We all long for personal time with our Master, an invitation to his house for dinner perhaps. We might imagine being ushered into his dining room where – with a spread of delicious food placed in front of us – we would be invited to “help ourselves,” to take whichever dishes we wanted to assuage our hunger, while enjoying the presence and repartee of our host. Once, when a disciple expressed this very desire to Master, he answered that we can have breakfast with him every morning at the eye centre.
This is what he offers us. He says, in effect: I have told you where I am – inside you at the eye centre; I have told you how to find me – meditate. Now help yourself to the spiritual food within, help your ‘self.’ Help your real self. Our real self is not this body, not this mind; our self is the soul. If we want to help our self, then we must free our soul from captivity, let it rise from the bondage of the body and the mind, and go back to its source. Achieve self-realization. Help our self by choosing to do whatever it takes to liberate our soul.
Samarth Ramdas’s poem “A Liberated Soul,” included in the book Many Voices, One Song:
You’ve heard of spiritual awakening,
but now you have experienced your Self –
you’ve seen for yourself the truth of spirituality.
Your mind has merged in the Supreme Being –
recognizing your Self, you recognized God,
and now you know fulfilment.
That “fulfilment” is the satisfaction of our hunger for him. How hungry are we for that spiritual food? Hungry enough to be there every morning for breakfast with our Master at the eye centre?
What does that hunger feel like? Would we recognize it if we had it? Even in a worldly sense we may not realize that we are hungry. We may just feel out of sorts, have a headache, be a bit grumpy and then realize that we have been working so hard that we have missed lunch. Then we eat and we feel instantly better. Similarly, we may not realize we are spiritually hungry, we just know we are not happy in this life. We need the Master to help us understand. Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh explains in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I:
The urge is always in every soul towards its own source.… That is why nobody has peace of mind in this world, and we all feel lonely.… Sometimes, in order to overcome that feeling of loneliness, we give ourselves over to the senses. We think possibly that by running to the sensual pleasures we will be able to overcome the feeling of loneliness. Other people, realizing that they will not derive anything from the senses, turn to the Father, by his grace. But unless you miss something, you don’t try to achieve it.
Spiritual hunger, he is saying, is the soul’s longing to return to its source, but we may not realize it and keep trying to fill the emptiness, the loneliness, with sensual pleasures. But with the Lord’s grace, we are made aware that the sensual pleasures are not working for us; that no matter what we do in life, there is always something missing. We feel an emptiness within that cannot be filled by anything or anyone of this world.
With the Lord’s grace, we are given the opportunity to satisfy this hunger and thirst of the soul to go back to its source, to go home. We are brought to the feet of a true living Master who explains how to satisfy this spiritual hunger through meditation. And then he initiates us and gives the directions on how to live the Sant Mat way of life and how to meditate – in other words, how to help our self. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II: “When the Lord wants you to follow him, to know him, to go back to him, he will give you the understanding and the urge.” That urge is hunger, a hunger that grows and grows. In Die to Live, Hazur explains:
The Lord gives us hunger; the more we attend to meditation, the more hungry we become. When we become hungry, he provides us with food. As Christ said, the harvest is ready. The harvest is always ready, but we have to lift our consciousness to that level where we can collect that harvest.
Meditation grows our hunger. Master satisfies our hunger with spiritual food. Our role is to keep reaching for that food and to keep helping ourselves. We must also keep fighting the mind whose role is to distract us from our spiritual goal and make us forget why we asked for initiation.
Do we remember how we felt when we were waiting to be initiated – anxious about whether we would be accepted? How much we wanted to sit in meditation! Remember the longing that built up in us? The hunger, the thirst was intense. And then the wonderful day came when we were initiated, and our Master gave us the five holy names, and he said, in effect, “Here, help yourself, eat of the blessed food I am offering you, use the five names, do your simran, sit in meditation every day for two and one-half hours minimum.” And we began our new life, focusing on meditation with enthusiasm, paying attention to the soul’s urge, sitting every day for at least two and one-half hours. We were feeling the hunger and working to satisfy it.
Hazur, in a letter to a new initiate, says in Quest for Light:
I am glad to know that the new satsangi way of life suits you very well and that the vegetarian diet and abstention from alcoholic drinks have been no problem. The next step should be to create a love for meditation and a thirst for God-realization. Meditation should no longer be a drudgery or boring. It should become a habit, like hunger for food.
So, the alarm goes off at our meditation time and we help ourselves – we get up without fail, not as a drudgery and not as a chore. No, we get up because we cannot not get up. There is something inside of us that can be satisfied only by meditation, by coming closer to him inside. It’s the longing of our true self to go home. And that cannot be satisfied by anything of this world. More sleep may rest the body to some degree, but meditation rests the soul. Hazur says in Quest for Light:
To take out the consciousness from the old ruts in which it has been running for a very long time needs full effort and a thorough change of heart. The help and grace of the Lord also come when we try to help ourselves. Please have no worry. The Master is always with you to help, guide and protect you at every step. Just turn to him and realize his constant presence. Attend most regularly to your meditation with faith, love and humility.
Breakfast at the eye centre, anyone? With his help and grace, we can be there with him every day.