What Is Simran Like?
At the time of initiation we learn the technique of meditation. This has the supreme purpose of eventually allowing us to merge with that divine creative power which brought the creation into existence and which sustains it even now.
The purpose of simran – the repetition of special words given to us by the Master – is to make the mind motionless and to achieve concentration. The purpose of dhyan, which is visualizing the form of the Master, is to hold our concentrated attention at the eye focus or third eye. When we achieve one-pointedness at the eye focus we come into contact with the Shabd, Word or Logos, which we perceive as light and sound. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
The purpose of simran is only to eliminate thoughts. The moment that you are there, that you have been able to eliminate worldly thoughts, light and shabd will absolutely pull you, will catch you there.
This is easy to read but hard to do!
Drawing close across the distance
Stilling our minds and merging with the Lord can often feel like a very distant goal. However, given the distance that we feel exists between us and the Lord, simran is the simplest technique that will draw us near to him. What else can we do? We cannot rely on circumstance to draw us near to the Lord’s love. We cannot rely on people of the world to help us in our spiritual journey.
It is our efforts at simran during the time of meditation and in the course of the day that will invoke his grace. It is through this effort to focus the mind that the Master’s presence will be felt. When Baba Ji is with us in his physical form, words cannot sufficiently describe that experience – every disciple has their own story to tell. But the only way we can hold on to that love is by simran. Simran is the way that we can hold on to the presence of the Master even when he has gone away.
In the beginning we have to force the mind to do simran; it does not appear to come naturally. Because simran of worldly topics does come naturally, we have a constant struggle with the mind.
Yet it is repetition done with love and faith that brings the grace of the Lord. Sometimes we acutely feel that we are lacking in these attributes and we wonder how our attempts at simran and bhajan can possibly invoke grace.
Maharaj Charan Singh used to reassure us by telling us that if we had no faith or love or devotion we would not even be thinking about those things. We would not be going to satsang, reading the books or even be concerned about our ability to do simran.
So if we are disappointed in the depth of our faith and love, it actually shows that we are travelling the path of faith and love. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Maharaj Charan Singh responds to the following question:
Q: Could you explain to me about doing simran with love and devotion? To me these are just words, and I don’t understand what they mean.
A: Put your whole mind in these words; you will automatically feel the love and devotion. Let no other thought come in your mind. Let the whole of yourself, the whole of your mind, be in the simran. Love comes automatically.
And similarly, in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I, Maharaj Sawan Singh writes:
The results of repetition will be in direct proportion to the love and faith brought to bear upon it. Carry out the simran of the Lord with love and faith. His names have a great power.
With our best effort, with our failures, comes humility and with our humility comes his grace. Simran is the way we can make an effort. Although the repetition appears dry, simran can stimulate a warm and loving feeling inside us. So the experience of carrying out simran can be compared to many of our most precious human moments.
Simran is building our relationship with the Lord
Simran is the way we build our relationship with the Lord. Simran is our call to him, our loving glance, our attention. Simran is our means to hold his hand. Simran is walking with him. Simran is sitting by his side.
Just like we sometimes take time to call our spouses or children during the day just to say hello, we can touch base with the Master throughout the day by doing our simran.
Simran is the expression of love
Simran is not only a useful way to occupy our minds, but is the highest form of expression when we converse with the Lord. What better words are there for our conversation with him? If we want to call to the Lord, we can do simran. If we want to praise him, bow our head in submission, cry to him or laugh with him, we can do simran.
Simran is our call for help
If we are drowning we call for help – as loudly as we can. But just crying “help, help” does not save us, we are saved when someone hears our cry and comes and throws us a rope. Then we have to hold on to the rope. Simran is the calling to the Master, dhyan is holding on to the rope. And then the sound pulls us to safety.
Simran is our offering
Simran is our offering to the Master and to the Lord. We spend day and night in service to the world, to our family and friends, to our careers, to our minds. Our meditation time is our offering to the Lord; just one tenth of our time devoted to the One who has given us everything. Each name is a gift, an offering. And we can offer him our simran throughout the day as well. Just as during the day we offer a cup of tea to our friends or colleagues, we can offer the Master a bit of simran.
Breathing in God
Simran is like taking a deep breath of God. Every word is a deep gulp of his fresh air. Breathing is part and parcel of being alive. We need to breathe air to live – in and out – every second, every minute. It is not long at all before the body is irreparably damaged if we don’t breathe.
Simran is like our spiritual breathing. We don’t just breathe once or twice a day, but all day long, all night long, even when we are sleeping. Our respiratory engine is running twenty-four hours a day until we depart from this earth. So too the engine of simran should run twenty-four hours a day, until our goal is reached.
Simran is like a blood transfusion – our worldly thoughts are replaced by the repetition of the names given to us by the Guru, and this gives us new health and vitality.
Stitching our minds to the Lord
Simran is the way that we stitch our minds to the Lord. Perhaps you have seen or taken part in the seva of stitching dhurries (mats) together to form one continuous piece of floor covering in a big satsang tent. One stitch at a time, slowly but surely the mats that are laid out are stitched together. Hard to believe how it will be done! In simran each word is a stitch.
For all the eight watches of the day,
I meditate on my beloved.
My needle is of gold, my thread of silver –
Nama’s soul is attached to God.
Rubbing one world against the other
In a way, simran is the way that we rub one world against the other which creates the fire of devotion. Maharaj Charan Singh writes:
Fire is latent in wood, but we cannot perceive it or make use of it. If we know the technique of rubbing one stick against another to produce it, then we will be able to see it, feel it and make use of it. In the same way … the flame of God’s Name is burning at the eye centre within each one of us.
Spiritual Discourses, Vol. II
One step at a time on the journey home
Repeating the names is like taking one step after another so that we reach our destination. How can someone whose destination is London complain “I am not in London” if he hasn’t followed instructions for getting to London, if he has not walked in the right direction or if he has not begun the journey at all?
We are on a journey home – each of the five holy names is a step on that journey. Each name is a step that takes us closer to our destination. With a great effort we need to put one foot in front of the other, focusing on the task at hand. It seems such a long way, but with one step at a time we will certainly get there. Shantideva says:
Where can I find enough leather
to cover the whole earth?
But with just enough leather for a pair of shoes,
I can cover the whole earth.
Buddhism, Path to Nirvana
With one step at a time, one name at a time, we will reach our destination.