Meditation is Medicine
The answer is meditation – so what’s the question?
Well, it’s just about every question we could ask the Master! What it all boils down to is this one thing: meditation. We can cut it any which way we want, we can angle our questions from this way or that. But the answer is always meditation.
When we get back from Dera and we are asked, So what did Master say, what was the big message, what were the headlines of the visit? – we will say, He said we should do our meditation! And they will say, Oh yes, of course meditation – we all know that – but what else was said, was there anything different, anything really interesting?
We seem to not want to hear this single message that the Masters have always given. We like things to be complex – to be ‘interesting,’ to stimulate our mind – when what we really need to do is subdue the mind, take control of our senses, get control of our lives and fulfil our potential – to become one with Him. So the answer to all our problems is plain and simple: we should do our meditation.
As Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh said, “Meditation (bhajan) is the panacea for all ills.”1 The word ‘panacea’ means a universal remedy that cures all illnesses. Put plainly: meditation is the universal cure for the universal illness we all suffer from. No matter who we are, whatever colour or creed, whether male or female, rich or poor, we all are suffering in this physical creation.
The Maharashtrian mystic Eknath says:
The Name of God – the one pure medicine
for every disease of the mind, heart and body.
First it ends our suffering,
then sweetness and freedom
come to bow before the patient.
Nothing else is needed, says Eknath –
just keep the name of
Ram rolling on your tongue,
enjoy a diet of pure deeds
and give yourself to the master doctor.2
So let’s try to understand what we are suffering from. Our illness, the biggest problem we have, is that we are all mental cases! We’re ‘mental’– we’re under the sway of mind, which is in turn a victim of the senses. We need to be spiritual, not mental! The soul, a princess of royal blood, has taken the company of a lowly sweeper, the mind, and become his slave. She now lives in this hovel of the world eating swill, when in truth she should be living in a palace and dining on nectar.
Nothing here will ever make us happy for long, worldly pleasure is short-lived and ends in misery, and then the karmic chains just bind us more tightly to this creation. Sahjo Bai says:
The rich, without exception,
are distressed and distraught.
And the poor, what to say of their lot?
Their misery and sorrow know no bound.
Blessed are sadhus
who the great secret have found.3
The ‘great secret’ that the sadhus, the true holy men, have found is the path back to the creator, the means by which the soul can connect to the divine Word that lies within, and by means of that divine Word travel back to its true home.
So the ills that the Master is talking about curing are not physical; he’s specifically talking about what sits at the heart of the suffering, the mental and spiritual anguish we all feel as a result of the soul being ‘infected’ by the mind. This is the root cause of suffering; all else is a symptom of this malignant disease of being dominated by the mind. Hazur Maharaj Ji says:
The soul suffers along with the mind – the soul doesn’t suffer without the mind. When the soul has no association with the mind, the soul doesn’t suffer at all. But then it takes the association of the mind, and of course it is suffering.
You see, the soul has an inclination towards its own origin. It’s always yearning to go back to the Father. So that suffering of separation is always there. But it forgets the Father because it has taken association of the mind, and mind has become a slave of senses. The soul starts suffering, being a slave of the senses.4
The source of all suffering and our chronic condition comes from the separation of the soul from its source, the Father. This separation is caused by the mind, and the ego. The belief we have of ourselves as separate entities existing apart from the Father – this is the grand illusion.
And meditation is the medicine that the master doctor administers to cure us of this condition. The Master has perfectly diagnosed our condition, its cause and the effects it has had on us; he is therefore able to prescribe the perfect medicine to cure us – and cure us forever. Hazur says:
Meditation is the solution to all our problems. Instead of putting up your list of demands, put up your meditation. Then you will rise above those problems and they won’t affect your mind at all. You will never be able to solve the problems of the world. But we always rise above those problems so that they don’t affect us, they don’t bother us, they become meaningless to us. Meditation helps; that is the real solution to those problems.5
The problem is that most of us don’t know that we are critically ill – that mankind’s general condition is so very far away from what it should be. The potential of being truly human is to be God-realized, at one with the Father. When the Master tells us that we should aim to be good human beings, this is an invitation to fulfil our potential, to experience an exalted state. Our soul is unlimited and immortal, but because of the association with the mind we remain limited and mortal.
