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Vast Joy

Ask anyone what they want out of life and you will get no end of variety of answers. Then ask them why they want those things and the field narrows down considerably, dig a little deeper and the prime motives driving us are safety, love and happiness. Why is happiness so important?

Even Baba Ji has made it clear that all he wants from us is to be good human beings and to be happy.

The vast majority of people seek contentment. Most people are looking for happiness and do get some, but always it fades away after some time. Why is that?

Two main reasons: firstly it is important where we look for our happiness (more of this in a moment) and secondly, this region of the grander universe – the region of space-time – is ever-changing. Nothing here is permanent, not the planets nor stars, not the size of the universe nor our position in the stream of time, not our feeble human bodies. Heraclitus, the early Greek philosopher, is quoted by Plato:

Heraclitus somewhere says that all things are in process and nothing stays still. And likening existing things to the stream of a river, he says that you would not step twice into the same river.1

Maybe we’re fools for thinking we can be happy in the long term – and there are plenty of people to back this concept up, but maybe actually it is possible, we just need to know how. And now, we need to be happy to make Baba Ji happy, so it has to be possible.

So, let’s revisit the point that it matters where we look for our happiness. Yet again we have two main viewpoints – the worldly and the spiritual. What does the world tell us – nay, shout at us? To be happy you need stuff – the right brand of tea or coffee, the nicest clothing, a big house, plenty of cash in the bank, a swanky car. Still not happy? Maybe then you need a holiday, to exercise more, join a golf club, start a new relationship. Still not happy? Then you’re clearly not trying hard enough – change your diet, change your job, change your home town, change your nose, have a bigger bottom or a smaller one. Keep looking out and around, it must be here somewhere!

It is all too easy to get on this particular merry-go-round, so enticing are the claims and so noisy and ever-present. But we all know in our heart of hearts that it’s never going to work. If it hasn’t worked so far, yet more of the same is really not going to work any better.

So, let’s examine the other option – the spiritual approach. In Light on Saint John, Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh said:

In order to find peace we have to undertake research within ourselves. We must have a spiritual outlook. A political, economic, [or] social outlook can never give us peace. They will improve our physical environment, they will improve our standard of living, but perhaps in the long run these things will make us even more unhappy and frustrated.

Real peace and happiness we can get only from within ourselves. Unless we make an effort within to seek that real peace, we can never get it. The nearer we are towards our home, towards our destination, towards the Lord, the greater the peace and happiness we will find within ourselves. The more we wander away from Him, the more frustrated and unhappy we become every day.2

It is interesting that in this passage, Hazur equates happiness with peace – if we think about it, our happiest times are associated with a sense of peace and contentment, whereas from the worldly point of view we are led to believe that stimulation and novelty are required for happiness. The further out and away, they say, the closer to happiness. There’s a new concept – FOMO, which means “Fear of Missing Out,” which is the feeling and anxiety that others are having more fun, living better lives, or experiencing better things than you are. This feeling is often exacerbated by social media sites. It is that belief that “out there” is where we need to put our attention to find happiness.

In complete contrast, Hazur advises us that looking outwards for our happiness is looking in the wrong direction. Instead of churning around in the choppy waters at the surface of the ocean of existence, he says that peace and happiness are to be found by diving deep down, where the agitation of the surface waters won’t affect us. How do we do this? Of course, it comes back at last to meditation!

We are made of three distinct parts – body, mind and soul. If we are to find true happiness, contentment and peace, these three need to be in balance. The body needs to be rested, fed, kept active and clean. The mind needs to be calm and disciplined, and the soul needs the Lord.

The problem is, we are very familiar with the body and most of our daily efforts are designed to keep it clothed, fed, and so forth. We’re fairly familiar with the mind, especially when it is getting agitated, upset or even unwell, and we have some understanding on how to help it out. However, the soul gets a very raw deal, because we have completely forgotten about it. Many people don’t even believe the soul exists, or deeply doubt it, and those who do generally confuse the soul with the mind, and only very rarely are people familiar with their soul – indeed those who have experience of the soul are advanced practitioners, saints or masters.

The majority of our consciousness is felt through the mind, but the source of that very consciousness is the soul, so satisfying the urges, desires, or needs of the mind can never give us peace until the needs of the soul have been addressed.

