The Three Gifts
Twenty-four hours a day, the human mind is working. In the hustle and bustle of worldly life it is kept busy, entertained, distracted and sometimes disturbed. Even when the mind is in a state of rest, on some level, it is still subconsciously processing issues, whether it be problems in relationships or responsibilities at work. Then, when we sit for meditation, all those thoughts and emotions make their way to the forefront of the mind.
Thus, for many of us, meditation sometimes becomes more like watching the serial drama of our own life and less about repeating the holy Names. Thoughts infiltrate the mind so subtly that we do not even realize when we have stopped our repetition. As a result, we get frustrated, discouraged, or simply become unmotivated to do our meditation.
But if our intention to meditate is sincere, then we do not need to look very far for the solution to our problems. From the moment we embarked upon the spiritual path, we were given the essential tools to successfully create an atmosphere for meditation and progress on the inner path. We can call these tools the three steps to success in meditation. They are: satsang, seva and simran.
In Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I, Maharaj Sawan Singh explains that satsang meets two needs. First, it creates an atmosphere of love and devotion for the Master, and second it instructs both seekers and initiates in the science of Sant Mat. Listening to satsang with our mind and heart, we slowly gain control over our senses, as the soul becomes absorbed in the company of the saints.
Maharaj Charan Singh would beautifully explain that satsang is like a fence around a crop. Just as the fence protects a crop against damage and loss, so does satsang – it protects the mind from going astray and helps to preserve the fruit of meditation.
The second step is seva. Seva, or selfless service, can be offered by the individual through body, wealth, mind, and soul. Ideally, it creates an atmosphere which dyes the mind with love and devotion for the Master, so that at the time of meditation the mind is prepared for one-pointed attention and concentration.
Seva of the body and wealth are easy to perform. Service with the body rids us of our ego as we begin to recognize the equality of all human beings; and service with wealth helps to eliminate greed and attachment.
Seva with the mind, on the other hand, is more difficult. Maharaj Sawan Singh explains in Philosophy of the Masters, Vol. I, that service of the mind requires the disciple to remain ever conscious of the Master’s presence within; to obey him with selfless devotion and without pride and to subdue his mind’s reasoning and surrender himself to his Master. Pride and ego will never allow the soul to reunite with the Lord. For that union to take place, to become worthy of such grace and mercy, selflessness and complete surrender to the Master in meditation are required. By constantly remembering the Master’s presence within, we are controlling the mind from running outwards and then to concentrate at the eye centre.
The Masters explain that as we develop the habit of sitting for meditation for two-and-a-half hours every day, seva of the mind gradually develops into seva of the soul. Seva of the soul consists of withdrawing our soul current from every pore of our body and connecting it to the Shabd within. This connection between the soul and the Shabd can only be achieved when we surrender ourselves to the true Master and win his grace through effort in our spiritual practice.
Simran is the third step to success. It refers to the actual repetition of the five holy Names in complete concentration. The Master recommends that we dedicate two hours of our meditation time only to simran. When perfect concentration is achieved, the soul rises to the eye centre, the gateway to the inner life.
Dhyan and bhajan are dependent on the success of simran, as Baba Jaimal Singh explains to his disciple, Maharaj Sawan Singh, in Spiritual Letters:
Simran’s current links up with Dhun, and the current of the Dhun links one with the Shabd – and Shabd is the very essence of the Anami Lord himself. For this reason, if simran is done with love and devotion steeped in the soul’s seeing faculty, it brings great joy and bliss. Grace and mercy then descend in full measure.
In conclusion, the three steps to success in meditation were given to us from the beginning of our journey on this path. They are nothing new. In fact, more than ‘steps’ they are actually precious gifts bestowed upon us by a benevolent Master to give us the best possible chance at success. It is up to us to realize the value of these gifts and make best use of them so that when we sit in meditation, we can express our gratitude and appreciation to the divine giver and make him proud.