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Practical Hints on Meditation

The spiritual life without regular meditation is like spending weeks collecting good soil, cleaning, sifting and preparing it, putting it in place, building a protecting channel around it, fertilizing it, watering it ... and then not planting the tree.

The tree, if planted in such soil, and if looked after, will grow strong and give much delicious fruit, but if the tree is not planted, no matter how good the soil, how can it grow?

Meditation has to be done; sooner or later, it just has to be done.

To meditate is to live the teachings; to meditate is to move closer and closer to the Master; to meditate is to plant the tree in the ground.

The principles of a vegetarian diet, abstinence from alcohol and habit-forming drugs, and endeavoring to lead a moral life – which Master asks of us at the time of our initiation – are cables which lead to the Power Station, but it is only the practice of meditation as taught by the Master which actually switches the power on. It is only through regular and punctual meditation that our consciousness can be raised, that we can move beyond the grip of the mind, and begin slowly, slowly, to unfold the truth of who we really are, who the Master is, and what he is doing for us.

Meditation has to be done. There is absolutely no question about it, but no one, least of all the Master, says that it is easy. As Hazur Maharaj Ji said in Die to Live:

I don't think that there is anything more difficult than meditation…. It looks simple, and yet it is so difficult to attend to it. It's easy to understand Sant Mat because the whole philosophy is very simple, but when we put it into practice, many obstacles come in the way. To live Sant Mat, to live the teachings, means a constant struggle with the mind.1

What can we do to help ourselves be faithful to our meditation with regularity and punctuality, and what can we do to deepen and strengthen our concentration when we actually sit?

The daily reading of spiritual literature

The spiritual journey that we have undertaken is so difficult and so challenging that Saints often liken it to an ascent up a lofty and noble mountain. Both journeys require very slow progress up towards the summit, and along the way we often experience joy, delight, peace, love, and happiness. But there are difficulties along the path which do not necessarily disappear as we climb higher. Gorges suddenly appear on all sides. Massive rocks stand in the pathway, which must be surmounted. Swirling mists and storms block our vision, and sometimes the journey might seem cold and lonely – we might doubt that we will ever reach the top. These are our pralabdh karmas – our destiny, the reaping of the crops we have sown – and it is the nature of this life that there must be these ups and downs.

It is in these moments, when the pull of the world is strong, when our karmas are heavy, when our confidence wanes, when our hopes fade, that the words of our Master, of all Masters, renew our strength and enable us to remember what life really is all about; to see what we have been given and what we, as human beings, can become – our capacity to choose, to change; to endure, to know, to love, and to radiate His love.

The Masters' writings are different from all others. When we read a murder mystery story and learn that the butler's uncle ‘did it’, the story becomes predictable and we become bored; we would find no pleasure or interest in reading it again. However, with true spiritual literature, there is no limit to our interest and enjoyment.

Masters come from the very top of the mountain and travel back and forth many times each day. They know the path intimately, just as they know that their consciousness and the Lord's consciousness are one. So when we read the Master's words, there is no limitation to what we can carry away. We take away as much as we are capable of taking.

In Light on Sant Mat, Hazur Maharaj Ji says:

… The Masters have always enjoined satsangis to spend some time daily in reading the Radha Soami books or anything pertaining to the Sant Mat teachings. This advice was particularly given to those who could not attend the Master’s daily satsangs….

The reason for the necessity of keeping the mind occupied as much as possible with the teachings of the Saints is quite evident. It is the mind which is to be subdued. Therefore, when it is not possible to meditate properly or to attend the Master’s satsangs, it is best to engage the mind in dwelling on his teachings. Otherwise, the mind creates notions of its own and these are very misleading. Until the mind has been conquered, it is our own worst enemy.

