It’s All About Stepping Up - RSSB Satsangs & Essays Download | Print

It’s All About Stepping Up

There was a farmer who owned an old mule. One day the mule fell into the farmer’s well and the farmer heard the mule braying for its life. After assessing the situation, the farmer sympathizing with the mule, figured out a way to raise the mule from the well and save its life. Therefore, he called his neighbors together and enlisted their help in carrying sand to fill in the well and slowly raise the mule.

The mule didn’t understand what was going on and thought the people were trying to bury him by throwing sand down the well. But as the neighbours continued shovelling and the sand hit his back, a thought suddenly struck the mule. It dawned on him that every time a shovel load of sand landed on his back, he could shake it off and step up.

And, this is what he did. Shovel after shovel of sand he repeated to himself; “Shake it off and step up, shake it off and step up.” He repeated this to himself over and over again, and no matter how distressing the situation seemed, the old mule fought “panic and fear” and simply kept right on shaking it off and stepping up!

It wasn’t long before the old mule, battered and exhausted, stepped triumphantly over the wall of that well. What appeared would bury him, in the end saved him, all because of the way he handled his seemingly looming adversity. He simply stepped up!

This little tale is a reminder for all of us on the spiritual path, of the kind of mental discipline we need to achieve our goal of God-realization.

When we are first initiated, we vow to meditate for two and one half hours every day for the rest of our lives, because our aim is liberation of our soul and the desire to return to our Creator and merge in Him. And it’s through our simran and bhajan that we are taught by our Master that we will eventually master our mind and achieve this, because simran and bhajan is the life blood that will fuel our inner development.

However, this is not as easy as it sounds because our mind is powerfully attached to this world and all it has to offer. Our feeble attempts to rein in our mind appear futile at times.

We may even imagine that the commitment it takes to master our mind is just too much and we give up the struggle. Maharaj Charan Singh Ji explains why:

At present the mind dances to the tune of the senses. They have completely enslaved it. But when the mind becomes completely absorbed in the inner light, and constantly hears the sound of the divine music and thereby reaches its own place of origin, namely Trikuti, our soul will be released from its vicious grip.1

Guru Nanak said:

If you seek to play the game of Love,
  enter my Path with your head upon your palm.
Once you set your foot on this Path,
  offer your head, and do not flinch.2

In other words, if this is something we really want for ourselves, we won’t give up when things seem difficult, but continue to step up in the most determined way, because overcoming the mind is no easy task.

Perhaps an incident that took place some years ago in a televised circus act with Bengal tigers, which was broadcast live, might provide us with further clarity on the mind’s power and how to control it. A tiger trainer went into a cage with some tigers to do a routine performance. The door was locked behind him, the spotlights lit up the cage, the television cameras moved in close, and the audience watched in suspense as the trainer put the tigers through their act.

However, in the middle of the performance, the lights suddenly went out! For twenty or thirty seconds the man was locked in the dark cage with the Bengal tigers and only a whip and a chair. The tigers could see the trainer, but he couldn’t see them!

After the lights went back on the trainer was discovered to be safe. Later he was asked in an interview how he felt during his situation in the cage. He admitted that at first he felt a chilling fear, but then he realized that the tigers didn’t know that he was unable to see them. He said, “I just kept cracking my whip and talking to them until the lights came on again.”

So how does this incident relate to Sant Mat and mastery over the mind? First, a smart trainer knows what tools he needs to fend off an attack and make the tigers obey him, in this case his whip and his chair. Similarly the Master has armed us with simran and dhyan to fend off the attacks of our mind as we sit quietly in the darkness.

Therefore, just as big cat trainers use their knowledge of cat behaviour to induce certain reactions and eventually train the animals, true Masters understand what is needed to fend off an attack by the mind and for the disciples to win the "fight" with their minds. Not a literal fight, but a kind of "pushback" that allows the disciple to rise to the spiritual challenge and master the mind and its assault of downward-pulling thoughts of lust, anger, greed, attachment and ego – those five destructive tigers of our mind.

Our simran, our repetition, is our strongest “pushback” against the onslaught of our mind. Then, as our mind becomes neutralized by the pushback of simran, the shabd – through the practice of our bhajan – gradually manifests as enchanting sound and light, drawing our mind automatically inwards and upwards to the radiant form of our Master.

Our inner Master in the form of Shabd radiates such love that our mind becomes quite helpless and bound by this love, and it’s this special kind of love that we refer to in mysticism as being divine love. This love then binds the Master and disciple in the deepest and most intimate way.

However, it takes determination and discipline to achieve this outcome. We have little choice but to keep cracking our whip against those tigers of our mind, focus intently on our simran and bhajan and continue “stepping up and shaking it off.”

By Guru’s grace, God’s fear is obtained,
  and by great good fortune
  God comes and abides in the mind.
When the Lord’s fear is obtained,
  the mind is restrained, and
  through Nam, ego is burnt down.3

  1. Divine Light, p. 69
  2. Guru Granth Sahib, p. 1412
  3. Guru Granth Sahib, p. 645