Building Mud Platforms
The Great Master often used to tell stories during his satsangs to convey a spiritual message. Back in the 1960s Maharaj Charan Singh collected ninety of these stories and published them as Tales of the Mystic East.
For us as disciples there is at least one that is worth remembering, especially when we do our meditation. It is called ‘Guru Ram Das and the Mud Platforms’, and it tells how the third Sikh Guru, Amar Das, was preparing to appoint his successor. Some of his disciples hoped he would appoint one of them, so he gave them a test. He told them each to collect some earth and build him a small mud platform.
This they did, but the Guru rejected every one as not good enough. Would they build them over? Again they built their platforms, time after time, and each time the Guru found some reason for them to break them down and build them again. Eventually some started thinking the Guru had gone senile and they stopped. A few kept building, but even they got tired of it and stopped – till there was only one disciple, Ram Das, still cheerfully tearing down his platform each time the Guru rejected it and building it again.
When he’d rebuilt his platform seventy times Guru Amar Das told him: “You may stop building now, Ram Das. I am very pleased with you, for you alone have given me implicit obedience and complete surrender to my will and wishes.” And then the Guru appointed him to be his successor. To the others he said: “There was not one of you who cheerfully obeyed one of the first rules of being a true disciple – to give the Satguru your full love and devotion, to have utter faith in him and obey his wishes with a cheerful heart.”
Many mornings when we get up from our meditation and we feel that yet again we have failed miserably, perhaps it might seem to us that we are building mud platforms. Our Master has given us a task to do, but no matter how hard we work, it’s never good enough. We keep making an effort, but still the attention doesn’t rise to sit firmly in the eye centre. Perhaps then we get discouraged.
And this may be the time for some clear thinking. Why does our Master ask us to meditate? Does he really need it? He can do anything he likes, with or without our efforts, but we are the ones who need our meditation.
When we meet a Master he will explain to us that our souls are yearning to return to the Creator, to their original home. He teaches us how to meditate, to find our way back – so that our souls can know that peace and bliss that they long for. But how realistic would it be to imagine that we could just fly home in the blink of an eye after so many millions of lives down here, collecting such mountains of karma? And while we are trying to work through those karmas we’re being hampered by our own mind, which is working as an agent of the negative power to hold us back.
Every single one of us has no doubt felt despondent sometimes because we cannot see anything happening in our meditation. But it is a slow process. And we have absolutely no control over the time that it is taking for us to be transformed into beings worthy of returning to the Creator. And so we need patience.
Perhaps it is good for us to have to wait to experience the results of our steady practice. We might become over-confident if we were shown too soon what we were achieving. Or maybe we would want to spend all our time meditating instead of attending to our worldly responsibilities. But when he feels the time is right our Master will give us everything we’ve worked for. In the second volume of Spiritual Perspectives Maharaj Charan Singh tells us:
It is all up to the Master. He deals with every soul individually. If it is in the interest of a soul to discharge certain obligations in this world, everything he has earned from attending to meditation is kept for him, and will be given at the proper time.
The Master knows how much we want to please him when we struggle to get the mind under control. He is aware of us every moment. He knows our every thought, our every twinge of longing for him. And he most certainly knows how much we meditate – or don’t meditate.
In time, however, we come to see for ourselves that our meditation is a daily necessity. Slowly we start to realize that we are reaping its benefits. We discover we don’t cope so well without our meditation. Hazur Maharaj Ji has told us that if we meditate we can go through all the events of the day without losing our balance. Meditation gives us peace within, no matter what is happening, or not happening, when we do our practice. In his words:
You feel the effect of meditation before you actually see any progress within. … And there is some sort of contentment. Your attitude towards the events of the world is also changing. You are developing a detached outlook on everything by meditation, though you may not have experienced any progress within at all.
Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II
Regardless of a lack of visible progress, our meditation is preparing the way for us to end our long succession of lives in the creation. Till then we simply have to go through our karmas, good and bad. And even the bad karmas will never again be unbearable, as long as we do our meditation. In Spiritual Gems Great Master says something quite startling. He calls meditation the antidote to karma. In his own words:
The fate karma undoubtedly is strong. It has to be borne and there is no escape from it. But, through meditation, the will power becomes so strong that a person does not feel or mind either its favourable or adverse effects. If meditation has taken us above the point from where the fate karma works on us, we become indifferent to its effect. Therefore, meditation is the antidote to karma.
Does this not tell us how lucky we are to be the followers of a living Master? We can now face whatever our future might be, in the full confidence that whatever happens, with his help we can get through it without losing our balance. Provided, of course, that we are doing our meditation. Not that he will change our destiny, but whatever comes, he will help us to adjust to it.
For many years we may get distressed because there are no visible results in our meditation. But some subtle changes do come. These are a very real result of our practice, and perhaps even more important than the visible results of meditation that we may crave. These show us that we are succeeding in our meditation, in the best possible way.
We will also notice that even though we may seldom see our Master, we have a desire to serve him, to become the kind of disciples he would like us to be. This becomes a priority in our lives. In other words, we develop devotion and love for him.
And we also begin to develop faith – in the Master and in his path. Faith is not a thing we can cultivate. Faith is his gift, to hold us steady and make us continue on our long journey to reach him within. And of course our faith in our Master is a direct result of loving him – with the love that he gives us as a reward for our efforts at meditation.
Then there is the lesson of humility. Nothing else can show us how helpless and inadequate we are to bring the mind under control. Meditation makes us realize that without help this wild mind will never be tamed. And let us talk about obedience. When we realize how dependent we are on our Master to guide us back home, what else should we do but obey him?
The truth is that we are in no position to judge our own progress. But every now and then we’re given a standard against which we can measure ourselves. We’ve been given one in the Guru Ram Das story. The Guru gave his disciples a test and, with the exception of one, they all failed. Now let us look at ourselves. Let us see to what extent we are obeying the first rules of being a true disciple: to give the Satguru our full love and devotion, to have utter faith in him and obey his wishes with a cheerful heart.
We may think obedience is a simple thing, but it’s huge. If we obey our Master out of love for him, look at where this will lead us – to becoming one with God himself! Maharaj Ji tells us in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
It is said that God is love and love is God, because the characteristic of God is love. We become one with him. We don’t exist anymore; only he exists. … We want to do what pleases him and avoid doing what displeases him – that is love. It is just giving and giving. And when by giving we can become God, what else is left? If by giving yourself – as a drop you become the ocean – have you gained or lost? … You have become one with the Father.