Focusing at the Eye Centre
One day a Zen master wanted to show his students a new technique of shooting an arrow. He told his students to cover his eyes with a cloth and then he shot his arrow. When he opened his eyes, he saw the target with no arrow in it, and when he looked at his students, they looked embarrassed because their teacher had missed.
The Zen master asked them, “What lesson do you think I intend to teach you all today?” They answered, “We thought you would show us how to shoot at the target without looking.” The Zen master said, “No, I taught you that if you want to be successful, don’t forget the target. You have to keep an eye on the target; otherwise you may miss.” They looked at each other, impressed with the lesson.
In many ways we are like the students of this blindfolded Zen master. We journey through life failing to remember our life’s purpose in this creation – to reach the eye centre and attain God-realization. We can expect no substantive progress in meditation if we have not learned how to still the mind at the eye focus. Saints have used various analogies to describe the nature of our restless minds. They have likened it to a rogue elephant, a mischievous monkey, and a stubborn mule. Nonetheless, to control the mind is our responsibility; no one is going to do this work for us. Three major obstacles that keep us from focusing our attention at the eye centre are: worry, desires, and uncontrolled thinking. When we worry, our focus is generally on regrets of the past or uncertainties of the future.
Worrying about either of these is quite simply a waste of precious mental and emotional energy. In the first instance, the past is over, and no amount of effort can undo what has already been done. In the second instance, none of us knows what the future holds – not even the next second. Worry results when we fail to live in the present. If we are attentive to this moment everything is fine because there is no past and no future. We fail to remember this reality particularly at the time of meditation. Rather than being present with our simran and bhajan, we allow the mind to pull us in an infinite number of directions that involve worrying about the past or fretting about the future. In Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, Maharaj Charan Singh comments to a disciple on the causes of worry:
What makes you worry? Uncertainty about the future and repentance for the past. So if everything is destined, then why worry? Whatsoever we have done in the past, we’re not going to solve the problem by worrying about it. We’ll be able to get rid of our worries with a practical approach. So attend to meditation. When your mind is attached to the Shabd and Nam within, then you don’t think about the past or worry about the future.… Meditation trains you to accept what is in your destiny, if not cheerfully, then at least with a smile. That is the purpose of meditation. Unnecessarily brooding over the past and worrying about the future is not going to solve any problem at all.
The second reason we experience difficulty focusing our attention at the eye centre is because of our desires. If we do not get what we desire or lose that which we already have, we are miserable. On the other hand, if we get what we desire, we live with the fear that what we have obtained will be taken away from us – whether it be the loss of a loved one, wealth, health or possessions. With a turbulent mind that is full of desires we cannot concentrate sufficiently to contact the Shabd.
From our own experience we know of the numerous desires we have entertained. And we know how short-lived the pleasures and satisfaction those fulfilled desires gave us. We continually move from one desire to another in a never-ending cycle. Because we will receive only what is in our destiny and nothing more, it is best to leave our lives entirely in his hands knowing that he will give us what is in our best interest. And to work diligently on our spiritual goal. Hazur says in Die to Live:
We can never find permanent peace in worldly objects and sensual pleasures. They are short-lived, these so-called pleasures, and the reaction to them sometimes makes us more miserable, more unhappy. So the only way to obtain everlasting peace is to go back to the Father and become one with him.
The third obstacle of the mind that keeps us from focusing at the eye centre is uncontrolled thinking. In an article entitled, “Change Your Thoughts, Change Your World,” the motivational speaker, Jennifer Read Hawthorne says, “We humans, it seems, have anywhere from 12,000 to 60,000 thoughts per day. But according to some research, as many as 98 percent of them are exactly the same as we had the day before. Talk about creatures of habit! Even more significant, 80 percent of our thoughts are negative.” The Masters place great emphasis on remaining positive, regardless of our life circumstances. We simply cannot sustain a positive attitude by allowing our mind to run in whatever direction it pleases. Doing so makes our challenge to focus at the eye centre even more difficult when we sit for our daily meditation.
In Living Meditation, the author writes about this habit of uncontrolled thinking and its effect on our spiritual practice:
We generate thousands of thoughts every day. From the spiritual perspective this means that thousands of times a day our mind bypasses the eye centre as we run from one thought to the next without rest or pause. No wonder we feel restless and anxious! How could it be otherwise, with all that activity going on within our head? When we indulge in wanton thinking, we waste many opportunities to centre ourselves through spiritual repetition (simran). We miss the benefit that is available to us – the well-being that comes from repeating the words the Master gave us at the time of initiation, through which we create that much-needed focus at the eye-centre.
The saints remind us that even our failed attempts to still the mind at the eye focus are taking us nearer to our goal. For this very reason, Maharaj Sawan Singh (the Great Master), has encouraged disciples to bring their failures to the Master because failures mean we have at least been trying. Ultimately, our efforts, along with his grace, will turn this wild, distracted mind into a friend to aid us in our spiritual quest.