A Simple Life
Life is simple. It is we who complicate it. As Maharaj Charan Singh puts it in Treasure Beyond Measure:
Life is so simple but we people create so many problems and complications, that we spend the whole of our life in solving them. [I] do not know when we are going to learn to take simple things in a simple way.
So, what are we to do, we people of such complex lives and busy minds? How are we to get back to a simple life without so many problems, complications, desires, anxieties, and cares? How are we to get back to a simple life based in love?
The Masters say everything comes from meditation. So, too, it is with simplifying our lives. Just what does this mean? The only way to really simplify our lives is to simplify our minds through spiritual practice – focused and concentrated spiritual practice. To be focused and concentrated is in fact to be simple. To be scattered is to create complications. Focus and concentration in meditation lead to simplicity of mind. Scattering of the attention leads to stress and tension, for it takes us away from our centre, away from God – away from peace and contentment. To be concentrated is to be relaxed, happy, and in love. What is love but total attentive concentration, focus, and immersion in the Beloved?
Thomas Kelly, an American Quaker educator of the nineteenth century, in A Testament of Devotion, writes about how to live our lives simply. He says:
Life is meant to be lived from a centre – a divine centre. Each one of us can live such a life of amazing power and peace and serenity, of integration and confidence and simplified multiplicity.
He then goes on to say that if we yield to this divine centre, we won’t have to struggle, strain or renounce anything in order to achieve simplicity. If we yield to this centre, our lives will automatically become simple because we will have singleness of purpose. For us as disciples, our lives will be focused with one-pointed devotion on our Master and our meditation. When we yield to our Master, and let him direct our lives, we will let go and let God be at the helm. Then we can just relax and enjoy the ride, humbly walking in the presence, guidance, and will of God.
Thomas Kelly continues in the same book about people who have found this deep centre of living:
Surrounding the trifles of their daily life is an aura of infinite peace and power and joy. We are so strained and tense, with our burdened lives; they are so poised and at peace.
In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, Hazur agrees:
The more we run out to achieve happiness, the more frustrated and unhappy we are becoming.… If we just pursue that happiness within ourselves, we can become happy. And unless we find that happiness within ourselves, life is not worth living.
So concentration and focus on the divine centre leads to simplicity of mind. Simplicity of mind leads to simple actions which lead to a simple life.
Once a novice monk went to his Zen master and asked him for the secret of realization. The Zen master replied: “When I walk, I just walk, when I eat I just eat, and when I meditate I just meditate.” No extraneous thinking, planning, reviewing, or worrying – just being in the moment, pure and simple.
The Masters tell us that for everything we do in life we need to have an objective. As satsangis, we are extremely fortunate to know exactly what our objective is in life, as well as how to attain it. It’s all laid out for us. All we have to do is to follow the directions given to us at the time of initiation. When we come to a choice point in our lives, we can ask, “Will this take me closer to God-realization, closer to the Master or further away?” On an even more intimate note, we can ask “Will this please the Master or not? Is this what the Master wants me to do?” The most important step in simplifying our lives is to become clear, stay clear on our objective, and consistently take the necessary actions to keep our spiritual compass on course, toward God-realization.
Hazur, as quoted in Treasure Beyond Measure, says, “Simplicity of nature is a sign of a saint.” Masters are very simple and focused. And the more we meditate, the more we become like them. However, as we all know, this is not so easy. We are so easily tempted. It’s like being late for our flight in a crowded, busy airport. As long as we are focusing on where we need to go – checking the monitors for our gate, following the signs along the way, asking for help when we need it – we are bound to make our flight. But if we get distracted by all the interesting people, or tempted by the many alluring shops along the way, we might easily lose our focus and end up missing our flight.
Our Shabd plane is waiting for us. Let’s not get waylaid. We don’t want to miss it! It would be really heartbreaking to have to come back and rebook on another flight next lifetime. So let’s do our best to stay focused on the task at hand. Let’s keep our eyes on our goal and not get distracted along the way.
If we focus on all the distracting thoughts that keep coming and going during meditation, and forget the simran, we become scattered and mentally exhausted. As Soami Ji says in Sar Bachan Poetry, “Why exhaust yourself over an illusion?” If on the other hand, we keep our mind focused on simran, thoughts may still be there, but we don’t notice them as much. This process is similar to taking a photo using a zoom lens. We zoom in on what we want to focus on and highlight it, and the background becomes a blur. Similarly, we need to zoom in on our simran, and the many details and indulgences of our thinking mind will blur out automatically. Little by little we become focused and concentrated, leading to a deep state of inner peace and tranquility, which actually energizes us.
As Thomas Kelly concludes:
Life from the centre is a life of unhurried peace and power. It is simple. It is serene. It is amazing. It is triumphant. It is radiant. It takes no time, but it occupies all our time. And it makes our life programs new and overcoming. We need not get frantic. He is at the helm. And when our little day is done we lie down quietly in peace, for all is well.
The Master assures us that once we are initiated, we can live from our spiritual centre while in this chaotic world. Simplicity comes from focusing our mind on simran and the object of our love.