In our many and various explorations of the physical plane – through many bodies and species – we originally were operating from consciousness of the soul, via mind and body, but gradually we have slipped to allowing the mind to take over and the soul has been quietly forgotten, tucked into a dark and quiet corner out of the way, so the mind can get on with its shenanigans unhindered. The soul is not being fed; it is not getting time with its family – the Lord – so it is weak and utterly miserable. How do we ever hope to find lasting happiness in such a state?

Meditation is our only means of satisfying the soul, settling the churning agitations of the mind with simran (repetition of five holy names given at the time of initiation), and contacting the creative energy of God within through bhajan. This may manifest as sound, light, or just a feeling of inner peace. This is how we feed the soul, allowing it to find contentment and peace, and there is great joy to be found in this practice. Great Master writes in Spiritual Gems:

In this world it is difficult to find a happy person. One thing or the other is always going wrong, and man finds himself miserable and care-worn. Only he who has taken his attention in and hears the clear bell sound is free from worries and cares of this world. Man takes birth here and his destiny comes with him. This destiny cannot be changed. Man has to undergo it. The destiny is of his own making. What he had sown before, he reaps now. Therefore, the wise undergo their destiny with patience and fortitude, while the unwise undergo it all the same, but are dissatisfied and worried.

Lasting peace and happiness are within us. Peace and happiness derived from worldly objects and companions are transitory, because they are not lasting. They change and in time vanish. Their attachment leaves behind scars which disfigure life. Therefore, while working for a decent, comfortable life, one should not lose sight of the aim of life – permanent peace. By the very nature of things, this is not obtainable in the matter and mind regions, because these are themselves changeable. As one is going in and up, one is getting independent of the changeables and finds peace in spiritual regions. Peace is excellent, but is obtained through effort.3

If one were to look up on YouTube the TED conference talks on happiness, there are many inspiring talks – one of my favourites tells of how we can choose to be happy, and another tells of how we make a great mistake when we allow external circumstances to dictate our feelings. Great Master resonates with them when he warns us that our destiny of life is always going to bring ups and downs. Even when we don’t like it, we can’t really argue with it, because we have generated the circumstances ourselves in past lives. It simply has to happen, like a bitter medicine to get us better from some illness.

But we should not let these things sway us from seeking the lasting and inner happiness; rather we should use them as lessons for our mental maturity and motivation to help us find inner peace. He advises us to go through life with patience and fortitude. Great Master used to say that we cannot clear the path of life of all its thorns, to walk in bare feet, for tomorrow those thorns will spring up again, but rather to put on stout boots, so the thorns cannot harm us.

By choosing to meditate, we are putting on the stoutest boots, for our experience of the tranquillity and satisfaction when we find focus in meditation allows us to see the external events and dramas for what they really are – a show and a sham.

Chokha Mela, a Maharashtrian saint, advised:

Being in the world, don’t be here.
Make your mind take this advice.
Even a few minutes –
  don’t leave them empty of the company of mystics
  and the enjoyment of the Name.
Drive your passions away like stray dogs,
  then happiness will come on its own to your home.
If you let the passions stay, says Chokha,
  you’ll be ridiculed and miserable
  and your life will come to nothing.4

The events of our life are going to happen whether we approve or not, and they are not the source of our happiness, contentment or peace, for we know plenty of people whose life circumstances are very favourable, but who are dissatisfied or even downright miserable. Much rarer are those whose life is difficult, who have little in the way of material advantage, but who are content with what they have.

Chokha Mela is explaining that the secret of happiness is in cleansing the mind of the poison of the passions – meaning those negative habits we have developed by going native in this dark basement of creation, which are greed, lust, egotism, attachment and anger. We have gotten into the habit of reacting to the circumstances around us with one or more of these negative habits, so much so that changing this tendency is going to take considerable effort. Indeed, we cannot do this alone. We can make a start using the support of general good behaviour, or the prescriptions of religions, but to be truly and permanently free of these passions we need to have the support of the saints and contact with the Name within.

What is the Name? This refers not to a specific word or name in a human language, but to a power that emanates from God – God- in-action, also known as Shabd, Nam, Tao, Holy Name, Word of God, Holy Spirit, Ism-e-azam and many other names, according to the culture describing it. It is the conscious creative energy that underpins all that we see here, all that ever was and ever will be – the building bricks of the universe.