Being mortal, we all have in common one thing: one day we’re all going to die. We are born to die. Who knows what will happen to us next? But the one sure thing we know about being human is that we will one day die. No one gets out of here alive!
If a doctor were to diagnose us with an incurable illness tomorrow, he might tell us that we only have so many months left to live. Think. How would we react – honestly – how would we feel to get that news? To hear those words said about us, well, most of us would be terribly shaken. The impact surely would be that we would reflect on our lives, reassess our priorities and make sure we focused on what was truly important to us. And that would be? Meditation.
If you search the internet you will find many versions of the ‘bucket list,’ or it may be titled “100 Things to Do Before You Die.” People post their own versions of what they would like to do before they leave this life behind. It’s an interesting list, almost all items relating to worldly pursuits, travel, action sports, etc. Basically it's a list of those people’s unfulfilled desires and their pursuit of sensual indulgence.
But for us satsangis it should be very different. The only item we need in that bucket is not a list at all, it’s one item and one item only. The one thing we need to do before we die is to die. To die daily, as Saint Paul said, to practise separating ourselves from the limitations and constraints of the body and mind and go within and commune with the divine.
We need to wake up and smell the coffin! And die to live, not just live to die.
So it’s not about a list of things we need to get done; neither are we here to change the world or make a dent in the universe, to make a big impression on the world. We’re here to change ourselves. No one else – just ourselves! The only dent we need to make is in the cushion that we sit on when we meditate. If we really want to make a good impression, well that’s it!
The Master asks us to sit in meditation daily. Sitting. We can all sit; look, we’re doing it right now. It’s really easy. Most of us have travelled here from the four corners of the world. We sat in a taxi to the airport, we sat on a plane for five, ten, maybe fifteen hours, then we sat on a train, and we’re sitting now. We can do it. None of us can say we can’t sit. As the saying goes: Don’t just do something, sit there!
And once we're sitting, we can just close our eyes and do our simran, simply repeat those five holy names that the Master has given us. We can surely put in that much effort. It's a journey to the inner heavens – it’s not rocket science, it’s spiritual science!
So why do we struggle so hard to do this simple thing that will end all our suffering, that is truly for our benefit? We make it difficult for ourselves by putting impossible demands on ourselves. We say to ourselves, What is the point of sitting – our meditation is so bad and only good meditation counts! But we should remember that we’re all works in progress, not the finished article!
Where does it say that we have to sit and do ‘good meditation?’ We are simply asked to sit and do our simran – to put in the effort for two hours, then for half an hour try to listen to the sound, the Shabd. Master himself has said there is no good or bad meditation – it is only meditation. No one is in a position to challenge the efficacy of the medicine that the divine doctor has prescribed until they have taken it fully, as prescribed.
We can make up all kind excuses why we have not done what we promised to do, reasons why we can’t meditate; but to my knowledge no one has yet found fault with it when they have actually diligently followed the Master’s instructions. No one has ever got up to the microphone and said to the Master, I sit every day in meditation for two and a half hours, I completely still my body and mind to such an extent that they appear dead to me, I repeat the five holy names continuously with one-pointed attention, and yet I have heard nothing, nor have I seen the light.
That won’t happen. Sant Mat is the science of the soul, it’s absolute and empirical. What the Master has prescribed for us will get certain results so long as we put in the effort and perform the spiritual exercises precisely as he has told us. Maharaj Jagat Singh Ji advised us to enter the laboratory of the body and perform the experiment for ourselves.
It is possible. The medicine of meditation will cure us all. Our part is to take the medicine, and it will cure us. Just sit every day and put in the effort – that is our part of the deal.
