Theirs but to Do and Die
Some very famous lines from Tennyson’s poem, The Charge of the Light Brigade, can serve to remind us of the attitude we should have as disciples of a perfect Master:
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die …
The poem celebrates a cavalry charge during the Crimean War of the 1850s and emphasizes the valour of the cavalrymen bravely carrying out their orders despite the certain outcome of death. When Baba Ji quotes these lines, he is, of course, referring to our attitude towards meditation. Instead of agonizing over it, he suggests, just do it and start the process of dying while living.
Only the bravest of souls can fearlessly embrace death as in Tennyson’s poem, and most of us would acknowledge that we are far from brave. But if we try our best with our meditation, our minds will gradually open to the bigger picture. After all, life starts at the eye centre – below this point is only death and decay. Maharaj Charan Singh tells us in Die to Live:
In meditation we withdraw our consciousness to the eye centre in the same way that we all die when death comes.… That is why meditation is known as dying daily.
At our level of consciousness it is hard to believe what the Master tells us, because we can only believe when we experience these truths for ourselves. But we can make a start in our journey to belief by summoning the faith to move forward. If we are initiated, we can resolve to make more effort at meditation, and if we are seekers, we can resolve to attend more satsangs and read Sant Mat literature more regularly. Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh writes in Quest for Light:
The only way to subdue your mind and make it more receptive to spiritual efforts is to make more spiritual effort. For millions of ages our mind has been out of its centre. This outward and downward tendency has become such a habit that naturally it requires some time and constant effort to bring the consciousness back out of the lower centres.
He explains that it is the nature of our minds to go downwards and outwards but if we want to go inwards and upwards – that is towards our true home – a lot of hard work is required. But Hazur continues by pointing out that the more effort we make, the more our mind wants to make more spiritual effort:
To regain affinity with Sant Mat teachings we should devote ourselves to spiritual practice with greater love and faith. Sincere effort is always repaid in the terms of more pleasure in meditation. Therefore I would advise you to read Sant Mat literature every day and perform meditation with one-pointedness.
That very effort of ours is rewarded because we start to enjoy meditation more, and the more we enjoy it, the more we want to do it.
Making effort comes in stages. The very first stage is attending satsangs. We’re told that attending satsang has a profound effect on our mind because we hear eternal truths and the mind is encouraged to put in the necessary work to take it back to its home in Trikuti. At that stage our true self, our soul, is released from the mind and continues towards our real home in Sach Khand with the help of the Shabd. But this is a very advanced stage indeed. Right now it’s about convincing the mind. Satsang helps because everyone attending is a fellow seeker after the truth. We are in good company and we tend to take on the attributes of the company we keep.
As well as attending satsang, Maharaj Charan Singh advised us that we should read something from a Sant Mat book every day. He writes in Quest for Light, “Keeping some Sant Mat books in one’s daily study is a very good habit. This practice maintains one’s earnestness and zeal for meditation and increases one’s love.”
Keeping a Sant Mat book by the bedside and reading it before sleeping or evening meditation focuses the mind and helps one to get one’s priorities in perspective. The problems of the day are not important! What is important is our path back home.
Seva is also an important way of making us stay focused on the path. In seva we mix with fellow seekers as we endeavour to best serve the Master. In Divine Light Hazur says the following about seva: “It purifies the mind and ennobles the soul, provided of course that it is performed without self-interest, with a detached mind and without lapsing into discussions or arguments.”
Another way we can really help ourselves once we are initiated is to try to do simran in the daytime when the mind is free. Instead of letting the mind wander, we can be in touch with the Master through our simran. Simran, after all, is remembrance. In Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I, Prophet Mohammed is quoted as saying:
Persons who repeat the holy names of God have angels around them.…They enjoy peace and bliss. God remembers them.
What beautiful imagery from the holy Prophet – if we remember our God throughout the day, he remembers us. And once we develop the habit of doing simran whenever the mind is free, we remain more focused and it is easier to concentrate at the time of meditation.
But the best way of making more effort at meditation, is just to meditate. Meditation is the most important action in the life of an initiate and we mustn’t allow any of the challenges of life to undermine the effort we should make. If we put meditation first in our lives, everything else will fall into place.
We will help ourselves in our efforts if we remember the first line of the quotation from Tennyson’s poem: “Theirs not to reason why”. As a disciple, it is up to us to train our mind not to look for endless explanations and reasons but to unquestioningly accept whatever guidance we are given. This point is illustrated in a story which appears in the book Tales of the Mystic East.
King Janak, one of the ancient kings in India, was an ardent seeker and asked the holy man, Ashtavakara, to grant him true knowledge. Ashtavakara said that he would do this in exchange for three things: the king’s body, his wealth, and his mind. King Janak agreed, so sincere was his quest for spirituality. Ashtavakara then gave three commands. The first command was that the king should go and sit amongst his subjects’ shoes. Everyone was shocked because such a thing was only expected of the lowest of the low and to have a king sit amongst shoes was a grave insult to him. King Janak obeyed, but though his body had been humbled, his mind was running pleasurably over his wealth and possessions. Ashtavakara reminded him that his wealth was now his – King Janak had nothing. The king’s mind then became quiet, having nothing to interest it.
At this point, Ashtavakara asked the king, “Where are you?”
“I am here,” was the reply.
“No,” answered Ashtavakara, “Your mind is mine and you have no right to talk of ‘I’ or think with it at all.”
In that moment, having surrendered all three: body, wealth and mind, the king’s attention went inside and the sage took him up and opened his inner eye. King Janak’s desire to find true knowledge was realized. Ashtavakara then told him that he had no need of the king’s body, wealth or mind, and that he should take them back and from then onwards use them as a steward.
It was through unconditional obedience that King Janak became spiritually enlightened, receiving the precious gift of Nam from his Master. If we endlessly question, we are putting our minds in first place rather than our Master. These days we are not asked to give up mind, body or wealth but merely to live by four simple principles: vegetarianism; abstention from alcohol, recreational drugs and tobacco; a moral code of living; and daily meditation. These principles are wonderfully beneficial for everyone in this stressful age – but to initiates, they are priceless. Baba Ji asks us to do only that which will help us get through life and death.
Tennyson writes, “Theirs not to reason why/theirs but to do and die!” We can apply this to our spiritual life: not questioning but just doing our meditation. Then our true spirituality will start to unfold as we begin to die to live.