The Hostage Negotiator
Hostage! The word evokes graphic, powerful images. It conveys the power that one person holds over another, and it also happens to convey the power that the mind has over the soul. The mind holds the soul hostage and thereby obstructs our efforts to meditate.
Maharaj Charan Singh tells us in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, “The soul can’t escape from the clutches of the mind, the soul is being dominated by the mind, the soul is helpless before the mind.”
The Masters know the struggle we face every day when we sit for meditation: Our soul wants to fly back to the Lord, but the mind mercilessly holds sway over the soul and denies it that opportunity. This control is very subtle in that the mind is also not free, because it is under the control of the senses. The soul continues to suffer the consequences of its domination by the mind and the senses. And just as a hostage needs expert help to gain release, the soul requires the help of the Master to gain liberation.
Hazur tells us in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II: “You can never have a better friend than the mind, and you can never have a worse enemy than the mind. So, we have to win over this enemy and turn it into a friend.… Only with the help of that friendship with the mind can the soul go back to the Father.”
In spite of the soul’s subjugation by the mind, the soul needs the mind to achieve its goal of realizing the Lord; it needs to befriend the mind to progress on its journey. So, how can the soul free itself from being a hostage and transform the mind from an enemy into a friend?
In Sar Bachan Poetry, Soami Ji comes to the rescue with a two-part lesson in hostage negotiation in which the soul petitions the mind in a series of steps similar to those used by the American Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): active listening, feeling empathy, establishing rapport, exerting influence, and inducing behavioural change.
In the first part, the soul addresses the mind persuasively and ultimately induces the mind to change. In the second part, the mind changes its tune and surrenders to the logic of the soul. The soul’s approach is one of empathy as opposed to a face-off with ultimatums. Soami Ji begins with the soul saying:
O mind, listen to the one petition I place before you.
Life after life I have been your slave, and you my master.
You are called the Lord of the three worlds.…
Gods, humans and yogis are under your control,
no one dares act in defiance of your commands.
You can trap anyone you want in this world,
and set them free whenever you like.
In these lines, the soul sets the stage for the negotiation by first acknowledging the mind’s capability, position and supremacy, using facts and flattery. The soul then lays the foundation for the next step in its argument by acknowledging the mind’s power, asking: “Why do you languish in this vale of darkness, this base realm, the world of matter?”
The soul builds rapport with the mind by asking the million-dollar question: Why are you here? After all, this world is perishable; a place of immense suffering, with no lasting peace or happiness – so why should the mind remain trapped here? Then the soul directs the mind to the advice of an unimpeachable source, the Master, and makes a daring request:
One thing my Master has advised me:
Take your mind along as soon as possible.
So, I entreat you, my mind,
to soar with me to the heavens without delay.
The soul tells the mind that the goal of the journey is to ascend together to the higher spiritual regions. The words “without delay” convey the urgency of the request and the immediacy of the action needed, so that the mind, the hostage-taker, feels pressure to make a decision. This is also a classic negotiating tactic in FBI hostage situations.
Next the soul makes a strong plea to the mind, emphasizing their bond – the potential for friendship. “For me there is no companion like you, for I belong to you and you are meant for me.” The touch is soft: instead of focusing on the mind’s enslavement of the soul, the soul pleads a case for both of them, so that, together as friends and companions, they may rise above their current difficulties and transcend the world. The sense here is: Let’s do this together! Like an expert negotiator, the soul “plays” the mind – throwing out a hard fact here, a challenge there, a demand here, a timeline there, some cajoling here, an invitation to work together – these are great negotiation tactics!
Now the soul dangles the “What’s in it for me?” card by telling the mind what it will get for becoming a friend: “You will regain your original glory and will no longer have to suffer the intense pains and pleasures of the world.”
The opportunity to return to its source and find peace – this is an offer the mind cannot refuse. To “seal the deal,” the soul reinforces the need for partnership:
The Master has given out the secret
of how to take you with me on my return home.
But I am still in your power,
unable to reach the Shabd without your help.
The Master’s “secret” is the way of life and the meditation technique that will benefit both the mind and the soul. But there’s a catch – while the soul has the method, it cannot implement it without the cooperation of the mind.
Then the soul rests its case:
If you do not follow my advice,
both of us will languish in the cycle of birth and death.…
Let us both rise to the higher regions within
and establish ourselves firmly [in Trikuti].
You stay there to rule the whole region,
while I move on to the court of Radha Soami.
The soul spells out the consequences of ignoring its request and the benefits of accepting its advice. Either both will continue to suffer in the cycle of transmigration, or the mind can reach its home in Trikuti and rule there, free of the pains and pleasures of the world, while the soul continues on to Sach Khand. Each one gets what it really wants.
The second part of Soami Ji’s composition is the successful culmination of the soul’s strategy. Responding to the soul’s petition, the mind acknowledges its dilemma:
I really do want to give up the sense pleasures,
but when faced with them, I lose my resolve.
I severely repent, before and after,
but at the time I do not miss a chance to indulge.
The mind confesses to its weakness and inability to resist indulgence in the sense pleasures. When faced with temptation, it succumbs. The mind realizes it too is enslaved and not really in control. Like an alcoholic seeking recovery, the mind acknowledges that it cannot overcome its shortcomings on its own. It must appeal to a higher power:
I therefore suggest we beg for the Master’s help.
Let us join together to seek refuge with him….
I can never go up with my own strength –
I must meet the Master,
the emancipator of prisoners.
When the mind realizes it is a slave of the senses, it turns to the Master for mercy and grace. This is indeed a welcome turn of events – the mind changes its behaviour. Together the soul and mind sit in meditation. The negotiation is successful; the hostage soul is released, and the mind now becomes a friend to the soul.
Soami Ji explains the happy outcome:
Holding hands they rose up to the inner sky –
moving from Shabd to Shabd
they greedily quenched their thirst with nectar.
Radha Soami showered his mercy upon them
and they collected diamonds, pearls and rubies.
The mind returns to its source, and the hostage soul is finally freed to merge with its Creator.