Keep a balance – these three little words, said to us so often by the Master, are loaded with meaning and are applicable to countless situations in our lives.
We get out of balance in so many ways: for example, focusing on our jobs to the detriment of our families. Often it’s so late at night when we finish work that we have time only to eat a quick meal and go to bed. Or we stay up so late watching TV that we don’t get up refreshed for meditation. We get so busy with being busy that we forget the importance of balance.
We tend to underestimate how much maintaining a balance contributes to living life successfully and productively. Balance gives us a perspective that can help us to make better decisions; we gain a sense of calm, and we gain the ability to see the big picture. We are able to see the entire map of where we are going and appreciate the distance we have come, as well as see how far we still want to go. Finding a balance is an important part of being the best person we can be.
All human activity is a search for a balance between survival and happiness. This is the same as saying that all human activity is a search for a balance between the logical mind and the soul. To live in balance, to survive and be happy, we must have both logic and soul. The problem is that it seems we cannot have both. The world tells us to reject the soul; spirituality tells us to rise above the mind.
We may think that, since meditation is the key to the spiritual path, perhaps it would be best to spend as many hours each day in meditation as possible. We may think it best to avoid marriage, leave off developing any profession, not have children and live in solitude, meditating all day. But senses that are then suppressed may become more active; suppressed desires may become stronger. When we go to extremes, our God-given natural system begins to revolt.
Thus the Master says that we should generally live our life in the world as a householder. Masters also have families, yet they keep their balance. Whenever we overdo it in any aspect of our lives we lose perspective and balance. Thus, moderation in all things is the best philosophy.
Why is it so difficult to maintain a balance in life? Our culture and social situations have always encouraged us to be different, to be special, to be better than others, to be competitive. We place great store in being considered special and superior. It validates us. We feel that to be special means to have something that others do not have.
What can we do to bring about balance in our lives? What is needed here is a wider perspective. We need to take a step back and clearly define the goals and priorities in our life. Only then can we pursue them successfully. We need to consider both the physical and spiritual aspects of our lives. The physical aspect of life includes our health and the way we treat our bodies. Our body is the most precious gift we have. If we don’t stay healthy, we certainly can’t enjoy all the other aspects of life, including meditation.
For most of us finding our balance usually involves organizing, strategizing and maximizing. But maybe there’s a different take on the subject to be found here, and that is where our spiritual lives come in. Our spiritual life is what defines our core, our foundation, our purpose, our identity and our reason for living. It permeates all that we think, say and do. So we should try to remember that we are not the centre of our own universe – we are one piece of something much larger than ourselves, and we should prioritize making God the focus of our lives.
When we first come on to the path, perhaps in our excitement, we suddenly want to be sadhus and sanyasis – ascetics and renunciates. We want to run off to a cave or shut ourselves in a room so that we can meditate all day. But the Master cautions us to keep a balance, to live a normal life and fulfil our responsibilities. He advises us to live with detachment and weave meditation into our everyday lives – not swing to extremes, but rather to follow the middle path of moderation. We must be ordinary people living ordinary lives. We must simply make meditation a part of our daily routine and retain a balance.
Extremes cause reaction. A pendulum swings, and the farther it swings in one direction, the farther it will swing in the other. But in that still point in the middle of the pendulum’s arc we rest in the refuge of the Master. Even in the midst of the intense activity of a challenging life, with professional and family obligations, we can place ourselves in the Master’s refuge and remain safe.
For most of us, learning to be a true disciple is a slow process – long and gradual. Whatever transformation we are undergoing is often imperceptible to us. Slow and steady wins the race.
Maharaj Charan Singh often said that this is the simplest of paths but difficult to follow. To sustain ourselves through the long years of practice, we need help. We need the support and protection of the Master. Satsang and seva offer us a place where the atmosphere of the Master’s presence uplifts our spirits and helps us to be steadfast on the path.
The Master’s refuge keeps us safe from the assaults of a wayward mind; it draws us again and again back to the focus. Time and again the Master’s refuge brings to our awareness the simplicity of the spiritual path. The Master’s refuge is not a structure built with bricks and mortar, nor with wood or plaster or steel. Only one material is used in its construction, and that is love. And there are only two people in the refuge – the Master and the disciple.
We live through countless fleeting relationships, seeking, finding and losing. If we do not know it yet, then life teaches us that it is folly to expect perfect love in human relationships. Human life is perishable and short-lived. The love that holds us together and the one that encompasses our entire being is the love between Master and disciple because, at its depth, it is the love between the Lord and the soul.
Our capacity to love is limited. The love the saints lead us to dissolves all separation and leads us to union. How do we grow in this love? The Master has given a simple answer. He says: love means to give, give and give. We are to give wholeheartedly, give to a point of removing the self. No expectations, just giving. That is discipleship.
So we begin by giving the only gift we possess – our time and attention. Two and a half hours of our time every day, accompanied by all the attention we are able to gather. It is a paltry gift when we consider the scattered attention we bring to the meditation practice. But nonetheless it is a gift of love.
The same applies to the time we give to our meditation. Initially we attempt to offer half an hour, an hour, maybe two and a half hours of meditation. But eventually, with perseverance and the Master’s grace, meditation becomes a way of life. We do not merely close ourselves in a room for a few hours and then forget about meditation for the rest of the day. It takes on a practical form, reflecting in every daily action and in our whole routine. Meditation becomes a way of life as we live in the atmosphere we build with meditation. To live in that atmosphere is to live a simple, happy and relaxed life. We accept whatever comes our way as the grace of the Master. By his mercy, he is bringing us to him as swiftly as possible.
So whereas initially we start off with a balancing act, where we demarcate our physical lives, our family lives, our social lives, our work lives and our spiritual lives, eventually all the actions in our life become a meditation. And then the need to find a balance dissolves as all our activities then revolve around that one focal point. We go about our daily lives, but the Beloved is always in our minds, in our thoughts, in our very being.
Our life becomes nothing more or less than a love story - between us and God. Every person, every experience, every gift, every loss, every pain is sent to us for one reason only – to bring us back to him, to bring us back to that focal point of balance.
My mind is caught in the snares of the world,
Thrown off balance by its attachments.
Pray, deliver me from this predicament, O Lord,
And release me from the bonds that hold me fast.
I am caught in the snares of the world
And estranged from your Name and Form.
Help me to walk with confidence,
For my path is full of obstacles, says Tuka.
Tukaram – The Ceaseless Song of Devotion