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Being Still Over 3,000 Years

There is a line from Psalm 46 in the Bible that Baba Ji often quotes:

Be still and know that I am God.1

This statement speaks from a knowledge that we human beings are always in motion – that our bodies and minds are constantly moving, changing and shifting, while God is the still center around which everything turns.

Mystics have always taught that human beings are part-angel and part-animal. We have the capability of rising to the highest spiritual level – even to reuniting with God – or falling lower than animals. Our soul is the angelic part, divine in nature and pulled always in the direction of God. Our lower mind is the diabolical portion, running out into the world, captivated by the senses, hungry for experience, anxious to feel and see and taste as much as it can, yet never satisfied, ceaselessly generating new desires. And it continues creating problems so it can ponder over them and try to solve them. Lusting, craving, scheming and analyzing, it never stops.

And because it never stops, it becomes an almost insurmountable barrier that separates us from the divine world that surrounds us and permeates us. We can’t see or know that divine world because our mental activity and our ego hide it.

This is nothing new. For thousands and thousands of years, men and women have hungered to know God but have been blocked by their minds. And for thousands and thousands of years, mystics – those who have achieved first-hand knowledge of God – have taught seekers how to overcome the mind.

Let’s look at four different sources spanning 3,000 years which have described the same technique for slowing and eventually stilling the mind. We’ll start with the most recent and work backwards.

Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh instructed his disciples to do simran, or repetition, in order to control the mind, which roams ceaselessly. He is quoted in The Path:

The seat of the soul and the mind in our body lies hidden behind and between our two eyes, at a point sometimes called the third eye or single eye…. Everybody’s attention descends from this point and spreads out into the world through the nine portals of the body.

Hazur quoted Guru Ram Das:

Every minute the mind wanders, lost in delusion;
It never settles down in the til, its home…2

Hazur then continued:

Even if we were to sit in a dark room and lock the door, our mind would not stay locked up in the room; it would wander away into the whole world. The mind’s constant habit of thinking of worldly affairs, people and things is called simran (repetition) by the Masters. Everybody has this natural habit.3

Later, Hazur concluded:

The Supreme Lord is permanent and eternal. He is birthless and deathless. Those who remember him and always think of him will become immortal like him. They will end the cycle of births and deaths. We should therefore focus our attention behind the eyes by simran, as taught to us by a Master.4

So, this simran consists of the disciple repeating the five names the Master has bestowed at initiation, while holding the attention at the eye center.

In Die to Live, Hazur says the following about maintaining our focus and concentration:

Your mind should merge into the words. Your mind should become part and parcel of that simran, so that the words you repeat are not different from your mind. Then only can concentration come. If you are repeating those words, and your mind is thinking about all the problems and activities of the world, concentration will not be there. It must merge along with the words. You should be in those words, not somewhere away from them.5

The Masters teach that once we succeed in concentrating our attention at the eye center through simran, we will come in contact with the inner sound or Shabd. And that Shabd is the link that connects us to the Father, purifies us, and leads us back to our divine origin.

Let’s jump back 800 years to the Islamic world in the Middle East. In The Mystics of Islam, Reynold Nicholson, one of the great translators of Rumi, the 13th-century Persian mystic, describes the practice of “recollection or remembering.” First, he makes clear that the seeker must have a Master, because “one who attempts to traverse the ‘Path’ without assistance…is likened to a tree that without a gardener’s care brings forth none or bitter fruit.’6

Then he writes:

Sufis made a practice of repeating the name of God or some religious formula, ... accompanying the [repetition] with an intense concentration of every faculty upon the single word or phrase...

This closely parallels what Hazur wrote:

Your mind should merge into the words and you should be in those words, not somewhere away from them.7

Now let’s jump back another five hundred years, to shortly after the time of Christ. A wonderful poem was composed then describing the descent of the soul from its home with the Father, down into the physical world and the prison of the body, and then its release from bondage and return to the Father’s house. It’s presented, with very interesting commentary, in a book called The Robe of Glory. Let’s look at how it describes the mind and the method for controlling it.