The perfect Masters always and exclusively prescribe meditation. This is the path of Surat Shabd Yoga, the most effective treatment in eradicating the soul’s entanglement with the mind. But what is sweet to the mind and senses is poison to the soul, and what is sweet to the soul is poison to the mind and senses. At first, because of the gross nature of our minds, the medicine seems bitter and hard to swallow, but it is for our own good. Hazur gives an analogy:
Our concept of love and kindness is that whatever we want, we should get. But sometimes the mother has to put bitter quinine in the mouth of the child. And the child has to swallow it, in his interest. But there can be no better love than the mother for the child.6
The Maharashtrian mystic Bahinabai says:
Saints are wondrous physicians
who cure the disease of the world.
Listen, I’ll tell you their method –
with the smallest bit of medicine
they cure all the soul’s sickness.
The diet they prescribe is free of sense pleasures,
but full of love and devotion for the Lord.
Knowing the patient’s inner condition, says Bahina,
the doctors vouch for this one method.7
When friends and family who aren’t familiar with Sant Mat ask us about where we are going when we come here, some of us may find it difficult to really explain what our visit is all about. Well, why not tell them the truth, but in a way that they will understand? We can tell them we're going in to rehab! Like those celebrities we read about in our newspapers and see on the news programmes. When they can no longer function in a normal manner, when their fast lifestyles catch up with them, they need rehabilitation. They need to be reset, re-calibrated to start to behave normally again – or relatively normally in many of their cases.
Just as with a computer or piece of technology that gets overloaded or has too many conflicting applications or programmes running, you have to return them to their original factory settings – how the manufacturer originally intended them to behave. We’re just the same. For us to be what we were designed to be, we need to get rid of all these coverings, the senses, the bad habits, the attachments and so forth and be as we should naturally be – True Human Beings, version 1.0. We need the manufacturer, our Creator, to reset us. We need to access the Inspiration Super Highway and download Shabd. We need to meditate.
That’s why we’ve come to Dera – we’re here for rehab. We need to be rehabilitated, recalibrated, to be reminded how to regain our spiritual health. We’ve got to clean up our act, come out from the shadows and into the light. When we get home we can attend the Support Group meetings with our fellow sufferers – or satsang as we know it. This is essential if we are to maintain our recovery.
Both Maharashtrian poets quoted earlier talked about the importance of diet. This means not just what we eat, but what we take in to ourselves, the impressions we make on our minds. The Masters say that we take on the colour of the company we keep. We should therefore keep good company. Adopt a way of life that moves us towards healing, that creates an environment that helps us build our resistance to the effects of the mind and its diseased behaviour.
Simply put: if we wish to cure ourselves of our illness, the same illness we have been suffering from for countless lives, then we must start doing things differently. Otherwise our behaviour is just madness or insanity. The definition of insanity is: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
The panacea for all ills, the medicine that will finally relieve us from our suffering, like all medicines has to be prescribed by a qualified person, an expert in the field. Such a one is the perfect living Master. He knows precisely what our condition is and how to administer the cure.
And for that we need a living physician, a living Master. Just as in the case of a physical ailment, a doctor from the past (and long dead) cannot help the living beings of today. It seems, on the surface at least, that the challenges of contemporary society are not covered by medical texts of old. And the same goes for spirituality. The human condition is the same as it has always been, but the specifics of modern day society have their impact on how we navigate the challenges of this time – and so we need a living doctor.
When we go to a regular doctor to treat our physical illness we go because we have faith in him and the treatment he recommends. He gives us a prescription; firstly we acquire the medicine and secondly, and most importantly, we take the medicine and follow the treatment as he has prescribed it.
Just imagine this. You go to visit an old friend, who on your last visit a year earlier had been suffering from a terrible cough. At the time he told you that he was going to the doctor the next day to have it looked at and to get some medicine. When you visit him now a year later he greets you at the door and still has the same hacking cough – actually it’s even worse than before.
I thought you were going to get that seen to, weren’t you? you say.
Well yes. I did.
And what did the doctor say?
He then points to a bottle on the sideboard and says, He prescribed that medicine.
Well, it clearly hasn’t worked, you say. How long have you been taking it?
