You Ask for a Message
Someone once asked the Great Master to send him a special message. And the Master replied:
You ask for a message. The message is that you develop the power to withdraw your attention, at will, from the outward objects and from the physical body, and concentrate it in the eye focus.1
Here, in this letter preserved in Spiritual Gems, the Master is reminding us of what we need to do to walk on this path. His advice is the foundation of the inner path. It is a simple instruction, yet many of us find it very difficult to do. Nevertheless, we know that if we don’t take the Master’s message seriously, we won’t be able to progress or achieve anything worthwhile in this life. ‘Withdraw your attention at will from the outside world and concentrate it at the eye focus,’ the Master said. It sounds so simple.
We are reminded of the story of the Punjabi saint Bulleh Shah and his master, Inayat Shah, who was a gardener. Bulleh Shah was watching Inayat Shah as he planted onion seedlings. Inayat Shah asked him who he was, and why he had come.
Bullah replied, “Sir, my name is Bullah and I wish to know how I can realize God.” Inayat Shah said, “Why do you look down? Get up and look at me.” As soon as Bullah raised his head and looked at Inayat Shah, the Master again cast His glance, full of love, shaking Bullah to his very depths. He said, “O Bullah, what problem is there in finding God? One’s attention only needs to be uprooted from here and planted there.” This was enough for Bulleh Shah. He got what he wished for.
Inayat Shah had distilled the essence of spirituality in these few words. He conveyed to Bulleh Shah that the secret of spiritual progress lay in detaching his mind from the world outside and attaching it to God within.2
This story of Bulleh Shah puts things very simply – and makes it sound so easy – move your mind from here – to there! But we know it is a lifetime struggle to control the mind and detach it from our worldly concerns, our habits of ruminating and worrying – our favorite distractions, which we invite into our consciousness without thinking of the consequences. But we have to keep at it, to keep making effort to make that slight shift within, and eventually we will succeed. Our habits and attachments will keep pulling us outward, but we have to exert all our willpower to reverse the direction of our mind.
There are probably numerous reasons that we don’t seriously take on this challenge. Perhaps we have a fear of the unknown that makes us hesitate. Or we have gotten into a habit of minimal effort – a routine where we do just enough to dismiss any feelings of guilt, but we don’t really apply ourselves. Or, we might know it is important to put in our effort, but we’ve given up – we’ve gotten hardened and turn our backs to the Master. But the point is that we have to apply ourselves with all our might – as the Bible says, “Thou shalt love the Lord with all thy heart, all thy soul, and all thy might.” Hazur said we have to be honest in our meditation.
In Spiritual Perspectives, Hazur Maharaj Ji spells out the challenge:
It is a constant struggle with the mind. It is not so easy to control our mind when we have given it such free rein. It has been spreading into the whole world all of our life, not only in this life but also in previous lives. It has got into the habit of running out and not staying at all in its own place. So naturally, it takes time to curb it, to bring it back, to withdraw the consciousness to the eye centre. It takes time. We want to achieve this in a day or two, but we have to make a regular habit of doing it. When we form a habit of something, automatically we succeed.3
Hazur continued with the example of a child who starts trying to climb the stairs. He struggles very hard; sometimes he falls and may scrape his head, hands, and feet; he again tries and again falls, but he does not stop trying.
You see, we have all come down from the same staircase. We have come down so many steps that we do not feel that we have come from that staircase. At first, in trying to go back up, the very first step seemed like a mountain for us, but now we do not feel those steps at all. How? By regular practice. Once we have made a habit of climbing, now we climb without even being conscious of it. So we have to make a regular habit of concentrating our mind. That is why saints suggest punctuality and regularity in meditation.
Here the Master is reinforcing the importance of consistency and perseverance in our efforts – we can’t stop trying. And in order to keep trying we have to have faith that we can succeed. We have to have the persistence of a baby learning to walk.
