Shifting Our Consciousness
We tend to think of the spiritual path as a linear journey toward a distant goal. But we don’t actually “go” anywhere. In the words of a contemporary Sufi teacher: “The spiritual journey is a closed circle of love in which we slowly come closer to the center of ourself, which is always present. In this journey there is no ‘progress’ but a shifting of consciousness that unveils our own essential nature.”1
Our essential nature is Shabd, the universal, dynamic power of love that is God. The traveler on the path, the path itself, and the destination are all one.
We’re engaged in “a shifting of consciousness,” one that reveals the truth of ourselves, the truth of the Master, and the truth of the Shabd – which are all the same truth. This shift is not accomplished by willpower; it happens naturally as our ego dissolves and as we become detached from the world. And that happens through attending to our meditation and going through our karmas
Meditation enables us to transform, and that transformation takes place in spite of ourselves. “Through meditation our own attitude changes towards everybody, and we feel that bliss and happiness within ourselves,”2 Hazur said.
That is the measurement we can make, by which we feel that we are progressing in meditation.… We don’t get so easily upset. We take life easier and accept God’s will as life comes. So our life changes in that way – that advantage you can feel, but you can’t say how much [progress] you have already covered and how much is left.3
We’re a bit like mud. Mud may be dirty, but it is soft and malleable. If we continue making the effort to meditate, we too become soft and malleable, even if we don’t look very clean. In fact, this business of self- and God-realization is very messy. Our so-called failures, our mistakes and shortcomings, make up the compost that erodes our ego, punctures our self-importance, and enables us to learn and grow. We come to realize that this isn’t our game; it’s the Lord’s game – his custom-designed plan to help us work off our karmas as efficiently as possible and merge with the Creator.
Our part in this process is getting out of our own way. We do this by training our minds, which is another way of saying shifting our perspective or shifting our consciousness. Hazur says in Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III:
We have to face situations at every step in this life, and at every step … we have to explain to our mind to accept whatever comes in our fate smilingly, cheerfully – why grumble? It’s a constant training of the mind…. If we always feel perturbed with every little thing, then how can we concentrate, how can we meditate? … We have to forget; we have to forgive; we have to train our mind to take things easily, lightly, to laugh them away, ignore them. This is all training the mind.”4
We tend to do the opposite: We take ourselves and the events of our lives very seriously, and we evaluate what happens to us according to what we think should happen or how we think our lives ought to be. This mismatch between our expectations and reality gives us continual opportunities to shift our perspective and “see things rightly,” as Hazur used to say – to realize that everything that happens in our life is for our ultimate benefit.
We tend to see events in our life as good or bad. But, as Hazur once said, if we just see the world and our lives “as a creation of the Creator, as a whole, then nothing is good or bad here at all.… There is nothing wrong with the creation. But we have our own angle through which we see it.”5
So again, he’s referring to our angle of vision, our perspective. How can we change it?
Meditation is nothing but training our mind to accept or to live in the Lord’s will. That is the object of meditation: to surrender to him, to keep us in any way he likes…. If we leave it to the Father, if we live in his will, he knows best what to give us. We just prepare ourselves to accept what he gives. Then what is there to worry about? The purpose of meditation is just for that. The purpose of meditation is to train ourselves to adopt that attitude.6
Hazur often used the analogy of the potter working with a lump of clay on a potter’s wheel. The Lord is the potter, and the disciple is the lump of clay that he is trying to shape. As the clay spins on the wheel, the potter supports it from within, with one hand applying firm, steady pressure, while his other hand shapes the clay from outside with pats, slaps, and harder pressure. In this analogy, on the outside we might feel as if we’re getting pounded or slapped around – this is us undergoing our karmas, which we ourselves have created in previous lives. But once we’re initiated, there is always that firm, steady hand of the Master supporting us from within, while we are undergoing the ups and downs of life.
We have a choice: What do we focus on? Do we focus on the slaps and poundings we receive while paying off our karmic debts, or on that inner support? After all, Baba Jaimal Singh wrote to his disciple, the Great Master: “The Satguru, in his Shabd-form, is always by your side…. Every moment he is calling us within and showering us with his protection and grace.”7 And the Great Master wrote, “The inner Master gives all the grace and help that the disciple is capable of receiving.”8
So, if we have to do anything on this path, it is to increase our capacity to receive whatever the Master wants to give us – that is, to live in the Lord’s will. Meditation is the only thing that makes that possible. Not “good” meditation, not concentrated meditation, just plain old “whatever” meditation. Just showing up, every day, and then continuing throughout the day repeating the names as often as we can, until they become like background music, always streaming through our minds in one continuous loop.
