Clarity of Purpose
Clarifying our sense of purpose, defined as our reason for being, is essential if we want permanent happiness. Most of us are programmed and brainwashed, reacting to what is in front of us without keeping our objectives in mind. Baba Ji compares living this way to a dog chasing a car, and he tells us that without a goal in mind, we’ll just end up like that poor beast who has no idea what to do once he catches up with the car.
The saints stress that the primary purpose behind all our goals is to find lasting happiness and contentment. But unfortunately, due to our lack of discrimination, most of us remain deluded and believe that we’ll find contentment by fulfilling our worldly desires. So we blindly spend most of our time running an endless marathon to get what we want, hold on to what we have, rid ourselves of what we don’t want, and then judge our worth by comparing ourselves to others. We assume that happiness is in our future – some mythical time when we can fix every situation and control all the people around us. We never even consider the futility of running this race, which is unwinnable and never ends, even at our death, because our next birth is just around the corner. Of course, fulfilling our worldly goals does have its gratifications, and there is nothing wrong with working to achieve them. But we need to realize that along with the pleasure of achieving our goals comes the pain of fear, anxiety, and loss. In fact, every negative emotion we experience is the direct outcome of some worldly attachment, which is defined as an emotional state of clinging, caused by our belief that without some particular object or person, we can never be happy. The Bhagavad Gita explains:
Pleasures from external objects are wombs of suffering.
They have their beginnings and their endings.
No wise man seeks joy among them.1
The saints tell us that realizing this truth for ourselves is a great gift from God, because then we’ll naturally prioritize spirituality above any other goal. Spirituality means waking up to God by cleansing ourselves of whatever is preventing us from realizing that only He is real. Only then will we be able to stop our endless race to achieve lasting peace of mind by running after worldly goals. Saints make it clear that we can only fulfill our deepest aspirations for permanent joy and contentment when we form a relationship with God and experience our true fundamental nature. They point out that the eternal formless Lord has all the qualities we most aspire to: wisdom, contentment, intelligence, love, and compassion.
Mystics tell us that our true nature is to always be happy. However, we don’t experience this because of our sense of being a separate self – our ego, with its countless wants, preferences, and judgments. Sadly, it’s our own mind that is creating our unhappiness all the time, by competing, comparing, coercing, and manipulating everything and everyone. As we wake up to the reality of this nightmare of our own making, we begin to realize that if we want lasting happiness, our primary purpose must be to let all this go and return to the truth and the Lord. But doing this isn’t easy. It’s usually a slow and sometimes frustrating process, complicated by our many attachments, compulsions, faulty attitudes, and life’s ups and downs. In from Self to Shabd, the author writes:
Our transformation begins when we become aware of where we keep our attention. For most of us, our attention is in the drama of our karmas. We are more interested in manipulating our karmas than in accepting them. We are more interested in having and doing, rather than being. Having and doing do not lead to peace of mind. Being does.
If we would only give half a percent of our time to that which could awaken us from this dream, we would have been awakened by now. But unfortunately, we keep all our attention in our human experience. We can change that, but to keep our cool in the face of terrible circumstances is a state achieved only by doing daily meditation and lots of simran during the day. Only with such daily discipline can our mind become anchored in the peaceful serenity of Shabd.2
As we mature, three things become obvious: First, if we don’t clearly determine what we want, we’ll never get it. Second, if we don’t know what we need to do or what we need to have to accomplish our goal, we’ll never achieve it. And third, anything worthwhile usually doesn’t happen on its own. The question we must ask ourselves is, how are we attempting to reach our goal of lasting happiness? Is it through complaining, begging, and demanding or through dedication, discipline, perseverance, courage, acceptance, and vigilant awareness? Saints remind us that we all make mistakes, but what is important is that we strive to remain positive, learn from our mistakes, not repeat them, and make changes as needed. There is no point in doing the same old things and behaving the same old ways and then expecting anything but the same old results.
Saints also warn us not to go to extremes to reach our spiritual goals. They tell us that if we suppress our natural worldly needs too much, our mind will react, and – believing that we’re missing something – we’ll act in ways detrimental to our own wellbeing. But at the same time, if we don’t focus enough on our goals to seek God and the truth within us, our spiritual growth will stagnate. So, we must find our own balanced way to pursue self- and God-realization based on our own unique strengths and weaknesses.
Our primary purpose must be to keep the commitments we made at initiation. If we do this, over time we’ll naturally let go of the arrogance that blocks our spiritual progress. Then, while living within the teachings and fulfilling our worldly responsibilities, we can also focus on other goals we find satisfying and important. In this way, we’ll be able to live a balanced and positive life.
The saints are emphatic that if we’re unhappy on this path, we need to shift our approach. They tell us it’s only our false beliefs and distorted thinking that cloud our inherent happiness. Sant Mat is a path of love, faith, devotion, hope, and joy. We wouldn’t have been given initiation if we didn’t have the potential to think clearly and overcome our own negativity.
We cannot achieve lasting happiness when we remain full of ego and expect that we’ll magically leave it behind when our Satguru shows us the sights and sounds within and whisks away all our mistakes and burdens. In fact, Baba Ji is adamant that if we remain focused on begging our Satguru for that to happen, we’ll be begging for a long, long time – because it will never occur. Each one of us is responsible for our own wellbeing. The Satguru’s primary purpose is not to make us happy but to show us how we can make ourselves happy, right here and right now.
Happiness is an attitude of mind that can always be present within us, no matter where we are, what we do, and what we have in life. We begin to experience ever-increasing happiness when we doubt less and have more faith in the goodness of God and his will and in the Satguru and his teachings. Then we’ll naturally think less and do simran more, judge less and accept more, complain less and appreciate more, hate less and love more, and fear less and have courage more.
As seekers of truth only a few things really matter. They are how well we live in the Satguru’s will by following his teachings; how well we live in God’s will by doing our best, then letting go and accepting whatever happens; and by how well we selflessly serve others. While doing our best to live this way, we must also relax, be patient, learn from everything that is happening around us, and enjoy the show of life. Then let the Lord fill us with the spiritual wisdom and love we’ve lost and so badly crave in a way that is just perfect for each one of us. Saints make it clear that we can make only two mistakes that make God-realization impossible. The first is not to start keeping the commitments we made at initiation, and the second is to lose our resolve and give up and quit.
- BG, 5:22 in Bhagavad Gita: A New Translation, tr. S. Mitchell. New York: Random House, 2000, p. 85
- Hector Esponda, from self to Shabd, RSSB, p. 86