A Private Journey
Sant Mat is a private, individual journey of inward meditation, practised under the guidance of a spiritual master. It is not a new path, and has been taught under different names by mystics and spiritual masters throughout history, in many different parts of the world. The goal of the practice is to fulfil the true purpose of this human life by merging our soul with the divine power within. This divine power has many different names; the masters in India have called this power Shabd, the divine melody, the sound current. In the Christian tradition the equivalent name is the Word or the Logos, which is identified with God, and in the gospel of Saint John we read: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” However, if we want to use a less religious sounding phrase in place of God, or Shabd, or the Word, we could talk about the supreme energy that sustains and pervades the whole universe, including our consciousness. Either way, these are just names that point to a reality we have not yet experienced for ourselves.
Many of us these days don’t like the word God very much. The way people talk about God often suggests a kind of cosmic busybody with quite a temper, rather inclined to take sides, but nevertheless wanting to be thanked for everything he does – rather like ourselves, in fact. We have dragged the idea of God down to our level and made him in our own image. But this is not what the mystics and spiritual masters mean when they refer to God. By ‘God’ they mean love – not sentimental, selective love, but infinite divine love, which is actually our birthright and is already within us, like treasure in a cave. The trouble is we have no real idea what ‘divine love’ means. It has to be experienced; to be realized.
A way of life
To come to the realization of this divine love, those following the path of Sant Mat are asked to live a highly principled way of life showing, even before initiation, that they are able to do so. The path of Sant Mat sees everyone as equal, regardless of gender, ethnicity, religion or language. There is no advertising of the path and no attempt to persuade anyone. The path is only for those individuals who feel drawn to it and who cannot do without it. As Maharaj Charan Singh so often said, “the pull has to come from within”. It is a way of life which combines the fulfilment of our social and family responsibilities with regular, private, daily meditation. It is not an escape from life’s duties and responsibilities, and indeed, someone following this path should aspire to be a better human being in every respect.
The path does not offer disciples any material benefits or so-called blessings, such as wealth, social status, children, career advantages or parking spaces! The Masters often say that real blessings are anything which turn our attention away from the world towards the divine within, and so ‘blessings’ might well take the form of poverty, sickness or humiliation.
As long as the principles are strictly adhered to, disciples around the world live as they wish; the Master has nothing against singing, dancing, family life, fashion, sports, business, charity, rock music, going to the movies or belonging to a religion. He only asks that we bear in mind the primary purpose of this human life, so that we never compromise our Sant Mat principles or neglect our daily meditation under any circumstance.
The relationship between the disciple and the Master is a deeply personal bond; it is no-one else’s business. This is not a church, club or society that one joins or leaves. The Sant Mat teachings, summed up, are very straightforward and easy to understand. Before applying for initiation, we are advised to attend satsang, read some Sant Mat literature and study and question every aspect of the path, until all our questions are fully answered. In Sant Mat, as in most serious projects we undertake, the design and planning stage is very important. This period of life is not time wasted but time gained, for this will become our way of life.
Slow and steady wins the race
After initiation we begin in earnest on the path, discovering that we have embarked on a lifelong struggle with the mind. In meditation we are trying to still and focus our attention and turn it within, but the mind has the long-established habit of ‘running out’ with our scattered thoughts, feelings, perceptions and sensations. We start to appreciate the hitherto unnoticed power of the five passions – lust, anger, greed, pride, and attachment. They seem to have free rein over our thoughts, emotions and actions. At first it seems an unequal battle; our mind knows us inside out and, with so many tricks up its sleeve, the part of us which is trying to still the mind can become discouraged. However, with constant perseverance over days, weeks, months and years, we gradually learn how to calm and focus our attention. The mind begins to realize that it is going to lose the struggle one day, because – with the encouragement of the Master – we will never give up.
An encouraging sign may be that our attachment to things of this world starts to fade; we find the world less alluring and realize that if we are going to find the peace and happiness we yearn for, it will only be found within ourselves, not out here in the constantly changing world. This world can be seen as a prison and a life here as a life sentence, so why would we want to incur more life sentences when we are already serving one? The Masters advise us that if we do not fulfil the purpose of finding the Lord within in this lifetime, we will inevitably be drawn back to this world once again.
However, we should not expect any quick results in the battle with the mind – slow and steady wins the race. Anyone who has persisted on the path will find that doubts and discouragement do assail us all from time to time. This is quite natural; an amateur marathon runner will start the race full of optimism and energy. Halfway through, when the initial enthusiasm has worn off and it is nothing but hard work, he may well ask “why am I doing this?” and contemplate giving up. That is when a word of encouragement and a reminder of the goal make all the difference. Many of us may think we are just no good at meditation, and perhaps never will be. Masters, by contrast, are always positive, always encouraging, always supportive, and lead from the front by their example. Their remedy for any tendency to neglect our meditation is ‘more meditation’. They say we are stronger than we think and we can do it.
Learning our ABC
There are no failures in Sant Mat! This means that if the Master wants to teach us something then, by hook or by crook, we’ll learn it! Nevertheless, at some point we are probably going to ask: if the Master wants me to still and focus the mind, why doesn’t he make it happen? Supposedly the Lord is all-powerful, then let him take me in when he sees fit. I don’t need to do anything – and anyway I can’t do it!
As an example, a child goes to school and starts to learn how to read. The teacher introduces the letters of the alphabet and shows how words are formed. The child knows the alphabet but cannot actually read anything yet. Then one day for homework the teacher gives the child a piece of paper with a few sentences and says, “I want you to read this”. The child gets home, looks at the paper and can’t make sense of it. She thinks, “I can’t do it, so I’ll play instead”. But then thinks, “The teacher is expecting me to read this, it must be important; I need to find out what it says.” So she asks her mother, “You can read, you are my mother, please do it and tell me what it says, then I can do some seva to make up for it – I’ll tidy my room.” What a brilliant idea! But her mother is wiser than this, she knows that the point of the exercise is not for someone who already knows how to read but for that particular child, who cannot read, to learn how. So the mother, instead of telling the child what the words say, encourages her with small hints, keeps her going in the right direction. Slowly the child makes out the words and then the sentences until she understands for herself what the words say. And it turns out not to be at all important what the words say – what’s important is that by means of these particular words she learns to read and, once she can read, a whole new world opens up; everything changes.
This might help us to understand why the path can be taught using different words and different concepts, according to time, place and audience. It also explains why there’s no short cut, no substitute for meditation. Meditation is a learning process for each disciple and so each disciple has to engage with the process himself. However arduous it is, however inadequate he may feel, he cannot delegate that learning process to the Master or to anyone else – and although seva and going to satsang keep us looking in the right direction, they can never take the place of even a minute of meditation.
Now that we have learned the ABC of Sant Mat, understanding it is a private journey of inward meditation. We know there will be ups and downs in our relationship with the path, and that the only way to go is forward. We know the Master is a spiritual teacher and that he wants us to succeed in fulfilling the purpose of this precious human life. So we can ask the Master for guidance, for encouragement, for support in our private journey, but let us above all help ourselves by adhering to the principles of the path and giving our full attention and our time to regular, daily meditation.