The Inner Journey
The path of true spirituality is an inner path. This point cannot be stressed enough. No matter how much we do out in the world, it is not really helping us progress in our spiritual endeavours.
If our objective were to get another life in more fortunate circumstances than this one when next we reincarnate on planet earth, then good deeds and the service of suffering humanity would no doubt achieve that. But if our intention is to rise above the limitations of the flesh and ascend into the clear skies of true spirituality, then we need to consider our options more carefully.
It is logical that if the consequences of good actions are good karmas, then performing good works will not help us to escape the cycle of birth and death. The mystics say that the object of human life is not to achieve anything out here in the material world. Quite the contrary, in fact. We have been wandering around in the Lord’s creation since the beginning, and throughout all this time we have been bound to the material world by our attachments and our karmas. Unless we address these issues, the question of our making significant spiritual progress simply does not arise.
Since this seems to be the natural inclination of mind and ego, how do we avoid developing attachments and creating karmas? The mystics say that we need to control our attention. By habit we are always directing our attention downwards and outwards into the world. We need to reverse this flow of our energy so that it flows inwards and upwards.
The mystics recommend that for this purpose we should adopt the practice of meditation. The meditation the mystics propose for us is a process designed to withdraw our attention entirely from the physical world and focus it within, at the eye centre, which is the doorway to the inner realms.
This process, when successful, will stop the mind from wandering out in the world and will bring our attention inwards, so that we may consciously experience what is happening in the inner dimensions of being. Thus far, for the majority of us, this inner world is a complete and utter mystery. Even though we may completely accept every facet of the Master’s teachings, this inner life is something that most of us have never actually experienced, and so it remains just a concept and a theory for us.
By virtue of our initiation we already understand all that we need to know in order to progress on the path towards our spiritual goal. Yet many of us complain that we seem to be making no headway. We give it our best shot, but still we seem to be no better off than before.
First of all, it should be pointed out that if we are indeed trying our best, it is not possible that no progress is being made. By living the Sant Mat lifestyle and trying our best to meditate every day, we are changing our consciousness in the most positive way, and though it may take a while to achieve measurable change, we are changing nonetheless. We should also understand that our old habits have a way of blocking us from understanding what life is all about.
We get so absorbed in the world around us: the world we see in our everyday activities, the world we read about in the news. It all seems so real and so compelling. But we should realize that this so-called reality is just the most superficial manifestation of the true reality.
Behind all of this that we see, how much is going on? We only see a fraction of what is actually happening. Do you imagine that in the news on TV you see the truth? When you read an article on Facebook or any other social media, can you believe what it says? At the most we may be getting honest reporting of the events out there, but even that is an extremely optimistic view. Even if we look at our own circumstances, do we know what is going on at our work, or even in our own home?
If we consider ourselves, how many people really know us? For most of us there will be quite a few who think that they do, but in our hearts we know that there is no one who has any idea of our inner self, our secret self, as it were. At this level, there are no words to describe our condition. Just as we know that no one really knows us completely, just so we need to acknowledge that we also do not really know anyone else completely.
So people conduct their lives believing that they know who and what they are dealing with, and we can easily understand that this is really just an illusion – we know people only in the most superficial way. Similarly, the way the world works is a total mystery, even though we may think we understand it. How many hidden powers are at work behind the façade of what we see?
We walk about under the impression that we know what’s going on, but we don’t know. How many things happen in an unforeseen and inexplicable way? So we have to ask ourselves: do we really know or understand anything?
Our future is not determined by politicians or world leaders, nor by extremist terrorist groups, nor by religious leaders. We are in the divine plan. When devout Muslims say that they’re going to do something, they always add “Insh’allah” – if God wills it – because that is closer to the truth than our own intentions.
We have often heard it said that the effort is in our hands, but results are in the Lord’s. So it is not unrealistic to say that we have no idea of what tomorrow will bring. But if we accept that we are in his hands, and that nothing whatsoever can possibly happen that is outside of his will, then instead of feeling insecure, we can relax in the knowledge that he is looking after us in the best possible way – so that we can progress inwards, towards the realization of our divine heritage. As Maharaj Jagat Singh remarked in The Science of the Soul:
Life is not worth worrying over too much. It begins in folly and ends in smoke.
On the level of our daily life we should constantly remind ourselves that we only need to put in our best effort, and the rest is up to our creator Father. To the extent that we put our best effort into our spiritual practice, we will raise our consciousness and our perspective on life until we start to realize that the things that matter are not out there, but in here.
So what will be the difference in our life if we put all of this into practice in our daily lives? There is an old Zen expression that covers this nicely: “Before enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water. After enlightenment, chopping wood and carrying water.”
As far as the world is concerned, all that anyone is likely to notice is that you appear to be more quietly content than before, that you are someone that people can rely on, that you are kind and courteous, that you are, in general, what most people would call a ‘good person’. Beyond that they have no idea, because the real sum and substance of your being is not in evidence in any way that they can see. Your world is within, your true joys and loves are within, and you do not look outwards to the world for your pleasure or direction.
These are the implications of following an inner path, of having embarked on an inner journey. No one is able to see the world that you are really living in. They can only see what you show. And how much can you show?
A person who experiences inner bliss is incapable of expressing it because it is beyond words, beyond all worldly expression. So when no-one is capable of knowing you as you are now, how much less so will they notice when your spiritual journey starts to take your consciousness within. Only the silent radiance of your inner condition will provide any clue, and it is probably only other spiritual seekers who will have any understanding of that at all.
So now is the time. There will never be a better one. We have come to the feet of a true Master who has given us the priceless gift of Nam and explained to us what we need to know in order to commence our journey out of this domain of mind and maya, and head for our true home of peace and bliss within.
Let us start taking this journey seriously. It is a journey within, which will take us out of this world of illusion and back to the one place where we truly belong.
Don’t tell your inner secret,
Let people think you know nothing.
Otherwise they’ll chase you, then feel sad
that you know something they don’t.
Whatever they’re taught,
they don’t take in and digest.
If they have no experience, says Tuka,
it’s a waste of your time and theirs.
Tukaram Many Voices, One Song