Hopelessness or Helplessness?
When we first come to the path, it is often after a fairly long period of seeking. So when we discover the path and the Master, it’s normally with a sense of euphoria, because, after all the seeking we’ve done and all the disappointment that we’ve experienced, it’s sometimes hard to believe that suddenly, here before us, is the answer to all our questions and the solution to all our problems. We just know that our search is over, and that here we finally have arrived at the feet of a genuine Master who can guide us to that secret destination that only a true heart knows.
After initiation, even though at a very profound level we are already convinced, we continue to read many books to satisfy our intellect. And there is nothing wrong with this, however, once we have been initiated, the time for study and research is over. Now it is time to put the teachings into practice. But when we try this, when we apply ourselves to meditation, many of us find it extremely tough going. All sorts of temptations and issues present themselves before us that pull our attention in every direction.
Many of us remain distinctly unhappy with our meditation and the lack of results that we can perceive coming our way. What this really means is that we are not getting the results that we expected. We thought that the result of our efforts at meditation would be the sights and sounds of the inner regions, and we expected to get this within a reasonable time. We feel disappointed when this doesn’t happen, and our situation seems to be entirely hopeless. But actually, what we’re experiencing is not hopelessness, but helplessness.
There’s a huge difference between the two. Hopelessness implies that there is no prospect whatsoever of success in our ventures, whereas helplessness suggests that we alone cannot do it, but with appropriate help, we could achieve our objectives fully. So if we have reached that stage of realizing our own helplessness, we should try to understand it and embrace it, because the realization of helplessness is a powerful incentive for us to do what we need to do; namely, to turn to our Master and submit to his will.
After all, if we realize that we are helpless to achieve our objectives on our own, what do we lose by submitting ourselves, our will, our efforts, to the Lord’s will? We asked for initiation in the first place because we believed that the Master was the answer to all our prayers, to all those nameless yearnings within us that reached out into the darkness of our unknowing in search of meaning and truth and help. So there will never be a better time than now to turn inwards, and to surrender to the benevolent, divine power that dwells there.
Under the momentum of our past actions we are propelled into this life, into this body, with this destiny. And we are thrust into these circumstances with no instruction manual, and seemingly with no help whatsoever. When we arrive here we have no idea where we’ve come from, and even less where we’re going.
We become totally lost in the material creation from the moment we are born. We are absolutely inundated with sensations, so much so that we lose all awareness of anything else. As we grow up and experience more of the world, we find ourselves led completely astray by all the many temptations that the world has to offer.
We come to believe that the physical world and our physical body are all that there is. Our whole value system revolves around this underlying belief, and so we proceed to get ourselves hopelessly entangled in the web of action and reaction. As we have now come to learn, every action invokes a reaction, and we are the ones, having performed the actions, who are now responsible for the reactions. Unfortunately, in the course of just one lifetime, we incur so many karmic debts that it is utterly impossible to account for them all, so the balance remains in abeyance, debited to our account, as it were, pending our settlement. So we keep coming and going in the wheel of transmigration.
We also encounter another problem: we become attached to the faces, places and things of this world. Each of these attachments is like a rope tying us down. So our many karmic debts and attachments bind us totally to this world, and we have no way of escaping them. It is in this situation that we find ourselves when we first encounter our beloved Master. He was the one who educated us as to our actual situation in the grand scheme of things. Furthermore, he told us that there is actually only one cure for all the ills of the world, and that is Shabd or Nam.
This Nam is the dynamic aspect of the Lord himself. It is by means of this power that the Lord created the universe and sustains it even now. Our Master tells us that it is by means of this power alone that the soul can find its way back to its true home.
Without our Master’s help we would just remain in the same state of ignorance in which we have always been. We cannot even imagine for how many lives we have been coming and going in this world, in all the various life forms. If we could ever manage escape from here by ourselves, surely in all those many lives we would have done so? We are incapable of realizing our full spiritual potential alone. But (fortunately) the Lord marked us for initiation by a true Master who has undertaken to see us all the way to Sach Khand, the ultimate spiritual region, where we will merge once more into the Lord himself, thus completing our spiritual journey and life’s highest purpose.
So now we say that we have initiation from a true Master, and that he will see us to the end of our journey. No doubt this is true -but is that all there is to it? Not at all! Although clearly the Master plays a critical role, nevertheless we too have a role to play, and it is incumbent upon us to play our part well. The Masters tell us that we get to our goal by devotion to the True One, which really translates to scrupulously following our Master’s instructions.
So, having received initiation, our focus now needs to be on putting his instructions into practice. This comes in two parts. One is to implement the lifestyle that he recommends. By doing this, we minimize the amount of karmas that we accumulate in the course of our life, and cultivate an appropriate mindset for the implementation of the second part, which is meditation. There is nothing more important to our quest than this. Meditation is the be-all and end-all of Sant Mat.
It is true that many of us struggle with this. We put in the effort, but we encounter huge problems and frustrations as we go into battle with the mind, because the mind is going to fight us every step of the way. But we have no choice. We need to persevere and continue to give it our best.
The Masters emphasize that we cannot conquer the mind by discipline or suppression. In fact, that approach actually has the potential to make things much worse. When the mind is suppressed, eventually it finds a way to express itself, and then it does so with explosive force. The mind is like the snake which, contained in a basket, does not lose its nature, if it finds its way out, it will not fail to strike at the first living thing it sees. The only way to win this battle is by redirecting our attention in a positive direction.
Great Master says:
If, during our lifetime, entry has been made into the eye centre and the Sound Current has been grasped, life has been usefully spent. If this has not been done, even though all else has been done – and most successfully – then life has been wasted. This done, all is done; this not done, all else done is as if nothing is done. Such is the finding of Sant Mat and it is a fact. It is not an arbitrary mandate.
The more we consider what the Guru has to say, the more we realize how incredibly fortunate we are. The whole world is totally bound up in the web of ignorance and illusion, trapped by the bondage of karmas and attachments, not realizing that these are the source and root of all suffering and misery. It is only those who have received the precious gift of Nam and are living their lives accordingly who can rise above all this and realize the higher truth that the Master has been telling us about.
As long as we continue to believe that this world is going to give us lasting happiness, we will continue to be bound here. But if we listen to what the Master has been telling us, if we redirect our attention to higher things and put his teachings into practice, then our soul will rise up to experience the inner regions and be free from all restraints, ultimately merging into the divine Ocean.
We seem to be living in a spiritual wasteland in which mind and senses dominate. Everything seems to conspire against us in our quest for liberation. The general trend everywhere is downward. We may ask, what hope is there in such a world, what chance of us succeeding in such a negative environment?
But regardless of circumstances, regardless of public opinion and despite all the opposition and difficulties that we may encounter, there is one simple rule to be followed. Abandon all else and cling to the feet of your Master. By this means alone shall the soul find its way home again!