Let’s Get Real
Many jokes take as their source of fun the difference between an expected response to something and the actual response. Take for example this one:
A religious leader asked his flock, “What would you like people to say of you at your funeral?”
One of the congregation replied, “I’d like them to say I was a fine family man.”
Another said, “I’d like them to say I helped people.”
And another, “I hope they’d say I was a man of God.”
The fourth responded, “I’d like them to say, ‘Look, I think he’s moving!’”
Well, yes – as unredeemed, all-too-human beings we might very well prefer the discovery that we were still alive! This ingenuously truthful answer makes us smile.
Most of us operate a mental filter and run our thoughts through it before we put voice to them. We instinctively know what is expected of us and we fall in line. But the fact that we find the amusing sayings of children collected into books and on websites shows that we find it refreshing that children are often candid and surprising in their views; the child has not yet learned to voice expected norms.
In the adult world, following conventional behaviour and conversation can be convenient. We may trot out a platitude, aware that our true feelings are a little different – and it’s okay, we all do it. However, it can sometimes be the case that stock attitudes actually obscure our true needs from ourselves. It’s then that a bit of honest self-scrutiny might do us good: honest acknowledgement of our needs as humans; honest acknowledgement of the needs of others, especially family members; and, most importantly, honest appraisal of whether we are really doing our best to fulfil what we know to be the purpose of life.
Get real as humans
Receiving initiation from a perfect Master is the best thing that can ever happen to us in the human body. Sant Mat promises to take the disciple along a path that reaches right back to our Creator. The discipline of the four vows – lacto-vegetarianism, non-use of alcohol and mind-affecting drugs, a strict moral life, and two and a half hours daily meditation – is correspondingly rigorous and becomes a priority.
The present Master has advised that rather than thinking of ourselves as human beings seeking spirituality, we could see ourselves primarily as spiritual beings going through a human experience.
For the time being, at this end of the ladder, we are very much engulfed in the human, so ideally both needs should be met – the need of our soul for spiritual sustenance through the practice taught us at initiation, and the needs of mind and body as normal human beings. The idea is that gradually the spiritual makes the physical far less important to us – but it is a gradual process.
What do humans need? Well, food and shelter is an obvious one, so most of us need paid employment so that we can support ourselves. In Sant Mat we face up to taking responsibility for our own livelihood. It doesn’t have to be more complicated than providing for the bare necessities, but equally, and depending on the extent of our responsibility for others and on our own makeup, it can be more. If opportunities for study and promotion are open to us, we may want to commit to them and reap future benefits, or we may prefer to be satisfied with less. Neither path is better or worse than the other. The key is recognizing our own needs, following the path which best fulfils them, and learning to live with outcomes that may not necessarily be what we planned.
Companionship is another human need. In a beautiful song by Bill Withers, the singer pleads, “Lean on me when you’re not strong, I’ll help you carry on.” And “Please, swallow your pride … for no-one can fill those of your needs that you won’t let show.”
Just because we are aiming high, in fact to a level of consciousness at which our situation in life on the physical plane becomes of little concern to us, it does not follow that it is irrelevant to us in the here and now. It is natural to give and receive practical help and to give emotional support to each other. It is for this reason that the Masters recommend a settled family life within the framework of marriage. This isn’t appropriate for everybody but there is plenty of opportunity for friendship and good companionship, perhaps within the environment of seva or out in the community, including fun activities like singing, dancing and sport.
Get real to family life
When we live together in a family, respect for others has to be at the heart of our relationships. Whether it’s our children or our elders, we must be able to pay attention, listen and understand. We naturally want to pass our values and our way of doing things on to our children and it’s important that we share the benefit of our experience. However, they must also be allowed to express their own developing sense of independence. If we show them that we are always interested and if we are slow to condemn, ready to support, we will be keeping open a valuable channel of communication. It may not always be possible to like what our children do but it should always be evident that we love them. Loving sometimes means letting go, allowing someone to break the mould and move away. True family bonds don’t confine but are infinitely elastic.
Where else but in the family do we learn values that are so necessary in our spiritual life? Patience, unselfishness and humility are difficult to acquire but we get the opportunity to dig deep and find them as we interact with our children or care for our elders. Our ego would like us to think that we are always right, always deserving, always important. But those around us don’t necessarily subscribe to this opinion, so let’s get real!
Get real to our real work
In Call of the Great Master, Maharaj Sawan Singh reminds a group of seekers that nothing that we busy ourselves with throughout the twenty-four hours of the day and night is “our own real work” – actually we are serving our body, our mind, our employers, friends and family. He advises, “Attend to your worldly duties during the whole day, but give a couple of hours every night to ‘your own task’.”
This task is, of course, our meditation. The Masters also give us striking images to remind us that we can cherish our real task even whilst carrying out daily duties. One such image is of the young girls of a traditional Indian village: in days gone by they would walk from the well, chatting with their companions and yet all the time keeping part of their mind on the pot of water carried on their head so that it never became unbalanced. Another is of a newly married girl who returns home to visit her parents, plays with younger children and works in the house, all the while keeping thoughts of her husband in her heart.
We too can be as focused as this, especially if we are alive to the fact that we came into this world with an objective. It is an objective that sometimes seems to disappear in the clouds of karma and the clamour of small needs, so this is where discipline comes in.
Let’s keep those original, sincere intentions, which first brought us to the Master, alive and burning brightly. We know how to do it. It’s by carrying out the practice of meditation every day, regularly and punctually, and by following the principles of Sant Mat in our daily life.