The Inner Sanctuary of Meditation
There was a man who was so disturbed
By the sight of his own shadow
And so displeased with his own footsteps
That he determined to get rid of both.
The method he hit upon was to run away from them.
So, he got up and ran.
But every time he put his foot down
There was another step,
While his shadow kept up with him
Without the slightest difficulty.
He attributed his failure
To the fact that he was not running fast enough.
So, he ran faster and faster, without stopping,
Until he finally dropped dead.
He failed to realize that if he merely stepped into the shade,
His shadow would vanish,
And if he sat down and stayed still,
There would be no more footsteps.
Chuang Tzu, Flight from the Shadow
This story describes the human condition. Like the poor man trying to outrun his shadow, most of us are running to escape the things we dislike and capture the things we desire. Unfortunately, there is no outrunning the mind, as it keeps up without the slightest difficulty. Yet, if we choose to “step into the shade,” we can move away from the world into the inner sanctuary of meditation. Through meditation, we learn to sit down, stay still, and tap into the inner peace we are seeking.
No matter how fast we run or how far we travel, we cannot escape the mind. In meditation, we discover that the mind is never still; it is rearing and bucking, using all methods to avoid our efforts to focus. It quickly jumps from one distraction to another, using the five passions – lust, anger, greed, attachment, and ego – to push our attention outward. Meditation is both an inner sanctuary and an internal struggle. But the Masters assure us that any and all attempts at meditation move us in a positive direction.
The challenge is to persist, especially when the mind offers resistance. Until we taste the sweetness of Nam, meditation is something that threatens the ego’s very existence. Therefore, we must practise with patience and persistence and hold fast despite the struggle. By persisting, we will find that meditation reverses patterns that have been in place for countless lifetimes.
Turning our attention inward can begin with simply doing one round of simran. As we navigate through the world with our attention scattered in all directions, and the mind running wild like a mad elephant – at any given moment, we can remember the Master by doing our simran. Simran is our link with the Master. Simran grows love, and it strengthens, nurtures, and cultivates our relationship with the Master.
Simran is his gift to us. It is a standing invitation, available to us at any time. Simran is how we replace thoughts of the world with thoughts of the Master. Every round of simran redirects our attention toward him. Simran provides a refuge at any time, in any place, under any circumstance. The five holy names given to us at initiation are charged with the Master’s spiritual power. Repetition, given to us by him and invested with his power, is our link to the Master.
Again and again, the mystics urge us to put our best effort into our meditation, but they tell us that the results of our meditation are in the hands of the Lord. When we practise meditation, we are knocking on the door of the Master and seeking refuge in him – not as perfect disciples, but as profoundly imperfect human beings. Maharaj Sawan Singh says:
If you go to the door of the Lord or the Master, go as a beggar. There is no one else before whom one should bow. He is the only one who can listen to the prayer of one who is caught in the whirlpool of Maya. He is the only one who can put healing ointment on the heart that is bleeding from attachment and greed.
Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. III
In meditation, we seek refuge in the Lord with an attitude of humility and gratitude – as a beggar before his door. We knock on his door through our simran, done with love. And we seek refuge in bhajan – listening for the sound – which is essential to our spiritual practice. Meditation is truly our sanctuary from the noise and the pull of the world. The time that we give daily to spiritual practise is sacred. It is our small way of expressing gratitude to the Master, the means through which we enter the real inner sanctuary and gain firsthand experience of reality. Maharaj Jagat Singh writes in The Science of the Soul:
The best and most appropriate way of appreciating his kindness and expressing our gratitude is to give more and more time to bhajan and simran, so that we may go in and contact Nam, and thus have a firsthand experience of everything.