A Gentleman with Good Credentials
This year 2019 is drawing to a close, and 2020 is upon us. Now is the time when most of us reflect on the year gone by. We reflect on what we consider to be our successes or, if we are brave, attempt to analyze what we see as our failures – maybe using them as a basis to formulate all our new year’s resolutions.
When going through this self-analysis we realize that most of us are at war every day, without even knowing it: in rivalries with co-workers to get a promotion; in competition with other parents to get our kids into the best schools; in battles with our loved ones over money; or pestering our children about leaving their dirty socks on the floor. Most ironic of all, we’re constantly at war with ourselves: to stick to our diets; get a better job; make more money; be the perfect parent.
We were raised to believe in the dream of struggling and achieving. Despite our best efforts, we may have experienced failure and disappointment. Or maybe we succeeded. Maybe we got the job, the house, the romantic partner we always thought we wanted. Then we discovered we still weren’t happy. They didn’t really fill that empty place that we thought they would. So what is the solution to our dilemma? The solution we crave, the Master tells us, is letting go, being detached.
The call to let go lies at the core of many spiritual traditions. Non-attachment to outcomes, surrendering desires, opening to the guidance of a higher power, relinquishing the ego, forgiveness – all entail letting go. Why is letting go so important? Holding on limits our perception and obscures our true nature. Moreover, it lies at the root of most of our suffering. Letting go, on the other hand, brings relief, ease, joy, and love.
But if letting go is so important, why don’t we just do it? The answer is that it is not as easy as it sounds. To appreciate why letting go can seem so difficult, we need to understand why we hold on, and what we hold on to. To answer these questions we must delve into a more fundamental question: What do we really want?
When we go deeply into this question, we find a common theme behind all our desires. We want to feel better. We may give this inner feeling different names – joy, happiness, inner peace, satisfaction, well-being – but however we describe the quality of mind we seek, the underlying motivation is the same. We are looking to avoid pain and suffering, and find a more enjoyable state of consciousness.
We may think that it is not wrong to enjoy the good things of life. But too often they possess us, and we come to rely on them so heavily that we cannot imagine living without them. Though surrounded by abundance, we seem to be more fearful, not less. Soami Ji says that we are so attached to the creation and love it so much that we have forgotten the Lord, forgotten our true home, and forgotten who we really are.
Our attitude toward life should be not how can I please myself but rather how can I please the Lord? In pleasing him, we will find our happiness. And how do we please him? Maharaj Charan Singh Ji says in Die to Live:
You cannot serve the Master in a better way than by following his instructions and living his way of life. We can serve the Master by following his teachings, and by living the teachings, thus bearing the fruit for which this human birth has been given to us.
We are told that the passions that live in the mind are among our biggest hindrances. Of these attachment is the most insidious. Why? Because attachment is deceitful. It comes as a gentleman with good credentials. It announces itself as our friend and ally. Its ideas are plausible. So it readily gains a place in the family as a close friend. It does seem so very reasonable and proper that one should have and enjoy wife, children, positions of honour, money and houses, lands and securities. Indeed, we may concede that such things are necessary. And then our gentle friend, attachment, steps in with such benevolent airs and says: ‘Yes, surely you must give diligent attention to these things; it is your duty.’
We must remember that the liberation of our own soul is the only real reason that we are in this world. Nothing else counts. But it is the sole purpose of attachment to keep us from doing that one thing. At present we are dead as far as the inner worlds are concerned and we are alive here, in this physical world. Now our sphere of activity needs to widen – to allow us to discover new worlds, just as Columbus discovered America.
So long as the mind has not developed the capacity to discard the impressions of this physical world, it cannot sit inside, disconnected from this world, nor can it have access to the inner realms. But it has the capacity to do so and it has to be trained. This is a slow affair, though, and requires patience, perseverance, and faith. The task is difficult, but it can be done, and this is the object of our life.
If humanity is the top of creation, our responsibility is also great. We are born so that we may merge our soul in its Source and not be born again in this world. The greatest service one can render is to merge one’s soul in that Ocean of peace and bliss, of which it is a particle or drop, by freeing it from the attachment of mind and matter. The ups and downs of life cause hindrances, but there is no obstruction which love and faith cannot overcome.
Force is useless; only love can detach us. We must adopt a positive approach to the problem – not to detach ourselves by force from something lower, but to attach ourselves through love to something higher. In The Master Answers, Hazur says:
Only attachment creates detachment…. We have to attach our mind to a better object than the sensual pleasures…. We have to withdraw our attention up to this point (the eye centre), concentrate it here, and attach it to that Sound. That attachment will automatically detach us.
The soul is hopelessly and helplessly entangled in a most complicated snare. The objective of meditation is to free the soul from this snare. The Sound Current is the one and only power which cuts the chains and frees the soul. When we are connected with the Sound Current by a Master at the time of initiation, and we listen to this Sound and bring our attention nearer and nearer to the Sound Current, we cut the bonds and the soul becomes free and finally merges in the Ocean of which it is a drop.
Those of us who have been initiated have been given the priceless secret of how to do this, but are we making full use of it? We have no idea what we are losing by not letting go, by not making full use of the treasure of initiation and by not surrendering to the will of our Master. But in truth it is not in our power to surrender. All we can do is try to follow the instructions of our Master, in order to show our gratitude to him.
Thus, what is required of us in our search for union with God is an attitude of devotion. Devotion is the effort we make in order to foster a relationship with, and to deserve the affection of, the object of our devotion. Spiritual love is not devotion in itself – it comes to us as a result of devotion. Devotion is the means and love is the end.
But how strong is our desire to merge back into him, when compared with our attachment to this world? The question is: how many of us are still attached to our worldly loves? In order to merge back into him, we will have to recognize them for what they are, and with fervour and one-pointed determination seek only him. It is only then that attachment to him will lead to detachment from this world.