You might also impress on others that we cannot read these truths too often. Each time they are read, they seem to contain a new and more meaningful message, especially to the sincere and devout souls.2

In the same book, Hazur Maharaj Ji spoke about the advice given by his Master – the Great Master:

Maharaj Ji used to advise reading satsangs and Sant Mat books, especially when one is physically far from the Satguru and satsang. Reading such literature tends to bring the mind in tune with the Satguru and the Shabd.3

How very fortunate we are today to have so much literature – so many tapes, videos, and films of the Master, all of which – if used regularly – will help turn us towards meditation and the Master inside. But it is most important to know that reading cannot replace meditation. Reading is to inspire us to change our lives, and to show us how to do so. Reading has to become action, for it is far easier to read than to meditate. One contemporary thinker who understood this problem put it succinctly when he said: “If we had to choose between uniting ourselves with God or hearing a lecture about it, most people would hunt for a good seat.”

A little Sant Mat literature read every day, taken in and reflected upon, will greatly help us in realizing the vital importance of meditation, and lead us to it. This is particularly important before we go to sleep at night, for what we do prior to sleeping determines how we wake up. Aggravating and disturbing material, be it from a book, a movie or television, leads to aggravating dreams and an agitated state of mind. While a paragraph or two from a spiritual book, plus a few minutes of simran, leads to patience, security and wisdom, even while we sleep, and assures us of being aware of the Master's presence when we awake.

Spiritual companionship

Master tells us that we have to live in the world, lead a practical, simple life, earn our living honestly, and fulfill our worldly responsibilities to the best of our ability. All of us, to some degree or another, have to mix with worldly people, and Master's words should be remembered and act as a guide for us. In Quest for Light, he writes: “The company we keep has a great effect and influence upon us.”4 Hazur counsels us:

We should avoid persons with evil habits, character or reputation; people whose lives and behavior give a jolt to our life and disturb our peace, happiness and mental equilibrium and people who are given completely to worldly pleasures, and are a slave to their senses. Such company might arouse similar thoughts in a satsangi and lead him away from meditation and the feeling of detachment which he is trying to create within himself. There are no hard and fast rules for finding suitable company. Your own heart will be able to guide you. “Anything that hinders your meditation is bad” may be a general rule to apply.5

An essential part of the spiritual life is joining together with those who are similarly spiritually minded, for once we begin to walk the spiritual path, our lives can never be the same. All those who were so close to us before now no longer enjoy our company, or vice versa. We no longer eat the same food they do, or put the same liquids or pills into our bodies, or smoke the same stuff. Our language changes. No longer do we continually send out curses into the universe, but instead we try to cultivate sweetness and gentleness in all our conversations. No longer do we keep the same late hours, or constantly hanker after noise and distraction, but now we seek tranquility and quiet within.

The majority of the people of the world throw themselves into the river of life and float downstream, moved and tossed here and there by the currents of life, but the spiritual aspirant has to be like the salmon, swimming upstream, trying to return to its original home, often against the currents of habit, of familiarity, and of the easy way out – the relentless flow of the selfish life.

The struggle is constant, and we need every bit of support and encouragement we can find, and that is why satsang, true spiritual companionship, is stressed again and again by the Masters.

In Die to Live Hazur Maharaj Ji is quoted:

Satsang will help you preserve that treasure of meditation. Satsang will help you to remain humble… Satsang will help you to remain in His Will, which is real humility and meekness. It will help you treasure all of the grace of the Father that is within you. The more you treasure and digest within yourself your wealth of meditation, the more He showers his grace upon you.6

Everything is already within us. From the time of initiation, the treasure belongs to us, but it is meditation that allows us to enjoy the treasure. It is a spiritual companionship which helps lead us to meditation.

Putting others first

There was a young boy who went to school and saw, for the first time, a child with elephantiasis – a terrifying disease which had so swollen the poor child's legs that he could only walk with difficulty, let alone play with other children.

When the young boy arrived home, he remarked to his granny that it must be awful to have elephantiasis and not be able to play with other children. His granny, full of love and compassion – just like our Master – said: "Yes, everything in life will be hard for him. But only one in a million suffers from elephantiasis of the legs. There is a much more dreadful disease that can afflict every one of us if we don't guard ourselves against it all the time, and that is elephantiasis of the ego.”