One of our problems is that even if we intellectually believe that the Master is supporting us, we don’t always feel it. This is a matter of faith. How do we have faith in what we’ve never seen? The Master tells us that we can have real faith only when we see his inner form, when we realize who the Master really is and what he does for us. Until then, our faith is shaky at best.
We can’t talk about faith without talking about doubt. It’s natural to have doubt – it’s part of being human, part of having a mind. As our experience grows in meditation, we gain direct perception, and then our doubts are dispelled. In the meantime, we have to accept doubt as part of the human condition.
So, until we have direct perception of the truth, and if doubt is part of the human condition, how can we trust the Master and how can we have faith in the path?
One honest, desperate initiate told Hazur that she wasn’t able to trust anyone, not even the Master. He replied: “Have trust in meditation, and other things will automatically be taken care of.”9
Having trust in meditation is no mystical sleight-of-hand; it’s just doing it, like flossing our teeth every night because our dentist told us that it’s good for our teeth. We want to keep our teeth, so we figure: Okay, I’ll do it. It is not blasphemy to say that we can approach our meditation in a similarly mundane way: Just do it, however you can manage it, and the rest automatically will be taken care of.
C.S. Lewis, a 20th-century British writer who converted to Christianity as an adult after having been an atheist, had something to say about this dilemma of trust and faith, which is both a human and a spiritual problem:
Faith … is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. Now that I am a Christian, I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist, I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they can get off,’ you can never be either a sound Christian [in our case, a disciple] or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion.10
Telling our moods “where they can get off” is training the mind. We have to ground our beliefs in action, in spite of our changing moods. Faith is the bridge between our vacillating minds and the propositions we have accepted as true. But we must walk on that bridge of faith – that is, we must do something. The action that will take us to the safety of the shore – to the conviction that comes from experience, which is the only thing that can confirm our beliefs – is meditation.
Faith is the scaffolding that can support us until we have direct experience of the truth of this path. Real faith comes with experience, through meditation; until then the mind is shaky. First, Hazur tells us: “we have to build intellectual faith in the philosophy. And in the light of the philosophy, we have to weigh the master. And then real faith will come only when you practice.”11
The Masters tell us that if we meditate, we do start seeing signs that we are headed in the right direction. We start feeling that something is happening, even if we don’t know what, and that strengthens our faith so that we can continue on the path. We may not have reached our destination, but we have glimmers of some presence within. But without action, we can never gain the experience that will corroborate our faith.
It’s very interesting that faith – which we think of as a feeling – actually has to start with the mind. Hazur writes:
Without faith in the mind you cannot experience faith of the soul. This emotion, this faith, it has to start with the mind. Soul always has faith in the Father. Soul is always yearning to become one with the Father. Soul is full with love and devotion for the Father. It is the mind which is holding it back. So faith, to begin with, has to start with the mind.12
Faith starts with the mind, and yet there is something else that pulls us within. To one initiate Hazur wrote:
I do not wonder if the idea of future prospects sometimes fills you with anxiety. It is but natural as long as we depend entirely on our own resources. But in this matter, too, while following the path which prudence and experience dictates, you should depend upon the Master and not neglect any inner promptings that come to you unsought and without any effort.13
This is an invitation to depend on the Master and “not neglect any inner promptings.” Perhaps these promptings are from the Shabd form of the Master himself, pulling us toward him inside, away from our worldly fears and attachments.
A child is carefree when she knows that her parents are taking care of her every moment. How much energy might we feel, how much gratitude, how much trust, if we stopped depending entirely on our own resources? If we just got out of our own way – dropped our guilt, insecurities, and fears – and let ourselves depend on the Lord and Master as a child depends on its mother?
Professor Bhatnagar, who used to give satsang to the Westerners visiting Dera in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s, said in 1975, about fighting with the mind:
Try to take your thoughts away from undesirable ideas and bring them back to the Master. See, the mind can only think of one thing: either of lustful [worldly] thoughts or of the Master. Don’t try to fight it out…. By fighting alone and neglecting the Master, you’ll never be able to win.14
Someone once asked Baba Ji how he coped with the burden of having to bring all of Hazur’s initiates back to Sach Khand. He rolled his eyes and shrugged, shaking his head as if to say: Are you kidding me? He basically said: It’s not my problem. It’s his problem, meaning Hazur’s problem. He didn’t even address the concept of him having to do that on his own. He made it clear that it was barely his business. He put it all on Hazur, and he didn’t have a shadow of a doubt that’s where the responsibility belonged. That was an unforgettable example of true humility, of leaving everything to the Lord, of trusting his Master completely, without reservation.
