Nothing and Everything
We live in an ever-changing world in which the pace of life seems to be accelerating all the time. In this digital age our consciousness is more and more invaded by external stimulation. We were led to believe that the advent of the computer would free us to have more leisure time and more independence, but the reality seems to be that we are sucked into ever greater use of our digital devices.
We are bombarded by subtle advertising, with the result that we lay ourselves open to constant manipulation at a subconscious level. Everywhere we look there is advertising – in hospital waiting rooms, at bus stops, on tube station escalators – and our computer screens bring up advertising with almost every keystroke. We are left wondering whether, before long, we will be going about our everyday business wearing ‘augmented reality’ headsets, i.e. having digital information superimposed on top of what we are physically seeing.
Identifying the essential
On the one hand, we may find the trend towards virtual reality deeply disturbing, as it interferes with our personal and direct contact with the physical world. On the other hand, perhaps it awakens us to the fact that, as the Masters have always told us, life on the physical plane is all illusion – ultimately nothing more than a tangle of nothingness.
However, it is within this illusion that we, as satsangis, must seek the real, which, like a strand of gold, runs throughout the illusory world. What a relief to find that our task is quite simple. In every discourse of a perfect Master there is one message of supreme import, which is that we must do our meditation. Nothing else matters. When we come to look death in the eye, as we inevitably will, the one thing that we are sure to regret is that we did not give more time to our meditation – that we did not build our lives around meditation rather than simply fit it around everything else we had to do.
As we go deeper into Kal Yuga, the ‘iron age’, we can see so clearly how, in their mercy, the perfect Masters have dramatically adjusted the qualification for discipleship. It appears that in bygone times, disciples had to wait many years before being allowed to ask for initiation and would also be put through tremendously difficult tests before being accepted. To qualify nowadays we simply have to abide by the first three of four vows: we remain lacto-vegetarian; abstain from alcohol, mind-affecting drugs and tobacco; and lead a clean moral life for one year. In this way, we gain the confidence that we can live the path and find the strength to adhere to the fourth vow of daily meditation.
Because of conditions in society today, and the muddled ways of thinking that we have become accustomed to, many of us find even these requirements challenging. To ensure that we remain vegetarian, we must be vigilant and check the ingredients of the food we buy. Our commitment to abstaining from alcohol and mind-altering drugs may mean that we must cut out some of our social habits. And we must accept a cultural shift which values celibacy outside of marriage. These lifestyle changes are achievable if our conviction is strong enough. Once that longed-for day of our initiation has passed, our most important task, however, is simply to turn up (metaphorically speaking) every day and sit down to do our meditation. The quality of it is not the point. None of us feel that we actually can do it properly, but it is the effort of being regular and punctual and building our lives around this precious time which is so important. Our minds are constantly on the go and, try as we may, they will not be stilled easily. We all know that it will take a lifetime, but we should not become discouraged but simply continue to sit and try, try again. In the book Concepts and Illusions, it states that:
The Master can instruct only at the level of the disciple’s understanding. His philosophy is simple; be desireless, accept everything – hot or cold, sun or rain. The teachings are the foundations necessary for the disciple’s spiritual development. Just as a child cannot understand the attainments of a learned person, in the same way, a disciple cannot understand the Master. The Master is a paradox, an enigma! We can understand his teachings, not his ways. We make silly comparisons like, this did not happen during the Great Master’s time or that was not so during Hazur Maharaj Ji’s time, little realizing that the Master deals with present-day situations according to the needs of the changing times. The Master’s style, choice of words and actions can change to adapt to a new generation, but the teachings don’t change. The Master is here to relate to us and that is possible only if he speaks to us in the language we understand … in a manner which we can comprehend.
When you take the road along a spiritual path you have an enormous task ahead of you, as you are slowly turning your awareness in the opposite direction from the one in which it has been going for aeons of time. The task is so huge that it could almost be likened to trying to push a glacier back up a mountainside. We will spend our lives trying and failing again and again until finally we learn to let go of all aspiration, relax and simply learn to be. It will be at this point that the Master will be able to dye us in his love, imbue us with his qualities, and take us in and up.
As new initiates we so often feel that if we try hard enough, we are sure to go within, but little by little we begin to understand that our meditation is not to be done with the expectation of inner experience. It is to be done simply as a way of turning our attention to the Master daily, building up our love for him and thanking him for the constant grace he is showering upon us. There should be no expectation of results, but simply a genuine desire to please the Master, nothing else. In the book A Wake Up Call, we read:
The Masters have all stressed the importance of approaching meditation without expectations. Sitting in meditation without any expectations settles us into the right frame of mind for spiritual practice. When we attend to meditation without looking for results, we can be focused. We can be relaxed.
Maharaj Sawan Singh made it clear that we should never anticipate a time schedule in which we would expect to go within. Writing to an initiate, as recorded in Spiritual Gems, he said; “No period can be fixed as to when the attention of any person will begin to stay in the focus. It depends on the longing, faith, perseverance and his past record.”
We often hear people talk about what good karma they are going through when things are going well in their lives, but the paradox is that periods of what seem to be very difficult times may actually be much more beneficial to us than the so called ‘good’ times. Serious challenges often help to bring our attention sharply into the present, thus making us focus on what is truly important. During these times, we often become increasingly aware of the inner support that the Master gives us every moment of our lives, and our appreciation of what he does for us increases.
He is always there for us, willing us on and carrying us along. We can never overestimate his love and compassion. We are all his beloved children and he has come to take us back to our true home. On one level the job has been done already; we are already part of that golden thread, already firmly seated in the real rather than the illusory, but our awareness has not caught up yet with the reality. When we have given up all feeling of self, of I-ness, and become one with our Beloved, we will have given up everything and also attained everything all at once. We will have gone from nothing to everything in the blink of an eye.
It is the Master’s love that creates the disciple’s love for the Master. It is the Master who creates that love in the disciple for him. He’s the one who is pulling the disciple from within. Then the disciple becomes helpless to love the Master; he starts feeling that probably he’s in love with the Master. But actually it is the Master who has filled him with his love. Otherwise, but for the grace of the Lord, we are so much attached to the senses and to worldly faces and worldly objects that we would never be able to love the Master. He is the one who is pulling us from within.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III