Master tells us so often that it is this ego or self-will that separates us from the Lord, and this is the worst threat to our spiritual growth. It is the main source of all our suffering. It is this ego, this self-importance, which makes us see the world through the distorting medium of our likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, opinions and judgments. We want everyone to behave as we think they should behave, and if they do not, we become agitated and irritated. It is only natural that we desire to be happy, to become liberated, to live in the Master's presence, but if we put our own personal happiness at the top of the list, we will without doubt fail and become miserable.

Why think so much about yourself? The very ego that we want to crush is the only barrier between us and the Lord. The moment you lose your identity and merge yourself into Him, He appears before you. Ego is our only enemy, which attaches us to this world, and the whole struggle is to eliminate it from within ourselves.7

To be full of ego is to be empty of love, and to be full of love is to have little ego. Our predicament is so clear. If only we could meditate punctually and regularly, we would slowly, slowly reduce our ego; but as long as we are so full of ego, how can we meditate successfully, if at all? Master gives us the secret in five words in one of the chapter headings in Die to Live: “Be bold enough to struggle.”

And that is what this path is all about. We have to struggle with our meditation and we have to struggle to develop the qualities in our lives which are conducive to meditation.

When we receive a gift of a new music system, washing machine, automobile, or other item, we generally receive an instruction manual teaching us how to operate it correctly, and so if we wish it to work properly, we must follow those instructions. The greatest gift in our lives is that Master has initiated us and, in order to fulfill the purpose for which we were born, for which we have this precious human body, we have to follow Master's “instruction manual” to the letter – 100 percent. For the Master is love, but love, like a perfect diamond, has many facets and we have to imitate the Master's qualities and become like him. We have to develop those qualities so beautifully described by Saint Paul in his First Letter to the Corinthians:

Love is patient; love is kind and envies no one; love is never boastful, nor conceited, nor rude; never selfish, nor quick to take offence. Love keeps no score of wrongs; does not gloat over others' sins, but delights in the truth. There is nothing love cannot face; there is no limit to its faith, its hope and its endurance. Love will never come to an end.8

Try, in your everyday life, to develop these qualities. Practice, persevere – remembering that at this level of consciousness our outer behavior is the true barometer of our spiritual progress, and if we strive to become like Him, eventually we will.

Training the senses

To truly make spiritual progress, our senses should be under the control of the mind, and the mind should be under the control of the soul. Unfortunately, it is invariably the other way around. Untrained senses become our most oppressive masters.

We would be most surprised if, while walking down a country road, a peasant came around the corner carrying a donkey on his back. Yet this is precisely what we do when we let our senses and body take charge of our lives and issue the orders. Saint Francis of Assisi explained this point clearly when talking about his body:

This is brother donkey. I will take good care of him. I will wash him, feed him, and give him rest. But I am going to ride on him and he is not going to ride on me.9

It is the same when we have a puppy in the house. He chews our slippers and we laugh, but if he does the same thing when he grows up, we will not be pleased.

Master says that satsangis must think before they act. We must develop awareness of the demands of our bodies and minds, which will lead to one-pointed attention – and this, in turn, will draw us to our meditation and deepen it.

Meditation has to be done, and the struggle must be there, but there is no room for discouragement. We are on a wonderful journey of awakening, and can only go forward.

As Maharaj Ji explains so beautifully:

You are not the only struggling satsangi, as you seem to feel. Everyone carries his own burden and is struggling on the path. Draw comfort from the fact that you are on the road, and every step you take is now towards your own Home. It is no longer an aimless life of roaming in darkness. You now have a purpose and an aim, for which you should be prepared to make any sacrifice.10

  1. Die to Live, Q 305.
  2. Light on Sant Mat, Letter 129.
  3. Ibid, Letter 253.
  4. Quest for Light, Letter 246.
  5. Ibid, Letter 375.
  6. Die to Live, Q 83.
  7. Quest for Light, Letter 135.
  8. Bible, 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
  9. Eknath Easwaran, Passage Meditation: A Complete Spiritual Practice. Nilgiri Press, 2016; p. 109.
  10. Quest for Light, Letter 315.