The Name is the original source of the energy that produces quarks and bosons and gluons that combine to make atoms, which combine to make the molecules that build the physical world. But not just this physical world, but the innumerable finer more spiritual worlds that we access only when we tune into the vibrations of this energy. Saint John put it like this:

In the beginning was the Word,
  and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by him; and without him
  was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life; and the life was the light of men.5

This Name or Word comes directly from God and is the interface we connect to when we focus our attention during meditation. To cleanse ourselves properly of the passions, we need to bathe regularly in the Light and Sound of this creative Power.

Choka Mela also talks of keeping the company of saints and mystics every minute of every day – surely this is an idealistic notion and totally impractical! Well actually, it is possible, although not in this physical plane. We are so used to thinking body/physical that we immediately think he means us to move to Dera and follow Baba Ji around all day. Clearly not!

To have the company of mystics every moment, we need to think spiritually. The true form of the saint is that very Name of God. Similarly, the true form of the disciple is soul, so to be in their company all the time, we need to connect soul with Name and dwell in the awareness of that connection. And if we have this particular connection open all the time, how could we ever get angry, selfish, greedy, or lustful? All the toxic attachments to the physical would be dissolved too, for we are saturated in something so much more fulfilling. And that will bring contentment, peace, and great joy.

Hazur Maharaj Ji put it very well in a reply to a question found in Die to Live:

Simran looks dry, but the concentration that you get with simran alone gives you peace and bliss and happiness. The more your mind is concentrated, the more happy you are; the more your mind is scattered, the more frustrated you are. As long as the mind is below the eye centre towards the senses, you can never be happy – there’s nothing but frustration and agony. But when you’re able to withdraw your consciousness to the eye centre and still your mind, you feel bliss and contentment and happiness. And simran is the only way that you can withdraw your consciousness to the eye centre.6

If we have access to simran, we have the key to happiness right there with us, we just need to apply ourselves to learning to use it. It really is a no-brainer if ever there was one. Here I am, feeling unhappy, frustrated, anxious or whatever, but I have the answer to my problems right here inside me – simran with focus and devotion. Now it’s up to me to decide whether or not to use this key, but really – why would one not bother?

It’s like having the packet mix for an amazing chocolate cake and hoping that just looking at the box will satisfy our chocolate cravings. We need to make the effort to turn the oven on, pull out the mixing bowl and get stirring, and before we know it, we have a lovely cake that we can enjoy and spread the joy by sharing with our friends or family.

Baba Ji has done all the heavy lifting for us by connecting us with the Shabd or Name, giving us the access codes and training us up to using them. No wonder he gets frustrated – all we have to do is follow his instructions and fearlessness, peace, bliss and happiness stand ready to serve us. The Maharashtrian saint Eknath wrote:

O, mind, don’t keep going from door to door,
You’ve suffered too much coming and going.
Abandon your fantasies and come to the mystics–
  it’s all happiness close to them.
Anguish and attachment burn away in the darshan of your Master;
Sin, passion and fear of Kal run away.
Do your devotion and see how close he is.
See him inside and find vast joy, say Eknath.7

Again, we hear from Eknath that wandering about “door to door” – looking for happiness and fulfillment out there – is futile, even damaging. All we are doing is adding to our store of karmic debt, the very thing that is burying the soul and keeping us away from our divine origins and the happiness that we have been seeking for so long. Eknath mentions ‘coming and going’ – referring to the soul’s constant wandering through different and diverse bodies.

We have taken the form of birds, animals, plants, microbes – even angels, demons and gods through the unimaginable reaches of time that we have inhabited the physical and mental realms. Physicists have calculated that the universe we know has been around for about 13.7 billion years and is still in its infancy, but our souls have not been confined to just this universe, so who knows for how long we have been around in total. So many lives, so many experiences, so much karmic detritus to clear out!

No wonder it takes a lot of effort to cleanse and still the mind. For how long have we been seeking pleasure, experience, novelty out there? Old habits die hard, but here we have a golden opportunity to reject the old habits and build new ones, but it goes against the grain – not only within ourselves, but everything we see around us also is pulling in the outward direction.

However, we can take comfort in the fact that we wouldn’t be here if our souls hadn’t reached the end of their patience with the mind and its terrible behaviour. Having sunk so deep in the mire, we have finally reached the very bottom, felt a hard floor and kicked against it to work back to the surface. Our desperate struggles have captured the attention of the Lord, who sends the spiritual lifeguard to help us. As long as we trust him and accept his help, follow his instructions and dedicate ourselves to finding a better way, he will pull us out of this mire as fast as possible.