Hazur says that our mind and attachments will always try to draw us outward. But there is a much greater pull right from within us, which will drive our attention within. He uses a forceful metaphor:
When you water a tree and a storm comes with great speed, it uproots it from the ground. So all these group meetings, this hour of discussion, the company of the saints and satsang, this atmosphere of love and devotion – all this is like watering the tree. And when that storm comes, that severe storm that is Shabd or Nam, our roots are loosened, and we are off – detached while living our life in this world.4
This is how Hazur has amplified the message of Inayat Shah. He gives us a practical method, of how we can move our attention toward the Lord. Through satsangs, books, recordings of question and answers, seva – by being enveloped in the atmosphere of love and devotion. These are all means to help to pull our mind away from the world and take us within – to loosen the roots of our attachments. He wants us to help us change the focus of our attention! He is showering his love and grace – all we need to do is to exert just a minimum of effort. We need to respond to his inner pull and not turn our backs. Hazur says:
Actually it is the Lord who pulls us from within. We are so tied down with the attachments of this creation that it becomes difficult for us to take even one step. We are so engrossed in this creation, so attached to this creation. Our roots have gone so deep into this creation that it is not so easy to uproot them. So even our one step is a great step. Without his grace, we can never get out of this creation. So even our one step is sufficient for him to pull us.5
Here Hazur is explaining why it is so difficult. Because our roots have gone so deep into the world. But, he is consoling us: Just a minimum of effort will create the momentum we need and provoke his grace. “Even our one step is sufficient for him to pull us.”
Now, the Great Master, in this same letter we read from earlier, describes what we will encounter when we go within. He writes:
Enter the astral world, make contact with the Astral Form of the Master, become very intimate with him, make him your companion, catch the sound current, cross the mind planes, and reach your eternal spiritual home in Sach Khand – so that your wanderings in the worlds of mind and matter may end. Do it now, while alive. This is the purpose of human life.
He is saying that when we go within, we will enter the astral world, and there we will see the radiant form of our Master – this is his true form, his Shabd form. His physical form is temporary – it draws us to the spiritual path, to seek his company, but ultimately we have to attach ourselves to his Shabd form. He describes how we do this. We have to become “intimate” with him – this is lovely, he is saying that the master’s love for us is so strong, so deep, so overwhelming, that we can develop a true intimacy with him – not the kind of physical intimacy we may experience with people we meet in this world, with our friends and family, but a true spiritual intimacy ... No language is needed to express this spiritual love. Just devotion. He says: “make him your companion” – he is our true lover. Our reliable friend. Our companion on this journey through life.
How can we realize that he is our everlasting companion? He has said that “our practice will lead us to the real master within, where there is no separation.” As Great Master wrote in another letter:
If you reply that you want to come to India for seeing your Guru, then it should be noted that the physical frame is not the real form of the Guru. It is a mere dress he has put on in this world and which will be put off here. The true form of the Guru is holy Sound, and in that form the Guru permeates every hair on your body and is seated within you. When you go above the eyes, then the Guru will meet you in his Radiant Form, and when you reach Trikuti, the Guru will accompany you in his Sound Form, even up to Sach Khand. Fly upwards upon the wings of faith and love, so you may talk to him every day and be with him always. This will come gradually, so you need not despair. Perform your devotion regularly, and one day all these powers shall be yours and you shall reach your true home.6
“Fly upwards upon the wings of faith and love so that you may talk to him every day and be with him always.” That’s the entire inner path in a nutshell. When we experience the sound current, then the Shabd, our true and intimate companion, will meet us and guide us back to our eternal home.
Yet, the Great Master warns us to buckle down and make effort. In the first letter quoted earlier, he says:
If progress in this line has not been made, life has been spent in vain.
This is his message. If we don’t do this now, we have wasted our life. He’s given us the key, the instruction, the message. But we have to put it to use. If we don’t, we’re like the student who registers for a course in college, but when the final exam rolls around, she realizes she never attended class or read the textbook. What a nightmare!
If we don’t do our meditation, live the Sant Mat way of life, and keep our simran in mind, then it’s “we” who have wasted our lives. We have created our own nightmare. He’s given us all the tools and guidance we need to journey on this path. It is our responsibility to act on it.
Great Master spells out the importance of choosing the spiritual life over worldly gain and success. In the same letter, he says:
It is not difficult to acquire worldly fame, wealth, kingdom, and miraculous power, but it is difficult to turn away one’s attention from these and go inside to catch the sound current.
Here the master is reminding us of our priorities: We work very hard to achieve in our profession, to satisfy our ambitions, but he’s saying that all this is easy when compared to detaching our mind from this web of worldly involvement and turning it to the sound current. Yet that is our real purpose! It is the struggle of a lifetime, as Hazur often said.
