Are You Master’s Devotee?
Are you a ‘true devotee’ of the Master? Or, after a bit of self-analysis, would you take a sharp intake of breath upon finding yourself matching Kabir’s description as “the pretender”?
Behold, I went out into the world to see
The way it worships the Supreme Lord.
Now I return to say that genuine worship
Is truly rare. Great is the distance
Between devotion and its show –
Great as that between earth and sky.
The Master’s devotee is in tune with the Lord
But the pretender is immersed in the world.
Kabir the Great Mystic
Perhaps we came to Sant Mat because of the simplicity of the teachings and its absence of rituals and ceremonies. Upon initiation, we vowed to follow the practice set out before us. However, as Maharaj Charan Singh once commented, understanding Sant Mat is easy but living the Sant Mat way of life is much harder. So, as the years go by, perhaps we should ask ourselves whether we’re really practicing the philosophy or whether we are using the Master’s instruction to lead an ordinary life as a cover to remain immersed in the world
Much of modern life is narcissistic, superficial, and just plain tacky. Even if we substitute trashy distractions with wholesome pastimes, these are just as powerful in diverting our attention away from the one upon whom we wish to focus – the Master. Telling ourselves that spirituality is our primary objective is not the same as putting in the hard work necessary to turn this aspiration into reality. We may wish to ask ourselves a further question: “Is my lifestyle conducive or detrimental to meditation? If detrimental, what changes do I need to make to put this right?” This isn’t a difficult question, since we instinctively know what we should or shouldn’t be doing to create an environment that supports our meditation.
The honesty to ask ourselves whether we are fully immersed in the ocean of Sant Mat or merely dipping our toes at the water’s edge is vital for our spiritual development. As Kabir warns us in the following verse, superficial devotion will “never dye you in spiritual hues.” We’ve all experienced that loveless state from time to time, when it seemed nigh on impossible either to feel the presence of, or love for, the Divine.
Remember, friend, devotion that is imitation –
Mere physical sitting without real love –
Can never dye you in spiritual hues….
If you seek to practise devotion for the Master
Give up all pleasures and desires of the world.
Rare is birth in the human body, says Kabir –
Do not waste it pursuing passing pleasures.
If someone has no inkling of the spiritual purpose of life, that person cannot be blamed for failing to detach from worldly objects and desires. However, when we are blessed with the guidance of a true Master who patiently and lovingly explains the spiritual teachings over and over again, how foolish we are if we fail to put these into practice. What to do? Well, start meditating!
As recounted in Spiritual Letters, Baba Jaimal Singh counselled the Great Master to practice meditation in the following way:
First put your attention in the Satguru’s form, then start simran, and with intense love and devotion, slowly, gently, direct your inner hearing and seeing faculties … towards the Sound and fix them in it…. Your attention may remain focused for no more than a minute or two… or it may barely hear the Sound, but even then the news of your effort will reach right into Sach Khand, that you are offering a prayer.
How often have the Masters told us that the Lord loves every genuine effort we make to meditate, irrespective of how paltry this seems? The sincerity of our practice is in our control but, reassuringly, the results of our labour are to be left to him.
Baba Ji once said that every time we meditate, something happens. He wasn’t specific – he doesn’t need to be. If we live life consciously, we know that extraordinary things happen. Extraordinary grace, extraordinary ‘coincidences’, extraordinary outcomes. How do we know this? Because the Master has lifted the veil of illusion covering the material world just enough to give us a glimpse of the underlying reality.
Without any doubt, we will continue to encounter life’s difficulties after initiation; they are part of the tapestry of life. Our troubles and anxieties divert our attention from meditation just as much as our frivolous pursuits. An extract from one of Maharaj Sawan Singh’s letters to a disciple is reproduced in In the Footsteps of the Master:
Do not feel perturbed; after all, adversities do come to human beings. We should face them with patience and steadfastness. All days are not the same. When good days do not last, why expect bad days to persist? Much of our bad times have passed away. Only a little is left; bear it with fortitude. Satguru is within you and is every moment looking after you. Have faith in his grace and compassion and do not feel dejected. Do not let patience desert you. Contemplate on the Satguru’s form and continue to attend to your meditation regularly.
Sometimes life is very smooth and easy, and at other times we feel beset by difficulties and hardships. Sometimes we have to undergo these to be humbled and reach that state in which we are fit to be with him. The saints liken this process to fabricating a fine sword. First, the base iron – the disciple – is heated to an incredibly high temperature in a forge; then it is beaten repeatedly on an anvil, and finally plunged into cold water. Without this process, there is no strong and beautiful blade.
To counteract our difficult times, we can adopt some techniques or ‘tips’ that disciples sometimes use to make themselves more receptive to the Master’s grace or to put them in the right frame of mind. There can be no calculation on a spiritual path – “If I do this, I’ll get that” – but if practised in the right spirit, the following pointers can be helpful:
Every day, before sitting in meditation, we should remind ourselves that this is the only important thing we will do today. With this attitude, we are better able to fend off the urgent insistence of the mind that we should stop meditating and attend to this or that important business. Nothing is as important as what we are doing at that moment because meditation is imperishable and, unlike everything else, will stand to our credit beyond death. Everything else is like yesterday’s newspapers – events that seem important when they occur but which, after a few days or weeks, will be forgotten or irrelevant.
We treat meditation as a duty, as an obligation, as a commitment, and at one level, it is all these things. But at another level, it is an act of love. When we meditate because we have no other place to take refuge, our hearts will open, and the Lord will enter. If we meditate even a little before going to bed at night, reminding ourselves that in a few hours, we will have another opportunity to sit in the presence of the Lord, we will notice a difference in our practice. Sister Wendy, a well-known English nun, said that she began each day with the words, “It is for thee, Lord, that I awake.”
How should we do simran? We can repeat the holy words as though we were swimming with sharks and are protected as long as we keep on repeating them! Alternatively, we can think of simran as the password which gives us access to the site we want to be on. It must be input carefully, consciously and correctly or else the site will not open. Maharaj Jagat Singh used to recommend that we recall each name as if we are handling precious gems.
We could read a few lines of inspirational poetry by true Masters to inspire and put ourselves in the mood for meditation.
We are focused on the roar of this world – and the Shabd, if audible at all, is only a distant murmur. Just a little change to our priorities will reverse this situation. The ‘sound and fury’ of the world will subside, leaving us to become absorbed in the ocean waves of Shabd.