Eknath says that the darshan of the Master has a healing quality, but he’s not talking here about physical darshan. Seeing the Master in a meeting, or even out and about during seva, is lovely, there’s no doubt, but it is a reflection of a shadow of the real thing that is only obtainable within. Only by working on improving our focus and devotion, and cleansing the mind of bad habits with regular daily practice can we have inner darshan.

To help us achieve this, the Masters advise four simple rules of living. The first minimizes the making of new karma – for we have quite enough to cope with as it is – and that is to be lacto-vegetarian, leaving aside meat, fish and eggs, or their derivatives. There is no medical need for animal-derived foods; indeed being vegetarian is better for our health and that of the planet, and, of course, we do not want to be causing unnecessary suffering. Secondly, they advise us to avoid alcohol, mind-altering drugs and addictive substances, for they get us into unnecessary trouble and become an artificial crutch for difficult times. They also make it way harder to settle and focus the mind, which is already a monumental task in itself.

The third rule is to be as good a human being as we can – living honestly, respecting and helping others, earning our own living – in short to be a real goody two-shoes! We are trying to cleanse the mind of all impurities, so we need to live a life that is virtuous. We’ll never be perfect, but we can at least try to be good. These three rules help to prepare us for the fourth – that of daily meditation for 2 ½ hours. This is a tenth of our time to be given to the single most important project in our lives, so I’d say that’s a bargain. Of course, if we can manage more time, every little bit helps. I know Master wouldn’t complain!

So, with these good habits, we can start to undo some of the damage we have caused ourselves with our old bad habits. Step by step, by tiny increments, we move towards our goal. And who do we find there? Eknath tells us – none other than our Master.

“Do your devotion and see how close he is, keep him inside and find vast joy” – the Master’s inner or spiritual form is none other than Shabd, Name, Word of God, and we are made of that – it is our very life. That’s how close he is, it is all a matter of realization, then we will not only be happy, but find vast joy. Knowing he is right here gives us such confidence that none of the ups and downs of life can touch us. Eknath says, “Sin, passion and fear of Kal run away” – then we will really be pure and joyful.

Once we find our way to him within, he will guide us in person from there through the many mental and spiritual stages that ultimately lead us back to our original home with the Lord. Without him, we cannot complete our quest, for there are insurmountable barriers for the unprepared. In the Persian hymn cycle “Angad Roshnan,” from the Manichean tradition, as quoted in The Gospel of Jesus, we find:

I shall show to you the Mother of the Beings of Light:
  forever shall you rejoice in lauded happiness.
I shall reveal to you the holy Brethren,
  the noble [ones]… who are filled with happiness.
Forever shall you [dwell] joyful among them all,
  beside all the jewels and the venerable gods.
Fear and death shall overtake you no more,
  nor ravages, distress and wretchedness.
Rest shall be yours in the Place of Salvation,
  in the company of all the gods
  and those who dwell in peace.8

The treasures that we are due to inherit, once we make it past the barrier of the mind, are vast and unimaginable. By holding back from plunging into devotion, we are depriving ourselves of so much. The writer describes the “Mother of the Beings of Light,” which is another reference to the Holy Name, for this brings us back to our original state as beings of light. We will become one of the holy Brethren and we shall finally find rest from all the struggles and fears we face in this corner of creation.

So, when Baba Ji said he just wanted us to be happy, he meant that he just wants us to turn up and claim our spiritual birthright. To set things back to where they ought to be – this is the normality, not those terrible troubles we have become so accustomed to.

If we have been given initiation, we have the means to find this wonderful treasure, our inner peace and vast joy. Now we just have to do our bit and turn up for meditation.

  1. Plato, Cratylus 402A, in The Presocratic Philosophers, by GS Kirk, JE Raven, M Schofield, Cambridge Univ. Press 1983; p. 195
  2. Maharaj Charan Singh, Light on Saint John, p.230
  3. Spiritual Gems, Letter # 67
  4. Many Voices, One Song, p.150
  5. Bible, John 1:1-4
  6. Die To Live, Q # 176
  7. Many Voices, One Song, p. 216
  8. “Angad Roshnan,” in The Gospel of Jesus, by JDavidson, p. 454