As we get older, we know how the mind tenaciously holds on to everything external to our essential nature – like a snake that curls around a tree – it can strangle it. The mind needs to be hacked away. Hazur points us to a beautiful example given by Guru Nanak, of the sandalwood tree – it has a good fragrance, and it’s very cooling. As Hazur explained:
Snakes have a lot of poison in them, and the effect is very hot. So they always coil around the sandalwood because they like the coolness and the fragrance of the tree. Now, if you want to take a branch of the tree, how can you go near it, because the snake is there? So Guru Nanak says that if you take a sword in your hand and cut the snake into pieces, then the whole tree is yours.
So this human body is like a sandalwood tree. The fragrance of the Lord is there within us, always, and this life is the most precious opportunity given to us, but the snake-mind has coiled around it. So unless the mind is captured and subdued, you cannot get what the Lord has kept within every one of us.
So Guru Nanak says: Go to a mystic; he will give you the sword of Nam. Cut that snake of your mind with your sword of Nam, and then whatever treasure the Lord has kept within you is all yours. There’s no other way to capture the mind, to subdue the mind, to fight with these passions, without the help of meditation, because it is the mind which runs to the senses. Right from the eye centre, the senses are pulling you to their own level.7
Hazur reminds us:
It’s a constant struggle with the mind. It’s not a question of one year or two; it’s a constant struggle with the mind. Unfortunately, we are not aware of how many ages the mind has been running out, and how much effort and time it will take to withdraw from all that and come to the eye centre. But it is worth the game. We have to cut our roots that keep us in this world.8
And we can do it, Hazur is saying, we just have to make that effort, with faith that success is possible. The Lord has put us here in this world but he has given us the means to rise above it. We just have to play the game.
Now Hazur uses the analogy of cutting away, not just for the snake-mind that is coiled around our soul, but for the roots of our attachments to this world.
Connecting with shabd is giving you an axe. Now cut the roots of the tree. If you won’t use the axe, then what is the use? A farmer takes an axe to pull out a tree, to cut its roots, but if he doesn’t want to use the axe, doesn’t want to labour, doesn’t want to work hard, how can he cut the tree and cut the roots of the tree? He has to work. He has to use the axe.
So mystics equip us to fight with our mind, fight with our attachments to the creation, and we have to play our part. … The soldier can’t tell his general to come and fight in the front lines for him. We have to do our part. Meditation will help you to uproot yourselves from this creation.9
Now the Great Master, in his original letter, again outlines the kind of discipline we need on this path; it is the secret of progress. He says:
Love, faith, and perseverance make the path easy and possible to attain the unattainable.
By persevering we will develop faith, and that faith will allow us to persevere. And it is love that powers us all the way so we can “attain the unattainable.” Through worldly means, our goal is unattainable, but through the love and grace of the master everything can be attained. For example, sometimes the master gives us a seva to do that we know is way beyond our capacity. Yet with his grace we can do it. He has confidence in us, and if we rely on him, we can accomplish anything! We can even move mountains. Hazur once said:
With your faith you can move the Creator of the mountains, what to say of mountains. Who created the universe? Who created the mountains? The Lord. By your faith in him, you can move him. You can become him. If you become him, you can move anything.10
He is saying that by catching hold of the Shabd, we become Him, and then we have all the power of the Lord. So, with love, faith and perseverance, we can easily follow the path and attain the unattainable. We may think we’ll never be able to control the mind, but over and over he demonstrates to us that his love will see us home. We won’t be able to control the mind forcibly, with austerities, mental disciplines, and other extreme measures, but we will if we look to him, follow his instructions to meditate, and stick to the vows.
Now Great Master comes back to the foundation of the entire path, as he has advised us at the beginning of the original letter:
I shall be glad to hear how far you have succeeded in making your attention steady in the eye focus and how far your body becomes unconscious.
And that is the whole point – that when we take our attention to the eye focus, all our worldly concerns, our obsessions and attachments – all will recede into the background, and only He will exist for us –
To conclude, let us repeat the message Great Master sent at the beginning of his letter:
The message is that you develop the power to withdraw your attention, at will, from the outward objects and from the physical body, and concentrate it in the eye focus.
He encourages us by saying:
Love, faith, and perseverance make the path easy and possible to attain the unattainable.
Do it now, while alive. This is the purpose of human life.
- Spiritual Gems, ltr #89
- J.R. Puri & T.R. Shangari, Bulleh Shah, RSSB, 2010, p.9
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, #382
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, #483
- Spiritual Gems, ltr #141
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, #156
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, #393
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, #546
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, #176