Baba Jaimal Singh wrote to the Great Master: “My Son, you are not separate from my form. This is an amazing play that cannot be understood without the perfect Satguru – merely in order to transact the affairs of the world he appears as a separate body.”15
We’re already one with our Master, one with the Shabd, one with the Lord – we’re just too filled with our own karmas, desires, and attachments to realize it. But we could actually live as if this oneness were an everyday reality. “By simran and bhajan we learn to put faith in a higher power, then the burden is shared, and that makes us feel lighter,” Hazur wrote.16
No one is asking us for blind faith. Blind faith isn’t honest; it’s not based on truth, just on suppression of doubt. It’s through our meditation, through simran and bhajan, that we learn to put faith in a higher power, to lean on the Master within. It’s a process, not something that happens overnight. We weigh the Master, as he has advised us to do, and make some judgments about whether he is trustworthy. Sant Mat is not a religion; it’s not a cult. We learn through experience, through observation, whether the Master is trustworthy. He does not want us to worship him.
Trust is a delicate thing. It’s intimate. It’s not easy to let go of our defenses and open ourselves to anyone, what to say of the Master. It happens over a lifetime. Our part is to attend to our meditation and be a good human being. That’s how we can begin to place our trust in him and experience for ourselves what he is doing for us. Eventually, trust will turn into love.
In The Dawn of Light, Maharaj Sawan Singh is quoted: “The wavering and faintness in the faith, which you say at times overtake you, will cease when you have seen the Master in his glory in the focus of the eyes, that is, when the spiritual currents concentrate behind the eyes, where the Master in his resplendent form is waiting to receive you. Strive to reach that point.” And then he says, and for most of us this is the most important advice: “Until that time, go on strengthening your trust in his mercy.”17
Every day we choose to do our meditation or not. And while we are strengthening our trust in that way, we can also take the position, take it as a working hypothesis, that the Master’s mercy is trustworthy. We shouldn’t trust because we are told to, but simply, as Hazur has written, “not neglect any inner promptings that come to [us] unsought and without any effort.”
We’ve all experienced the relief that comes when we’re struggling to carry a heavy load, and someone comes along and gives us a helping hand. What a relief it is to share the weight of that burden. Emotionally, too, we feel relief when we unburden our hearts to a friend or a family member. The only reason we wouldn’t accept that person’s help would be our own pride – maybe we’re embarrassed; we don’t want to be seen as weak or imperfect.
But the whole reason we asked for initiation was to receive help. We want to shed our limited perspective and merge with the Shabd, to lose ourself in God’s love. We’ve staked our lives on the hunch, on the inner prompting, that such a thing is possible, that there’s a purpose to our lives, something more than physical existence, something more than just eating, sleeping, procreating, and earning a living.
Once several years ago someone asked Baba Ji why she felt so stuck and lonely and separate from him. He looked at her with great sadness and said that he felt like someone who was throwing out life preservers to a crowd of drowning people, and not one of them would grab hold of the preserver – they just kept thrashing about, yelling for help while ignoring the lifeline being thrown to them. All we have to do is grab that lifeline and hold on for dear life. Our grabbing hold and then holding on is our simran and bhajan, our meditation.
We can accomplish so much when we know we’re not alone. The more we lean on him, the lighter we feel. The more we turn to him for help and trust him, the more we feel that we can do what is required of us.
Hazur said once: “What more do we want if we can trust ourself to the Lord? What more do we want? If he can take care of us? If he can absolve us from all our planning, all our thinking, and he takes the destiny in his own hand – what else do we want in life? This is the most fortunate person.” His questioner then asked: “Is this what he is doing?” Hazur answered: “That is what we should accept.”18
- Llewellyn Vaughan-Lee, The Face Before I Was Born, p.142
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, # 343
- Ibid., Vol. III, p.206, #265
- Ibid., Vol. I, p.43, #43
- Ibid., Vol.II, p.117–18, #165
- Baba Jaimal Singh, Spiritual Letters, p.50, letter 30
- Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems, p.322, letter 200
- Maharaj Charan Singh, transcript of recorded session, 14 October 1986, Delhi
- C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, p.140
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, #174
- Ibid., p.126
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Sant Mat, p.239, letter 195
- Professor Bhatnagar, transcript of recorded session, 6 January 1975
- Baba Jaimal Singh, Spiritual Letters, p.82, letter 47
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Sant Mat, letter 21
- Maharaj Sawan Singh, The Dawn of Light, letter 23
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol.3, #292 (last part on audio-recording only)