The Ultimate Act of Courage
The subject of this talk is the ultimate act of courage and it is based on a question that was asked of Hazur Maharaji many years ago when the Master was asked:
What kind of heroism is required – talking about courage – what kind of heroism is required then, in our meditation?
The answer was a surprise. He said:
…..We should try to be as regular and punctual as much as we can. As a matter of routine, as a matter of duty and attend to our meditation without any excitement to see anything. It should become a part of ourselves. It should become a part of our daily duty. Then, automatically, it will start reflecting in our daily life.1
So why was this a surprise? We know that meditation is the answer to most questions, but how is it that our meditation is an act of courage?
- We may think about a soldier going into battle,
- Or an explorer climbing Mount Everest,
- Or maybe a person who is terminally ill facing death boldly.
A soldier who fights bravely is given a medal for his courage, and one who makes the ultimate sacrifice, who dies in battle, is given a special medal. An explorer who conquers Mount Everest is given a place in history for his courageous accomplishment. And a terminally ill person who succumbs after facing death with equanimity is eulogized as having shown great courage.
So if we are doing our simran and bhajan regularly and punctually with love and devotion how could that be such an act of courage? Because:
- We are that soldier, but we are fighting the most formidable and insidious of all enemies: the mind.
- We are the explorer attempting to climb the most difficult of all mountains: the mountain of light within this body.
- We are that terminally ill patient facing death, not just the death of the body but the death of the self, the ego and our separate existence which has been the cause of all of our suffering.
With regard to being a soldier Hazur was asked:
Q. Could you explain if there's any difference between being a warrior on the path and being a satsangi?
A. Being a warrior on the path is just a way of expressing the idea that you have to fight with the mind, with your senses, just as a warrior fights with the enemy, and he's not frightened, even of his death. No matter how much hardship he has to go through, he wants to fight, he looks ahead. Similarly, our attitude should be to fight with the mind, fight with our senses, fight with our weaknesses like a warrior. That's only a way of expression.
Q. So there's no distinction, then, between a warrior and a satsangi?
A. Every satsangi is a warrior.2
In response to another question about satsangis living the life of a warrior, he says:
A warrior is never frightened of death, and he sacrifices so many things. He doesn't look back at all. He never worries: What will happen to my wife, what will happen to my son, and if I'm killed, how will they live? His only aim is to fight and conquer and be victorious. Similarly, our aim in meditation should be to be like a warrior. We shouldn't worry: If I leave this creation what will happen to my children, what will happen to my wife? I've collected so much wealth — what will happen to it? We must absolutely pull our mind from all these things and be prepared to sacrifice anything to achieve our end.3
And in response to another question about meditation, he says:
The general equips his soldiers to fight the enemy, and he wants each soldier to fight. He is at the back to guide him, to equip him, to give him his ammunition, to look after all his needs, but the soldier has to fight. The soldier can't tell his general to come and fight in the front lines for him. We have to do our part. We have to play our part. And we are equipped to play our part — we have to fight with our enemy, our mind, which is attached to this creation.4
When a boxer is described as having a “lot of heart” it means that he never gives up. He may get knocked down, but he keeps getting up to fight again. He may be bloody, but he doesn’t stop. He gives it everything he has and even if he loses the fight, he is still respected for his courage and persistence.
We should approach our meditation with a “lot of heart.” The mind is so powerful, and it constantly “beats us up,” but if we approach our meditation with a “lot of heart,” we will keep coming back with our simran and dhyan. We’ll lose so many battles, but each time our will gets stronger. Our desire to reach the eye center and be with the Master increases.
We need to understand the virtue of failure. If we fail, it means we tried; and if we have tried, it means we have grown. That’s why the Great Master said, “Bring me your failures.”5 Does the child who is learning to walk fail when he falls down? It’s part of the process that leads to success. So many of the great and famous people embrace failure as the key to their success.
There was a basketball player who made it to the NBA, yet he missed more than 9,000 shots in his career. He lost over 300 games. Twenty-six times he was trusted to take the game-winning shot, and he missed. His name is Michael Jordan and he said,
I've failed over and over and over again in my life. And that is why I succeed.6
There is the story that Thomas Edison went through 10,000 experiments before he built a battery that worked. So a reporter asked him how it felt to fail 10,000 times in his efforts. “Failed?” replied Edison, “I have not failed 10,000 times – I’ve successfully found 10,000 ways that will not work.”7 So if we keep at it, eventually the mind will become motionless and we will accomplish our goal. Ultimately, we are destined to succeed.