Oh, I’ve never actually taken it, he replies. You see, I took the prescription to a pharmacist, who gave me the medicine with the instructions that it should be taken once a day until my condition approved.
So I waited and waited, day after day, but the doctor never came to put the medicine in the spoon and lift it to my mouth. And so I’m still suffering! In fact I’m beginning to wonder whether the medicine is right for me at all!
Foolish, yes, but do we behave any better? We have a part to play in all this; we need to put in the effort. Hazur says:
When Master initiates us, puts us on the path, he tells us to devote time to meditation. If we really love him, we will obey him. We cannot say we love him and, and at the same time, not obey his instructions, not live the life he instructs us to live. That is not love for the Master. If we really have faith in him, if we really love him, we will want to do what he wants us to do. And he wants us to meditate; therefore we should also try to meditate.8
Without taking the medicine, without devoting ourselves to the meditation, we cannot expect to be cured. We must take it as prescribed. The dosage is clearly indicated by the Master: to meditate in the manner prescribed at initiation for a minimum of two and a half hours a day. That’s a minimum dosage. As our capacities increase, the Master says meditation can be carried out throughout the twenty fours of the day. And such is our chronic condition that the minimum dosage must be taken for the rest of our lives. The moment we were prescribed the meditation at initiation was pre-ordained, and therefore the length of treatment until death is exactly the course of treatment we should follow.
Let us consider another point. As we know with many prescription drugs, there can be considerable side effects, and so it is with meditation. There are actually two effects to deal with – side effects and inside effects. With meditation, in both cases the effects are all positive. Positive in the true sense – that they help us towards our goal. Hazur tells us:
Meditation changes the very attitude of our life. That’s different from what we achieve within and how far we still have to go, but meditation definitely changes our attitude towards to life. You see, even if we don’t experience anything within, but we attend to meditation, we at least can enjoy the fragrance of meditation, if not the experience of meditation. A blind man goes to a garden full of scented flowers. If he can’t enjoy the beauty of the flowers, at least he can enjoy the fragrance. So meditation changes our outlook on life.
And here’s the most wonderful list of side effects you could wish for:
It makes us humble. It makes us more loving, more kind, more god-fearing. We don’t try to deceive anybody, cheat anybody, hurt anybody. In so many molds of our life. If we do anything wrong, it weighs on our conscience and we try to get rid of our guilt. These are the effects of our meditation, and if one is lucky enough to enjoy the experience, there is nothing like it.9
Meditation goes to the heart of our problem – our separation from the creator. It re-connects us to him via the Shabd. Rather than mask our pain as an aspirin or Paracetamol would and hide the pain from us, it removes the cause of our pain. It returns us to our natural state – our real state, one where the soul is in charge of the mind and the mind is in charge of the senses.
Through meditation we will gain that true experience that will change us forever, we will have gone from mere concepts to reality. As the present Master has often said: Knowledge applied leads to experience, and experience leads to understanding. Hazur says:
If a disciple regularly does his duty towards his lord, with love and devotion, he will realize that the Master guides and protects him at every step, that the Master is always with him – not only in this life but also helps him at death and throughout eternity. So take a pledge from today that whether your mind likes it or not, you will give a full two and a half hours to simran and bhajan every day, preferably in the early morning hours. Regularity is most essential for spiritual progress. You must do your duty without asking anything in return.
Do not mind whether you see any light within or not, or whether the sound is audible. You simply do your duty and leave the results to the Master. When a man pays wages to one who works for him, do you think that the Lord would not do so? He alone knows what is good for us and when it is to be given. He will pay in abundance. Have faith in him.10
So, let’s all keep taking the medicine.
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Divine Light, letter 312
- Eknath in Many Voices, One Song, p.175
- Maharaj Jagat Singh, Science of the Soul, p.37
- Maharaj Charan Singh, Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. I, p.131
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, p.212
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, p.18
- Bahinabai in Many Voices, One Song, p.272
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, p.290
- Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. III, p.376
- Divine Light, letter 107