these things in mindfulness, guarding their six senses. As all mystics encourage us to be mindful, the first step we are to take upon making a commitment to the spiritual path is to embrace the responsibility for controlling our thoughts, ending the habit of compulsive thinking.
As the author of Living Meditation explains, compulsive thinking is the process of abandoning oneself to the inner chatter of the mind. It is a deeply ingrained habit, the effects of which are highly damaging. Compulsive thinking, for example, encourages “worrying, judging, analyzing, building expectations and daydreaming”. The constant obsession with ruminating on the past or planning the future creates desires and aspirations that are indelibly imprinted on the mind. In effect, we are binding ourselves interminably to the creation by sowing the seeds of our own reincarnation. It is only through the master’s grace that we learn to reverse the tendency and turn this habit – through simran – into a strength. This is why simran is a key priority in our spiritual journey.
By repeating simran as much as possible throughout the day, we can overcome the deadly habit of compulsive thinking. For example, we could choose a routine activity requiring minimal concentration and decide to repeat only simran during this time. This would not only help us to live in the moment, but also enable us to establish a pattern of saying the simran without any mental commentary going on in the background. Once we have developed the habit of repeating simran during one activity such as showering, travelling to work, or eating, we could choose another until we become immersed in simran for much of the day.
The more we repeat simran during the day, the easier it is to do so during our daily practice. The mind, once highly active, starts to become still, allowing simran to raise our consciousness, transport us to the Radiant Form of the Master and thus experience peace and joy as never before.
Effort, the precursor to motivation
When moving house, we make a list of potential places we want to live; we research house prices, create a financial plan and establish a time line. Making a plan helps us to execute efficiently the decision to relocate. Likewise, practising two and a half hours of meditation daily once we are on the path of Sant Mat is, in effect, executing a grand plan designed to take us from the physical world to the world of the spirit.
We may doubt our abilities, but the Master initiated us because he knows that we have the capability to realize our true self. Actually, in executing the grand plan, all that is required of us is to make the effort as it is only this that is within our control. Moreover, making the effort to practise meditation with sincerity and persistence will make a difference to our motivation. Even if our motivation wanes some days, the knowledge that we are doing what is best for our mind and soul should encourage us to sustain our effort. With our effort we show our Master that we care, thereby becoming receptive and worthy of his grace. The more effort we put in, the more grace the Master showers on us. Ongoing effort and the Master’s grace will enable the mind to be conquered.
If we make an effort to live consciously in the atmosphere created by meditation in everything we do, then meditation becomes our way of life. Consequently, we enhance our positive qualities, we are more content, humble and, at the same time, detached from the world. In The Hunger of the Soul, a diary kept by American vedantist Nancy Mayorga, the writer movingly records her day-to-day experiences in practising the path taught by her guru, Swami Prabhavananda:
The change of character which comes about through the struggle to practise the presence of God is both a means and a result.… You plan your day with careful economy so as to allow the greatest amount of free time possible for meditation.… You see yourself slowly becoming quiet, calm, patient, and aloof, and you wonder at yourself, and you wonder with great secret joy. Because all this seems infinitely right, exactly what you were made for. And there is contentment in your heart, so deep as to be unruffled by surface annoyances.
Even if tangible success in meditation is a long time in coming, the years that we spend trying to walk the path of the Masters are not spent in vain. As Maharaj Charan Singh used to say, every minute devoted to meditation is important, not a single minute is lost, not even the time spent in seemingly unsuccessful meditation. Walking on the path of the masters transforms the disciple slowly but steadily. For instance, by looking back to the time before initiation, we become aware of just how much Sant Mat has changed us. The effect of our effort and the Master’s grace is described most beautifully in The Hunger of the Soul:
What it boils down to is this – it’s up to you to get hold of your mind, control it, quieten it, God does the rest. The years of struggle are simply to control the mind. The rest is waiting in peace and confidence for him to act.
There is a gap between our intellectual understanding of the Lord and our experience. We accept that he is present within us before experiencing that he is. To realize his presence is a life-long quest towards which all our actions must be directed. Following the advice of Baba Jaimal Singh to Maharaj Sawan Singh as given in Spiritual Letters, every single activity we undertake can be done with the Master in mind. Putting this into practice, we should try to think of the Master before we begin any action, perhaps by repeating our simran, and then thank him afterwards for giving us the opportunity. In this way, our daily activities unite us with God just as our prayers unite us with him during meditation. As the months and years pass by, we become more aware of the inner Master. We feel his guiding hand and begin to trust in him like a child holding the hand of his father. Our fears disappear and a beautiful inner peace envelops our whole life. As Nancy Mayorga writes of her meditation in The Hunger of the Soul:
I was taken deeper and deeper until I realized that God is a beginningless, bottomless spring of bliss and the only thing that can reach infinitely down into that bliss is OM. [i.e., the primordial sound] And then I realized that that very spring is within me, and I began to shake and tremble with joy of it!