A Simple Path
When you think about the work of Mother Teresa of Calcutta – helping orphans, nursing the sick and the dying, giving hope to the poorest of the poor – you can’t help but wonder: Where did she find the strength to go on with this challenging work, decade after decade? Many people who met her said she radiated a sense of peace. The love in and all around her was tangible. What was the inexhaustible well from which she drew that peace, that love?
Once, when she was asked, she said she followed a “simple path.” The principles of that simple path are:
The fruit of silence is prayer.
The fruit of prayer is faith.
The fruit of faith is love.
The fruit of love is service.
The fruit of service is peace.
How might this relate to our path of Surat Shabd Yoga, the path that connects our consciousness with the Shabd or Nam, the power that sustains all life?
The fruit of silence is prayer
For Mother Teresa prayer did not mean asking for things or saying some formula of words. By prayer she meant turning the attention to the Divine within, being still within, being aware of and attentive to the presence of the Divine. It was what the French mystic and philosopher Simone Weil called “the waiting or attentive and faithful immobility that lasts indefinitely and cannot be shaken.”
We would call it meditation. In meditation, we say we are knocking on the Lord’s door, but perhaps it is just the opposite. In the Bible we read: “I stand at the door and knock: If any man hears my voice and opens the door, I will come to him, and I will sup with him, and he with me.”
Who is this “I” who knocks and calls out to us? It is the Lord. Can we hear him knocking, asking to be let in? Can we hear his voice? As Simone Weil says, “It is for us to remain motionless … without averting our eyes, listening relentlessly, and waiting, we know not for what.”
So listening is the essence of prayer. Listening is the essence of meditation – a whole-hearted, single-focused listening. As the twelfth-century Sufi, Hakim Sanai says:
Bring all of yourself to his door:
bring only a part,
and you’ve brought nothing at all.
What does it mean that the fruit of silence is prayer? We are speaking here of an inward silence. A little outward silence is nice, of course. It can be helpful to have fewer things pulling at our attention all the time. But what we really need is some inward silence. We need a quiet mind, a peaceful mind to bring to meditation, if we are to listen.
The Master has said that our peace of mind is very important and that we should never sacrifice our peace of mind for anything of this world. Nothing is worth sacrificing that inward peace of mind! Of course, we do sacrifice it all the time. We may flare up in anger over some trivial thing. We may let worries and fears or thwarted desires and ambitions take over all our mental space. When we sacrifice our peace of mind, we don’t have that silence, that stillness and calmness to bring into meditation.
The Masters have given us a method to quiet down the mind, to bring it into stillness. That method is simran. Repeating the five holy names whenever possible throughout the day, is the only way we can prepare the mind to turn, in silence and stillness, to listen for the Lord’s voice. Maharaj Charan Singh says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
If you leave your mind alone, it will have other, worldly thoughts. It won’t be still. It will always think something or other…. So why let it go astray, why not pull it back? We are helping it not to run very astray and wild. The more it runs astray and wild, the more difficult it becomes to pull it back. That is why, whenever we get time or we are mentally free, we do simran.
If we keep simran in our mind, we just might begin to find the inner silence.
The fruit of prayer is faith
If we attend to meditation, the result is faith. This may sound backwards from the way we often think about faith. Don’t we need faith first to follow this path? The Masters point out that it is good to ask questions and take time to satisfy our intellect in order to commit ourselves to the practice of life-long meditation. Hazur also says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II:
Faith actually is built by meditation, faith comes by meditation, faith comes by experience. Otherwise the mind always remains shaky.Meditation will be able to create that faith. It generates faith, it creates faith, it strengthens faith. Faith grows by meditation.
When we know something through our own personal experience, then we have a level of certainty, or faith, that really can’t be shaken.
The fruit of faith is love
This word faith has several aspects. In one sense it is about belief, a belief that deepens into firm conviction. But in another sense, there is the kind of faith you have in a good friend. Through experience and time, you may come to know that your friend really is always there for you, is your well-wisher, cares about you – and you develop faith or confidence in that friendship.
