We often come across the term “going within” or “going inside” either in satsang or when reading the Sant Mat literature. But what does this actually mean? Drawing on examples from the physical world might help us obtain a better insight into this spiritual concept.
Accessing documents stored on a computer, for instance, requires us to start on the “outside” by logging on with the right credentials. Then we identify the relevant file and, clicking one sub-folder after another, we eventually reach the file we want.
Alternatively, we could turn to our history lessons for an example. During the Middle Ages, the king would give a private audience in the inner sanctum of his chamber. Those granted a royal interview would enter by passing through a series of antechambers until they reached his presence.
The point illustrated by these two examples is that “going in” involves traversing outer layers to reach a special, inner point. Similarly, in Sant Mat, “going within” means redirecting our outwardly focused attention inwards; we transcend our surface-level thoughts and reach a level of (super consciousness to experience the higher power which created us and is our life-force. As Maharaj Charan Singh explains in Light on Sant Mat:
Life has a meaning and a purpose. The grand aim of human life is to foster, develop and guide those spiritual homing instincts and try to return to the spiritual home whence we came… This is the aim of evolving and perfecting that wonderful instrument, the brain, which has spiritual centres. These centres can be developed by proper means. All realizations come from within. The kingdom of God is also within. We must therefore go in, that is, turn all our attention and thoughts to the proper inner centre so that we might realize ourselves and then realize God.
This is why we meditate. Meditation is about getting hold of our wayward attention, concentrating and focusing it. Generally, our attention is engaged in the outside world, where it gathers information through the senses. Though we may have experienced spiritual longing – the desire to re-discover our Creator – any search is likely to have taken us outside, to the doctrines and ceremonies of organized religion, whether in temple, gurdwara or church. Though sincere prayer and loving devotion will undoubtedly help us to realize our goal, it is essential we connect with the power of God’s holy spirit within us. The Shabd, Nam, Word or Logos – known by so many different names is mentioned by mystics of all ages and geographical locations, and if we come in touch with that inner spirit, it will carry us back to our source. However, we can find it only inside us, nowhere outside. Sultan Bahu writes:
This body is the temple of the true Lord, in which fragrant gardens abound with eternally fresh blossoms. Inside are the prayer mats, the places for prostration and the means for ritual ablution. Inside is the Ka’ba and the Qibla.
“Inside” is neither far away nor difficult to reach. In Die to Live, Maharaj Charan Singh assures us that:
When you close your eyes, you are there where you should be. Being there, do simran, concentrate. When you close your eyes you are nowhere outside … the idea is that your attention shouldn’t scatter outside, it should be here at the eye centre.
Closing our eyes and focusing gently on the darkness at the eye-centre, we repeat the five holy names given to us during initiation and, ignoring distracting thoughts, gradually we deepen our experience of “within”. Maharaj Jagat Singh gave an idea of how carefully and lovingly we should repeat simran when he likened this process to the way a jeweller handles precious stones. Each holy name is like a precious gem being gently placed in position. And the present Master has likened meditating to someone swimming upstream; it is slow, vigorous work, but every effort strengthens the limbs. Similarly daily practice, coupled with our determination to focus the mind, results in deeper concentration.
Whether we see internal visions, become immersed in the light of the inner stages, or hear the Shabd is entirely up to the Master. He oversees our progress and ensures we receive what we need when he thinks fit. But definitely, the deeper the focus and concentration, the greater our sense of peace and stability. This is the garden of concentration, fragrant with blossoms, referred to in Sultan Bahu’s verse. Eventually, the Radiant Form of the Master himself will be manifested within us. The inner Master is a never-failing friend who will be with us forever. In Die to Live, Maharaj Charan Singh explains to a seeker what “within” means, using a very matter-of-fact example:
Q: Master, you tell us that the purpose of meditation is to seek the Lord within, to follow the path within back to the Father, but I can’t seem to fully comprehend the idea that meditation takes us within, that the Lord, the Creator is within me.
A: When at night you sleep and you have a dream, where are you? Is the dream within yourself or is the dream outside your body?… No doubt it is the reproduction of outside associations, but what you see, how you behave, and how you act in a dream – is all that drama within yourself or somewhere outside? It’s purely within. So if a dream can be within the body, why can’t the Radiant Form of the Master or spiritual experience be within the body?