In the meantime we have to recognize that the mind is our mortal enemy because it causes us so much pain and suffering, and it stands between us and someone we love. Shouldn’t we be angry with the mind for all its tricks, for keeping us enslaved in the world, for all the suffering it has caused us, and for keeping us away from the one we want to be with within? We have become conscious that this mind is no friend of ours. So, enough is enough! Isn’t it time to say that “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore?”
Do not feel helpless or desperate, but keep up the struggle and be brave like a soldier. Tell the mind that you are not going to yield to it any more, that you are going to lead a new life altogether.8
So as practitioners of meditation we need to say “no” to the mind when it desires anything that can set us back. We avoid the biggest setbacks by living a healthy moral lifestyle and by avoiding meat, fish and eggs, drugs and alcohol. The meditation that we practice is saying “no” to the mind at the very root – the level of thought – because the mind wants to think of something else, and we’re replacing those thoughts with simran. So we start doing simran, then we forget simran and start thinking about worldly things. Then again, we bring our mind back to simran. We just keep bringing it back – over and over again.
It's a constant struggle, because the mind wants to go back to its old habits, but with simran and dhyan we are reprogramming the mind with a new and much more beneficial habit. Great Master said:
The mind is our only enemy in this world … do not lose heart but keep on meditating. Simran is very powerful. When perfected, it has the power to stop a moving train.9
The mind is an opportunist. It waits for a moment of weakness when we let down our guard. So a satsangi needs to remain alert in every moment of every day. It would be much easier if the need to act and to be conscious was limited to one day or one moment. But for a satsangi the act of courage is done every day:
Attending to our simran and bhajan regularly and punctually.
We are also the explorer. Just as the great explorers sought to scale the highest mountains, we are seeking to climb through the mountain of this body to the apex behind the eyes. An explorer goes where few others fear to tread. He seeks to find a brave new world on the outside just as we seek to enter the world of spirit on the inside.
What distinguishes the great explorers and adventurers of the world from others? An unshakeable faith and an indomitable will. Without faith in their enterprise their work would be impossible. Without faith they would never have been able to suffer all the difficulties and hardships along the way.
In the same way, complete faith in the Master is a prerequisite for achieving spiritual progress. We begin with just a little bit of faith and trust in the Master and his teachings, which gives us the courage to do our simran and bhajan regularly and punctually. Baba Ji always says, “just do it.” He wants us to just dive in and get started. We need to put aside all our reservations and get down to it. “Complete faith” will only come from internal experience. Christ said:
If ye have faith as a grain of mustard seed, ye shall say unto this mountain, Remove hence to yonder place; and it shall remove; and nothing shall be impossible unto you.10
He is saying that if you can develop just a little faith in the Master like the amount of a mustard seed, you will get so much power within yourself that you can even move mountains from one place to another.
The Terminally Ill: Dying to Live
We are all terminally ill. We must all face death. Nobody escapes it. The fear of the unknown, and the terror of death, overshadow practically everything we do in our lives. To help us cope with the fear of death, we close our eyes to reality and take false comfort in certain illusions. The rituals of our religions also give us false hope.