The poet says he was told by his father, the Lord, to go down into the physical world to find and bring back the one pearl (true spiritual knowledge). And the pearl is guarded by the “loud-breathing serpent” (the mind). What a description of the mind! He captures so many of the characteristics of the mind:

serpent – powerful, dangerous, evil, full of guile and trickery;
loud-breathing – loud and bothersome, constantly throwing up
  thoughts and cluttering our heads

The poet falls under the sway of the mind and forgets who he is and where he is from. Isn’t that our condition most of the time? But the Father sends down a son to rescue him. (Again, we need a living Master!) And the Master initiates him and teaches him how to subdue the mind (the loud-breathing serpent). Here’s how the poet says he did it:

I began to charm him, the terrible loud-breathing serpent. I hushed him to sleep and lulled him to slumber by naming the name of my Father upon him, and the name of our next in rank and of my Mother, the Queen of the East.8

He names “the Name of his Father upon him.” By repeating the Lord’s Name, he lulls the mind to sleep. That is, he stills it. He stops its running out into the world and eliminates its thoughts and cravings and scheming. What the actual words of the simran are doesn’t matter. It only matters that the Master prescribes them and that the disciple repeats them faithfully, with great concentration.

Next, we’ll jump back many centuries further, to the Jewish culture in the Holy Land a thousand years before Christ. There is a story in the Hebrew Bible (I Samuel) that is very famous in the West, and is often used to teach young people about courage. It concerns a young Israelite named David and a giant named Goliath from the opposing Philistine army. On its face, the story seems to be about courage triumphing over supposedly impossible odds. But it also seems to contain another description of the power of simran over the mind. David is, as the Bible says, just a young man “with pink cheeks.” So, let’s consider him the disciple – innocent and relatively powerless. Goliath, on the other hand, is described as nine feet, nine inches tall (9’9”), wearing a coat of mail, with armor on his back and legs. And he carries an enormous spear. Mystics use powerful imagery when they describe the mind: a rogue elephant, a wild horse, a loud-breathing serpent. Here, the mind is depicted as an absolute giant, covered in armor and armed with a great spear. What can young, pink-cheeked David do against it? No more than we can do against our own minds, unless we have a special weapon.

The Bible says, that David “chose … five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had.”9 And then David takes his sling and goes out to meet Goliath. And he throws one of the stones with his sling, strikes Goliath in the forehead, and kills him. Now, where is it that we have to confront the mind and defeat it? At the eye center, in the middle of our forehead. And then David takes Goliath’s sword and cuts off his head -- a symbol of triumphing over the ego. So it’s a beautiful allegory showing that despite the seemingly impossible odds, we will eventually still the mind through our simran, as we direct the names, those five smooth stones, in a continuous flow against the mind (though probably not with the first stone we throw!).

What the masters can say clearly and directly today, they could not in former times, as they were often put to death by powerful religious leaders if they deviated from the dogma of the time. So they often would give their teachings in parables and stories. Despite the variations in approach, we can see that there is a great similarity in these four accounts, though they come from many different times and places.

What are we to make of these four different accounts spanning 3,000 years? The yearning to know God is inherent in human beings. That pull from the Lord is there in all of us, to greater or lesser degrees. True spiritual masters are always present, sent by the Father to find their particular souls and take them back to the Father. And the method they teach is unchanged over thousands of years.

Let’s look next at another aspect of being still that has already been alluded to. That Shabd, Nam, or Word, also known as the voice of God, sound current or audible life stream, is calling to us day and night from within us. It resounds within every being, giving it life and form. It flows from God down through the creation, holding it all together.

We must be still (achieved through simran) so we can begin to hear that voice, that Shabd, that Nam. That’s when our real spiritual journey begins, the masters tell us. They say that we follow the Shabd back to our home, being carried along on its current. We have to listen to it, tune ourselves to it, merge in it, be purified and transformed by it.

Simran stills the mind enough so that we can contact the Shabd, but it’s the power of that inner sound that really quiets the mind, pulling it away from its desires and attachments, then allowing the soul to separate from the mind and ascend beyond the physical and mental regions to the truly spiritual realms.

Let’s look at the same or similar sources that we read from earlier, to see what they say about the Sound Current.

Starting with Great Master:

When you have entered the first region, you will get the full benefit of the Sound Current. It will come to you clear and sweet, and its music will fill you with joy, and that of itself will enable you to overcome all your remaining difficulties and weaknesses. That is the one thing that makes you strong against all foes and makes your victory absolutely certain. With the melodious sounds ringing in your ears, your success is absolutely certain.10

The nineteenth-century mystic Tulsi Sahib said:

Listen, O friend, to the thunderous roar of Shabd,
Which reverberates throughout the firmament.
Water, which becomes turbid by relishing earth,
  gets cleansed of its impurities when filtered.
Waves of pure bliss emanate from the heart,
  when the dross that covers it is removed.

So, he’s saying – be still and listen to this mighty sound within, which will clean and purify you! Then he paints a picture of what the process of concentration might look like. Imagine an archer, standing with their bow and arrow, facing their target. He says:

Hold the arrow, [your attention],
be still, [calm the mind],
stretch the bow taut, [stronger concentration still].
Fix your aim sharp at the target, [focus at the eye center],
pierce the firmament. [Let the arrow, our concentration, fly, to pierce the target].

