The Way of the Ant
The real miracle of this path, for many of us, is that we continue to meditate even when we seem to be making no discernable progress. Only the grace of the Master makes this sustained effort possible.
Maharaj Jagat Singh acknowledges the difficulties we face in The Science of the Soul:
Our attention has been ‘out’ for ages, and to draw it ‘in’ again requires both time and effort. The tendencies established for such a long time are at once up against us when we attempt any re-orientation. It… is naturally difficult and slow. For some it is slower and more difficult than it is for others…. The same applies to focusing the attention at the eye centre. … [T]he drawing up of consciousness or shaking it loose from the material body is a slow and laborious process. It has been called “the way of the ant,” which first laboriously picks up grains of sugar from amongst the grains of sand with which it is mixed, then slowly moves up the wall, frequently slipping down and then laboriously moving up again. All that is required is to persist with patience, hope and faith. Then success will one day be yours. Leave the rest to the Master and remember that effort is never wasted.
We can learn from the persistence of the ant. Persistence seems to be half the battle: to continue to sit in meditation, knowing that to do so is the grace of the Master. Persistence means to bring the mind back to simran, the repetition of the five holy names, again and again. Every time the mind runs out, we attempt to bring it back. This truly is the work of a lifetime.
We slowly begin to sense why this process of turning inward takes time. Through our meditation, we are attempting a path of purification, transforming a mind that is covered with rust, a mind that can be obstinate and corrupt, capable of virtually anything, into one that is absolutely clean, bright and perfect. This transformation would be impossible without the grace of the Satguru. Using the pumice stone of satsang, the grindstone of simran and bhajan, he brings about this transformation, working a miracle. He will polish our souls until they shine with the light of God.
The ultimate enticement to go within is the saints’ promise that we will meet and reunite with God. The invitation to return home is not to be answered on the day we die or in some distant future. The invitation is extended now, at this very moment. At any stage of discipleship, as we shift our attention away from the world and toward the Master – through our meditation, simran and bhajan, satsang and seva – we can be in his presence. Every moment counts.
Maharaj Charan Singh tells us in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, exactly how we can sanctify each moment:
Any moment when we think about the Father, when we think about the Master, when we think about the Lord, that is a blessed moment. That makes it worth living in this creation. All others are useless moments. Whatever time we devote to meditation, whatever time we devote to the Father, they are blessed moments; that is the blessed time.
Further, Hazur tells us that if we are thinking about the Lord, if our attention is towards him, then we are never alone: “If you are feeling him, if you are thinking about him, if your attention is towards him, you are always with him.”
Regardless of where we are starting on the spiritual map, regardless of the love that we may or may not feel – here is the wonderful thing: this path is about the Master and his grace and his mercy; it is not about our shortcomings. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t be here. We are asked to attend to our meditation, to struggle with the mind, to keep knocking at his door; but we know it is the Master who ultimately will take us up. Hazur tells us in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II: “He who is pulling you is within you. He will make you sit in meditation; you can’t help that.”
Our job is to give the Master, the Lord, our attention, our meditation. Ultimately, it is not about our meager attempts to pick out the grains of sugar from a vast sand beach and then carry them up a polished wall. This path is about the Beloved who will carry us home. With the time that we have been given, we are to do our meditation with patience, persistence, hope and faith. We are asked to try. The Masters extend the invitation to every one of us to join them beyond the confines of this temporal world, beyond the constraints of time. As Soami Ji Maharaj appeals to us in Sar Bachan Poetry:
Come now, dear soul, to the Master’s country,
where there is neither body, nor karma, nor conflict….
Discard these coverings,
these extraneous fragments of your Self.
Listen to the Guru’s message with full attention,
through Surat Shabd practice head for your home.