The mind is capable of making us ignore our death even though we see our friends and relatives pass from this world. Intellectually we know it will happen, but we act as though we are here forever. We remain in denial, as illustrated by the famous quip:
It’s not that I’m afraid to die; I just don’t want to be there when it happens.11
The world sees death as an accident, a fluke, a tragedy, something that’s unnatural, a failure, something that’s not supposed to happen. For most people the idea of death is depressing. We find it hard to accept as we hold onto a notion that maybe there’s some way of fixing it, of putting it off, or hoping that one has some way to survive bodily dissolution. We can fix so many things in life and we can solve so many problems, but so far nobody has been able to solve the problem of death. When someone we love dies, we say, “We lost them,” as though they were ours to lose, because we live in the illusory belief that we belong to each other and that our relationships don’t come to an end. But Hazur says:
We must accept facts; the relationship is a karmic adjustment of the accounts. Somebody is a wife, somebody is a daughter – they come and go on the stage, as you hear every day in satsang. We must accept a death scene when it comes, that this drama has finished now. There's no use crying over spilt milk. We must accept facts and face life as it comes.12
We are taught the practice of "dying while living." By withdrawing our consciousness to the third eye and listening to the music of the Sound Current, the Audible Life Stream, our mind and soul together rise out of the tomb of this body and become free from it. By the grace of the Master, we cut our attachments with the world and forget all of its troubles and miseries. Hazur said:
You must withdraw to the eye center, and then you will live forever. Otherwise, you are just living to die. Every time you live, you have to die, so die to live. Learn to die so that you may begin to live, and live forever.13
Great Master wrote:
One of the benefits of the teachings of the Saints is that a disciple crosses the gate of death in a state of happiness and thus conquers it…. He loses all fear of death, for every day he crosses its gate.14
Of course it takes great courage to die while living, to let go of our hold on the world, to leave the self behind and to submit to the spiritual experience. But once we have crossed through the gate, the Master says there is no fear:
- No fear of death because we have already died.
- No fear of the unknown, because we have pierced the veil and see what lies on the other side.
- No fear of losing what we have, because we realize that we have nothing.
This is freedom! As Janis Joplin sang: “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”15
Sant Namdev wrote:
Through the Word of my Guru
I have realized my true self.
While still living, I have learned to die.
Now I have no fear of death.16
Namdev explains that by going within and hearing the Shabd we realize our true self and achieve a state of fearlessness. There is the story of the warlord who everyone feared. When he came into a village, everyone tried to leave. Those who stayed always bowed their heads out of fear for their lives. So one day as he rode into a village with his army, he noticed a beautiful temple. He entered the temple and he saw the head monk sitting very quietly in meditation. The warlord became disturbed that this monk did not bow down to him. So he pulled his sword and approached the monk. He said, “ Do you realize that I can thrust this sword right through you without batting an eye?” And the monk replied: “And do you realize that I can have a sword thrust right through me without batting an eye?”
If we study the life of any great mystic, we can see that they have achieved this state of fearlessness. Many of them were even put to death, which they faced with acceptance and equanimity. Once we achieve that state of fearlessness, there is no need for courage because courage is only needed to act in the face of fear. At that point there is only one motivation: love.
To conclude: what is it that gives us the strength and the courage to travel the spiritual path? Where does it come from? It comes from the Master. He has planted the seed of love in us. It is that seed – that pull from within – that gives us the desire and the strength to devote ourselves to our practice. This is his grace without which, as Hazur says, we could never even think of the Lord. When the love for the Master grows, it gives us the courage to do battle against the greatest of enemies, the mind, to climb up through the mountain of light within the body and to die while living, to annihilate the ego and to let go of our separateness so that we can be with our beloved. It is all by performing the ultimate act of courage:
Simran and bhajan done regularly and punctually with love and devotion.
- Audio-recording, March 31, 1984
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol 2. Beas: RSSB, 2010. #550.
- Ibid, #549
- Ibid, #546
- Ibid, #541 (quoting Maharaj Sawan Singh)
- Jeff Stibel, “Michael Jordan: A Profile in Failure” in CSQ Magazine; August 29, 2017
- Erica R. Hendry, “7 Epic Fails Brought to You By the Genius Mind of Thomas Edison,” SmithsonianMag.com, November 20, 2013
- Maharaj Charan Singh. Quest for Light. Beas: RSSB, 2002; #455
- Rai Sahib Munshi Ram, With the Three Masters, Vol. 1. Beas: RSSB, 2019; p. 363
- Matthew 17:20, Holy Bible, KJV
- Woody Allen, Death, A Comedy in One Act, New York: Samuel French, Inc. 1975.
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol 3, #469.
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live, Beas: RSSB, 1999; p. 135.
- Huzur Maharaj Sawan Singh, Dawn of Light, Beas: RSSB, 1989; p. 63
- Kris Kristofferson, “Me and Bobby McGee,” performed by Janis Joplin in 1971
- J.R. Puri and V.K. Sethi. Sant Namdev, Beas: RSSB, 2004; p. 84