Hazur says simply attending to meditation faithfully every day brings this kind of confidence, which he says is impossible to attain in any other way. In Light on Sant Mat he says:
The more you pay attention to bhajan and simran, and especially to the simran which is the repetition of the five holy names – with attention at the eye centre – the more will the feeling of love and confidence spring in your heart; and you will feel that you are not alone.
We may not be seeing lights or soaring to great spiritual heights, but we develop the confidence that our friend is there for us. As Great Master says in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. IV: “The Lord is never unmindful of us even for a moment. He is always looking after us. We have never been separated from him. He is always with us and always pervades our entire being.” Can there be a truer or more faithful friend? The faith we develop in such a friendship can’t help but bear the fruit of love. As Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, “That is how our love starts growing. The more time we give to meditation, the more our love grows. And it grows until we become one with the Lord.”
The fruit of love is service
Mother Teresa says in the book A Simple Path, “When you know how much God is in love with you, then you can only live your life radiating that love.” She explains:
God is everywhere and in everything and without him we cannot exist…. There are so many religions and each one has its different ways of following God. I follow Christ.… Because of this I am never afraid. I am doing my work with Jesus, I am doing it for Jesus, I am doing it to Jesus. And therefore the results are His, not mine.
Because, for Mother Teresa, Jesus Christ was the face of the Divine, she saw Jesus in each person she met, each person she served. She said, “We serve Jesus in the poor, we nurse Him, feed Him, clothe Him, and visit Him.” She saw Jesus Christ in every person she met.
Hazur says something similar in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III: “When you see the Father within yourself, then wherever you look in this world, you will see the Father. Then, when you meet people, you do not see the people but the Creator who is in them.” So when we serve others, we are in fact serving God through them.
Mother Teresa reminds us, “We are all God’s children so it is important to share His gifts.” Great Master echoes the same sentiment: “We are all children of the one Supreme Father.
Everybody has a claim on what he [God] is bestowing. Share the gifts with the poor, the orphaned and the helpless. We are all partners.” This, he says, is the very meaning of being human. “Humanity simply means love for the Lord and his creation. Its other name is sympathy or compassion, fellow-feeling, or heart-felt attraction.” Therefore, Hazur counsels in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
If we can do anything to help anybody, we should. That is our duty – we are meant to help each other. Humans are meant to help humans.… We should be a source of strength to each other…. Soami Ji says that your heart should be very, very soft to other people and you should be very compassionate, very kind.
Seva means selfless service, and it is a wonderful opportunity whenever we get the chance to serve. However, Mother Teresa also advises us in A Simple Path: “It is not how much you do but how much love you put into the doing and sharing with others that is important.” Perhaps one of her most famous sayings is, “Do ordinary things with extraordinary love.”
The fruit of service is peace
Service in the context of our path takes many forms: seva of the body, like the good works that Mother Teresa performed; seva of wealth, seva of the mind, and seva of the soul. The Master tells us that the highest form of seva is seva of the soul, doing our meditation to release the soul and let it fly home to the Lord.
Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, “All these sevas are done to achieve one seva, which is also the biggest seva – to bring our consciousness in touch with the Shabd by means of our meditation.” This seva leads to the peace that passeth all understanding.
We may recall that the Masters have said that our peace of mind is very important. It is so important that we should not sacrifice our peace of mind for anything in this world. That peace gives us a mind that can be calm and be quiet, a mind that can even be silent and turn within.
Mother Teresa described her path as a simple path. We might think of the steps along that simple path as a circle. If the fruit of service (seva) is inner peace, that peace gives us the silence that bears fruit in being able to listen to the voice of God (bhajan). Then the fruit of bhajan brings us faith, which bears fruit in love, which takes form in service, which gives us peace, and in that inner peace, stillness and silence, we naturally turn to meditation. Listening to the Shabd attentively, receptively, we come to know deep communion with the Divine within, and faith follows, deepening our love, leading to service that is more humble, more selfless – and that brings peace.
Our health, our prosperity and so forth are all decreed beforehand, and the proper thing for a satsangi is not to worry about them, but with faith and love in the Master to do his or her duty and all that one can possibly do, without worrying about results. As you grow in spiritual meditation and develop good contact with Shabd, the confidence in the inner Master and Shabd will grow and you will realize that you are in very safe hands.
Maharaj Charan Singh, Divine Light