Then Tulsi continues:

The invisible world is contained within the human eye,
So say and describe all men of inner knowledge. …
The soul in Sunn will hear resounding peals of Sound,
She will uncover and know the essence of Shabd.
They alone, O Tulsi, will know that perfect state,
Who have seen and experienced it themselves.11

Five hundred years earlier, Shams-i-Tabriz, Rumi’s spiritual companion, spoke of the Sound Current in rapturous terms:

Be silent and listen to the five sounds from Heaven,
The Heaven which is beyond all senses and directions.
Every moment of life this wondrous Sound
Reaches down from the courts of Heaven.
Fortunate above all the children of men
Is he who hears its enchanting melodies.12

When we return to the early Christian era and The Robe of Glory, we see again that the poet beautifully describes deep mystical truths in his parable. The poet says he had been sent down into the creation, had lost his way, and forgotten his Home. We saw earlier that he had learned from the master to do simran and still the mind. But the Lord also sends down a special power (that Shabd or Word) to help him return home. The poet likens the Word to a letter:

...And my letter was a letter which the King sealed with his right hand. …It flew in the likeness of an eagle, the king of all the birds; It flew and alighted beside me, and became all speech. At its voice and the sound of its rustling, I started and arose from my sleep. ...I remembered I was a son of kings, and my free soul longed for its natural state...13

Here we see that it comes from the hand of the King himself, just as Shabd has its origin in God. It “becomes all speech,” that is, it is sound and it carries a message, a special knowledge, just as the Shabd does. It awakens us from our sleep of ignorance of the Lord and we remember who we are and where we came from, and we long to return there.

He continues:

And my letter, my awakener, I found before me on the road,
And as with its voice it had awakened me,
  So too with its light, it was leading me,
Shining before me in a garment of radiance,
  Glistening like royal silk.
And with its voice and its guidance,
  It also encouraged me to speed,
And with his love was drawing me on.14

Shabd is perceived within as light as well as sound. And so we see that this poem describes the Shabd as the other sources did: drawing the disciple back to his home, purifying him, guiding him, transforming him.

Finally, returning to Psalm 46, the source of our theme (“Be still and know that I am God”), we find a beautiful line that seems to describe that inner power, that Shabd or Sound Current:

There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God…

The Shabd is often referred to as a river or stream, or audible life stream, and masters often call the human body the temple of the living god. So the author of this line seems to be saying: ‘There is a divine river within this human body, within this temple of God, that will bring great joy to us.’ This is just as Great Master had said about Shabd, “its music will fill you with joy.”15

As interesting as it is to see these common patterns that run through mystic literature, we should be extremely grateful that we have been blessed to come in touch with a master who gives us the understanding to recognize those patterns and know what they mean. There is an enormous volume of literature generated over the years that describes seekers’ spiritual experiences, the techniques they used, and so forth. Some writings are based on the teachings of real mystics, while others are not. The inner path is long, complex, and filled with traps and snares set by the mind. A person who comes in touch with a true living master who knows the Path from beginning to end, and can explain it to us and guide us along it, is extremely, marvelously blessed.

In conclusion, we began with the line from the Bible that said:

Be still, and know that I am God.

Simran and Shabd are our path to that inner stillness.

Huzur Maharaj Ji discusses this connection:

Concentration is stilling your mind at the eye centre. The real concentration is to be here at the eye center because this is the seat of the soul and mind knotted together. From here our consciousness spreads into the world through the nine apertures. To withdraw the attention to the eye centre, to still the mind, that is concentration. Real concentration can only be when you are here at the third eye. Be still, still your mind and be with God.16

  1. Bible, Psalm 46
  2. AG, p. 1179; quoted in Maharaj Charan Singh, The Path, p. 56
  3. Ibid, p. 57
  4. Ibid, p. 58
  5. Maharaj Charan Singh, Die to Live, Q # 149
  6. Nicholson, The Mystics of Islam, p. 33
  7. Ibid, p. 45
  8. John Davidson, The Robe of Glory, p. 16
  9. Bible, I Samuel, 17:40–50
  10. Maharaj Sawan Singh, Spiritual Gems, ltr. 152
  11. Tulsi Sahib, Saint of Hathras, p. 76
  12. Julian Johnson, The Path of the Masters, p. 501
  13. Davidson, The Robe of Glory, p. 16
  14. Ibid, p. 17
  15. Bible, Psalm 46
  16. Spiritual Perspectives, Vol. II, Q # 222