Our Most Precious Commodity
There can be no keeping track of all the many, many hours of dedicated practice – over months and years – it must take for a pianist to achieve concert standard. It is an ongoing task. And the rewards are great. There is the satisfaction of a job well done and of using one’s talent to the full. There is the thrill of playing magnificent music. There are the financial rewards. And, of course, there is public and critical acclaim and adulation.
It must be marvellous, even addictive, while it lasts. But time degrades most talent and skill. Fingers might stiffen with arthritis, memory might be less focused and the audience will probably transfer its loyalty to a younger artist. So what then? What remains when that crucial unavoidable date with death approaches? Will the memories and financial rewards help as life draws to a close? Can any of those hours of practice sustain and support a person through the death process? Can any of the adulation help as time races by? The answer to all of those questions is no.
To a greater or lesser extent, we are similar to the pianist. We might not have been so single-minded, so focused on one specific task or goal, but we will probably have spent most of our lives lavishing our attention on worldly activities, on worldly treasures – none of which will help us in the slightest when we face that final unknown event – death.
Attention is our most precious commodity. It is what we give, what we use, to accomplish worldly goals and tasks. Talent without attention cannot achieve a great deal. Attention is what we give to family, friends, careers, homes, gardens, hobbies and pets. Caring and nurturing requires attention.
The more important something is to us, the more attention, in the form of focused thoughts, we give it. These focused thoughts often translate into physical action, demonstrating the level of our care and commitment.
However, at the end of the day, will the objects and results of our attention help us in any way as death approaches? Unfortunately, no money in the bank, no worldly treasures, no family members can be with us through, and after, the death experience. But it is during this terrifyingly unfamiliar experience that we might need help and support the most. If we haven’t found and focused on an appropriate support during our lives, there is no guarantee that it will be there when we need it most.
Saint Paltu said: ‟Then death the leveller wipes out all you possess.” So, what are we to do? Is there anyone, or anywhere, we can turn to, to find the help we need?
There are, indeed, people who can advise us and guide us here and now on how to prepare for death. And what is more, they can be with us through the death experience, and their loving guidance continues even after death. These extraordinary guides are true, living Masters – mystics who have achieved oneness with our Creator.
Maharaj Charan Singh is quoted in Living Meditation:
Our real Master is the Word, the Logos, Shabd, Nam, the audible Life Stream or whatever name one may choose to give it. The Master is that Power manifested in human form.
A true living Master is God’s representative on earth, and he has travelled the road back home to God on an ongoing basis taking souls home, which is his principal mission on earth.
The Master grants to certain souls the priceless gift of initiation, and from that moment onwards is always with them, in his Shabd presence, watching over and guiding them every step of the way. Again we refer to Maharaj Charan Singh (as quoted in Living Meditation): “The Master not only guides and helps during the disciple’s lifetime, but stays with him even at the time of his death, and afterwards.”
The Master’s mission is to take initiated souls home to reunite with our heavenly Father. But we have a part to play in this process, and it is a crucial role. To fulfil this role we need to use that precious commodity – our attention. Our Master wants us to turn our attention away from worldly treasures and start to invest in heavenly treasure. Constant simran and focused meditation require the same thing – attention.
We have to divert our attention from its habitual haunts and instead focus it on the Master and on spiritual goals. He gives us simran as the means to this end. When he initiates us, the Master gives us those five holy words or names that we can use day and night to try to turn our thoughts, our attention, to him. In Sar Bachan Poetry we read:
Keep the fear of death in your mind,
for who knows when that moment will arrive!
Stay alert with every breath of your life,
O thoughtless one,
and devote every moment to the repetition of the Name.
This is the challenge that faces us all. This is the task we need to set our hearts and minds to with a degree of attention we have never exercised before. What is required of us is unbroken attention at the eye focus throughout the day and night. When the mind is not engaged in necessary worldly activities and thoughts, it has got to be in simran. Eventually, Masters tell us, the simran can go on even while we are engaged with the world.
This is the goal, and like all such goals, it will start with small, baby steps for most of us – where one single round of unbroken simran can be considered something of a triumph! There are so many worldly activities that have claimed our attention for so long that it is a monumental task to redirect it. But slow and steady will win the race, and the Master is always within us, watching and helping as we take our first, faltering steps.
There is no doubt that we are all in the exit lounge, simply waiting for him to call our flight that will mark the end of this present earthly existence. But we don’t know where we are in the queue. Who knows when our Master will call our name? Will we be ready? Have we given him our attention and started to build our treasure in heaven?
Sant Tukaram said:
Hurry up, don’t waste time!
Don’t postpone it until tomorrow;
don’t waste a moment on anything.
Time is running short, you can be sure!
Many Voices, One Song
We have been given so many gifts – human life; initiation by a true living Master; his constant presence in our lives; and his promise that we can do this job. So, what are we waiting for?
We know we have this priceless commodity called attention. Now is the time to put it to best possible use, by directing it in our Master’s direction. Now is the time to give him what he wants most – our attention.